Arguably, the Gold Medal won by the US Show Jumping Team at the recent World Equestrian Games is a huge success. After all, it’s the first time the team has ever won gold in this competition and it had the added bonus of being on home turf.
I would be a lot more proud of the team if one of the members hadn’t served a six month suspension from showing for animal cruelty in 2016. To my mind, it’s just not that sporting if you “encourage” your horse to jump higher by using illegal methods.
And no, it’s not McLain Ward. Sure, back in 1999, Ward was suspended for eight months and fined $13,000 for suspected hypersensitivity on Sapphire’s left leg. However, since then there hasn’t been a whiff of scandal about him.
The person I question is Devin Ryan, who was expelled from the Hampton Classic Show Grounds on Aug. 28, 2015, after USEF stewards and veterinarians found marks on the legs of five horses under Ryan’s care. That’s right, five horses. Ryan was subsequently found guilty of violating animal welfare rules. His punishment? A six thousand dollar fine and a six month suspension. Basically a slap on the wrist. Here we are in 2018 and he is representing the US at one of the most prestigious competitions in the world.
Yes, Eddie Blue is a fabulous horse with tremendous scope. Ryan has piloted him to multiple Grand Prix wins over the past few years. But tell me there weren’t other horse/rider combinations who could represent our country without the shadow of shame.
Of course, poling (hitting a horse with a pole to make them jump higher), soring (applying caustic chemicals to a horse’s legs to make them hurt if they hit a jump), putting tacks in boots and other methods are illegal. The problem is that too many owners turn a blind eye to these practices when the horses win. None of this is new. However, it is our responsibility as caretakers of our equine partners, to make sure these practices don’t continue. Everyone makes a huge stink over the fate of the Big Lick Walking horses, but turns a blind eye when it happens in other disciplines.
To put a Gold Medal around the neck of someone who was investigated and suspended? That’s not what our sport or the US Team should be about.