The FEI Tribunal found the athlete guilty of horse abuse and has suspended him for four months from the date of the decision (6 June 2017), and imposed a fine of CHF 5,000 and costs of CHF 5,000.
In its findings, the FEI Tribunal determined that the athlete’s behaviour “went way beyond what could be considered an acceptable conduct towards a horse” and further concluded “with confidence that the horse has been whipped repeatedly, substantially and excessively and clearly more than the three (3) times alleged by Mr Thornton”.
The FEI stated in its testimony that “even if the horse had survived, a case of horse abuse would still have been opened by the FEI”. As the autopsy did not confirm the cause of death, the FEI Tribunal clarified that it was “not deciding on the potential responsibility of Mr Thornton for the tragic death of the horse”.
“The FEI stood up for horse welfare by taking this case to the FEI Tribunal and given the severity of this incident I truly would have expected a much tougher sanction”, FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez said. “It was important to the FEI that the allegation of horse abuse was confirmed by the Tribunal. We had requested a two-year suspension, but the level of sanctions is at the discretion of the Tribunal and we respect its independence.”
The Decision can be appealed before the Court of Arbitration for Sport within 21 days from the date of notification (6 June 2017).
The full text of the FEI Tribunal’s Final Decision on this case can be viewed here