Morrissey Disqualified, Ground Jury Reprimanded in Excessive Whipping Incident

Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG) show jumping horse candidate Crelido, ridden by Michael Morrissey (USA), was abused during a WEG-qualifying event when he was "excessively whipped," and Morrissey has hence been disqualified, according to the statement of the final decision of the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) Tribunal.

Furthermore, all members of the event's ground jury have been "formally reprimanded by the FEI for failing to take action" in response to Morrissey’s abusive conduct, the statement read. The decision, handed down July 9 by Ken E. Lalo (ISR), pertained to the CSI** Grand Prix show jumping event, a part of the U.S. selection trials for the WEG, held February 27, 2010, in Wellington, Fla.

After refusing a water jump, the 14-year-old Holsteiner was whipped approximately 13 times as he was ridden to a return attempt. A video of the incident, with 60,000 views on, shows that Crelido cleared the jump.

The show's ground jury took no action, the statement declared. However, Morrissey apologized to selection show manager and honorary FEI steward, David Distler, who confronted him shortly afterwards, referring to Morrissey's behavior as "unacceptable," it read.

Despite the initial apology, Morrissey's lawyer later claimed to the FEI that the horse had not been abused because he "showed no signs of distress or injury," the statement added.

The FEI decision was based on its General Regulations, which defines abuse as "an act or omission which causes, or is likely to cause, pain or unnecessary discomfort to a horse," according to the statement. Excessive whipping is explicitly defined in the FEI's current Rules for Jumping Events as more than three strikes in a single episode.

Morrissey and Crelido should have been eliminated immediately from the competition by the ground jury, Lalo said in his statement. "The fact that he was not immediately disqualified places the Tribunal in a very difficult position of having to cure the ground jury's error a considerable time following the event."

"I apologize unreservedly for this incident," Morrissey said in a July 9 press release provided by the FEI. "I overreacted when the horse stopped, and that is unforgiveable. Horse welfare has to take precedence over competitive interests, and I know that I was in breach of that basic principle."

Morrissey was fined 2,000 CHF ($1,900 USD), received a three-month retroactive suspension from all FEI events, and issued a yellow warning card, the decision stated. The sanctions complement those issued in June by the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) for the same incident, for which he was fined $3,000 and given a three-month suspension. Morrissey's combined three-month suspension ends August 4.

About the Author

Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA

Christa Lesté-Lasserre is a freelance writer based in France. A native of Dallas, Texas, Lesté-Lasserre grew up riding Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and Shetland Ponies. She holds a master’s degree in English, specializing in creative writing, from the University of Mississippi in Oxford and earned a bachelor's in journalism and creative writing with a minor in sciences from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She currently keeps her two Trakehners at home near Paris. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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