Dear sir. The use of horses in the Modern Pentathlon is now a huge subject of concern worldwide after it became apparent that the horses themselves had no right to a voice when they felt they could not comply nor enjoy their experience in the competition. The treatment of Saint Boy has become worldwide news.
It’s an outdated practice to use horses as slaves in this competition. All the other Equestrian sports at Olympic level are built on relationships and trust between the rider and their horse. The enormous asks of the competitions tests their trust in each other and the mutual confidence in their relationship built over time. The Pentathlon is different. The use of stock horses provided for the Show Jumping section has proved to be against their welfare when an individual animal just simply cannot bare the thought of jumping, for whatever reason. It is there through no choice of its own.
These animals are just tools to be used to gain a medal. No different in standing as the guns they were shooting from prior. The riders have no emotional nor financial investment in their horse and they will do whatever it takes to force it to comply. We witnessed Saint Boy being whipped, spurring at his ribs and that tender mouth being ragged at over and over again. Did we not ban slavery 2 centuries ago?
The horse in question (Saint Boy) was probably in pain – especially in its mouth after the last riders forceful riding and it certainly showed abject fear in its eyes. It was totally unwilling and as such, it had the right to be listened to. This same behaviour had happened to an earlier rider who had successfully forced it to comply but the round was a mess!
The extent of the avoidance behaviours which the horse displayed were likely learned over time and as such, this horse should never have been picked by the committee. They are culpable in all of this. If these behaviours had never ever happened before, then the owners and the vets should have been extremely alarmed after the first round and pulled that horse out straight away as there must have been something critically wrong with it.
I can more than appreciated all the years of hard work in training the competitors invest in their sport in order to be present in that coveted Olympic lineup. It all boils down to the fact that this horse stood in her way to gain that piece of prized metal. It was no longer a sentient being- it was just a tool. She did what she did because the medal WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT CRITERION.
As for the coach punching Saint Boy in his flanks when he reversed into her reach- that is a whole new disgraceful level which totally put into perspective just how unimportant that horse was in the greater scheme of things. Using horses as slaves in this event has to stop!
Why cant they move over to challenging the riders onto BMX bikes over a very tricky assault course instead? It would take great skill, test bravery and stamina and be a good audience experience too and would not involve animals with no welfare protection as has been shamefully proven in Japan.
The world wants to know how Saint Boy is now. What treatment did he receive after this episode? Violence at the hands of man or gentle veterinary examination?
Just my thoughts on the subject as a Professional Equine Behaviour Consultant and Trainer.
Yours sincerely, Melanie Watson
Instinctive Horse Training. 44 Main Street, Skidby, East Yorkshire HU165TG
Melanie S Watson
Equine Behaviour Consultant and Trainer
Member of IAABC, ABMA, PPG-BI