FEI Tribunal Gives Decision on Tryon Rolex Case: Abuse, Without Intent

The FEI Tribunal has released its decision in the case of alleged horse abuse committed by Amy Tryon while participating in the cross-country phase of the 2007 Rolex Lexington Kentucky 4-Star Event, held April 28. Tryon's mount, Le Samurai, was injured during the event and was subsequently euthanatized.

The case involved the riding of an apparently lame horse in the final moments of the course, as well as the state of the horse when the last fence was jumped. A hearing was held June 25.

The dilemma which the Tribunal had to resolve was a very difficult one. The main issues to be decided were whether the competitor committed an "abuse" as this term is defined under the applicable rules (see below) and, if an abuse was committed, whether it was an intentional act or an unfortunate omission to take action and stop the horse, as signals of discomfort were not correctly perceived by the competitor.

The Tribunal came to the conclusion that the competitor's behavior at the end of the cross-country phase of the event constitutes abuse according to the applicable FEI regulation. The competitor continued to ride after the horse was objectively lame and injured. Conversely, the competitor omitted to act, by failing to pull up the horse when she could have. This caused, or was likely to cause, pain or discomfort to the horse.

The Tribunal expressed its opinion that "abuse of horses constitutes an offence that violates the most fundamental rules of the equestrian sport and is, as such, highly reprehensible from a moral point of view." The Tribunal determined that, had "the competitor intended to ride a lame or injured horse, a suspension for life would not have been an inappropriate or a too severe penalty."

The Tribunal's decision indicates, there was a "significant disconnect between what Tryon felt and what was actually occurring."

While Tryon was negligent in not stopping the horse, the Tribunal determined that she did not understand that the horse had been injured until just as she pulled him up.

The decision stated that "[t]he Tribunal believes that in the state the competitor was in--tired, focused on completing the course, and without the benefit of video and ability to observe matters or analyze them logically--she did not realize that the injury had occurred, and, thus, never intended to continue on course with a lame or injured horse. The Tribunal believes that the competitor clearly realized that the horse took quite a number of uneven strides, but could not determine their cause or likely severity. The Tribunal believes that the competitor should have nevertheless stopped earlier to understand the severity of the lameness."

The determination that there was no premeditation and no actual awareness by the competitor that she was riding a lame or injured horse was taken into account in imposing sanctions on the competitor.

After careful examination of the parties' submissions and evidence, the Tribunal confirmed the disqualification of horse and the competitor from the above-mentioned event and imposed the following sanctions on the competitor:

  • suspension from competition for a period of two months (to commence immediately and without further notice at the end of the 30-day appeal deadline, or sooner if the right of appeal is waived);
  • a fine of 1,000 Swiss francs ($833);
  • a cost contribution of 1,500 ($1,249) towards the legal costs of the judicial procedure.

The Tribunal decision stated that David O'Connor, president of the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF), member of the FEI Eventing Committee and chairman of the FEI Eventing Safety Committee, phrased the dilemma and the conclusion well in remarking: "Premeditated abuse is an action that should, and needs to be dealt with in the most severe actions that we as a sport can take by our judiciary side. Similar cases to this [the present case] are much harder to judge and I feel should be dealt with on a whole different level. Should this be taken seriously--yes; career changing--no."

The full text of the decision (30 pages) is available here.

A note on the FEI definition of abuse:

The principle of the horses' welfare is of paramount importance and inherent in the conception of the equestrian sport promoted and regulated by the FEI, as expressed by the Code of Conduct, Statutes and General Regulations (GRs). The rider who puts his or her horse's health and life at risk must be held responsible for this conduct.

Under the heading "Abuse of horses", Article 143 of the GRs provides a general definition according to which the following requirements must be met for a case of abuse to be realized: act or omission which causes or is likely to cause pain or discomfort to a horse.

In the context of Eventing, Article 520 of the FEI Rules for Eventing states as follows: "Any act or series of actions that in the opinion of the Ground Jury can be defined as abuse of a horse or dangerous riding shall be penalized by disqualification and such other penalties in accordance art. 532.1 of the present Rules as the Ground Jury may determine. Such acts include, for example: rapping, riding an exhausted horse, excessive pressing of a tired horse, riding an obviously lame horse, excessive use of whip and/or spurs, dangerous riding."

For previous articles on the case click here.

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