LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — An equestrian rider from the United Arab Emirates won his appeal to overturn a record 20-year ban for abusing a horse that died at a long-distance race.
The International Equestrian Federation said Tuesday it was “extremely disappointed” Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Faisal al Qasimi won his case at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The three judges on the CAS panel ruled that the governing body failed to prove the sheikh competed on an exhausted or injured horse, or that he was responsible for unnecessary suffering.
“The FEI has to stand up for horse welfare and clamp down on horse abuse, so to lose this case on appeal is more than disheartening,” FEI secretary general Sabrina Ibáñez said in a statement.
The sheikh’s horse, Castlebar Contraband, was euthanized after suffering a severe leg injury in a 90-kilometer (56-mile) endurance race in France in 2016.
The governing body presented evidence to show the horse had been injected with a sedative banned in competition which had a nerve-blocking effect that allowed it to run through pain.
The FEI’s veterinary director, Göran Åkerström, said nerve blocking removes the “very fundamental protective function of sensitivity” and raised the risk of a catastrophic injury.
Competing with injured horses had been “a major problem in endurance sport,” the FEI said in its testimony, describing the Middle East region as “the biggest challenge.”
However, the CAS panel said in a ruling dated April 14 it was “not comfortably satisfied that Contraband was nerve blocked or ‘abnormally desensitised’ in its limbs when competing at the event.”
CAS also ruled the horse’s rider and vet “could not have reasonably detected the alleged bone fatigue” injury.
The judges overturned a fine of 32,500 Swiss francs ($35,600) imposed by the FEI on the sheikh last year. The governing body was also ordered to pay 8,000 Swiss francs ($8,750) toward his legal costs.