It comes after the 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse Flogas Sunset Cruise died in France last October at Cagnes-sur-Mer. Irishman Vinnie Duffy and Thornton owned the horse.

FEI Tribunal: Kevin Thornton Guilty of Horse Abuse

Excessive use of whip

Update June 8, 2017

The Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) Tribunal finds Irish show jumping rider Kevin Thornton guilty of horse abuse.

It comes after the 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse Flogas Sunset Cruise died in France last October at Cagnes-sur-Mer. Irishman Vinnie Duffy and Thornton owned the horse.

The Tribunal suspended Thornton for four months and imposed a fine and fees totaling about $10,374.00.

Thornton says he is very upset and disappointed by the decision but won’t appeal. “I rather close the case and look forward.”

Eyewitnesses gave statements regarding excessive whipping and the horse’s perceived exhaustion before its death.

“The horse was white with sweat, his nostrils dilated, his eyes bulging, several people tried to stop him verbally, without success. The horse finally stopped, began to tremble, neigh and fell to the ground dead.” 

“…I have seen Kevin Thornton running multiple lengths on the track in full gallop on his grey horse, using his whip many times. The horse seemed to be exhausted when it stopped Kevin redoubled his blows.” 

The Tribunal’s decision states a steward attempted to stop Thornton during the incident while he was on the ground’s race track.

Thornton denies he abused the ISH. He said it was a tragic event, and there was no wrongdoing by him.

The FEI Tribunal determined Thornton’s behavior “went way beyond what could be considered an acceptable conduct towards a horse”. It concluded, “the horse has been whipped repeatedly, substantially and excessively and clearly more than the three times alleged by Mr. Thornton.”

Although the horse’s necropsy did not confirm the cause of death, the Tribunal clarified it was “not deciding on the potential responsibility of Mr. Thornton for the tragic death of the horse”. It adds, “even if the horse had survived, a case of horse abuse would still have been opened”.

The FEI’s standard of proof is based on a “balance of probability,” which differs from beyond a reasonable doubt, as seen in criminal proceedings.

FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibanez said, “given the severity of this incident I truly would have expected a much tougher sanction.” The FEI requested a two-year suspension.

The FEI Tribunal is independent of the international federation.

Thornton can appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport within 21 days.

We contacted Thornton, who is in Belgium, for comment. His full statement is below.


View Final Tribunal Decision  


Kevin Thornton’s full statement regarding the Tribunal’s decision states (it has been edited for spelling but not for content):

In the wake of the FEI tribunals decision to ban me from competition for 4 months and impose a fine and costs of 10,000 CHF, I feel very upset and disappointed at the decision. I agree totally with the FEI for their investigation as the welfare of our animals is the highest priority in this sport.

The decision has been made on a small number of witnesses, handpicked by the FEI who all live locally to the Headquarters in Lausanne. There was a lack of consistency in these statements from each witness that the FEI brought forward. Strange that all the witnesses were a group of acquaintances that live 600km away from where the show took place in Cagnes Sur Mer?

NO physical evidence found in the Autopsy that could say that horse abuse had taken place, no marks from the whip or spurs and no sign of sweat on the horse’s coat. There was one finding 7cm deep in the shoulder of the horse’s muscle but this has been clarified by Dr. Cronau as a collection of blood after the horse’s death not related to a hematoma caused by any force. In any case, the witnesses were consistent in one point: they all said that the horse was only whipped on its buttocks.

These are the facts!

It would be difficult to convict somebody of shooting another person without leaving a bullet hole, even if somebody saw them holding a gun!

I feel the FEI would like to make an example out of this unfortunate event.

Many people have asked me if I will appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport but I also have to consider the costs, this sad situation has already cost me a lot and to top it off I also lost a Teammate.

Even if I fully succeeded before the CAS most of the consequences of this case cannot be undone anymore. This process would take time, a few months without a doubt and by that stage, the imposed ban will be lifted. I rather close the case and look forward.

I would just like to thank my friends and family for all their support in the last difficult few months, also my owners for sticking by me especially Mr. Vinny Duffy. I would like also to say a big thanks to my Lawyer Monika Gattiker for her efforts.