The FEI has announced that Olympian Cesar Parra, who was a member of the U.S. dressage team at the 2011 Pan Am Games in Guadalajara and runs training facilities in New Jersey and Florida, has been provisionally suspended. The move came following damning videos which surfaced online on February 1-2 showing the grand prix rider and well-known trainer whipping horses, training with restrictive pulley systems and cruel tack accessories, and horses displaying welts, scars, and blood:

The FEI responded by issuing the following statement:

“The FEI confirms that Dressage Athlete Cesar Parra (USA) (FEI ID 10000031) has been immediately provisionally suspended while the FEI investigates the disturbing and abhorrent images and videos in relation to his training techniques that have recently emerged.

Equestrian sport is built on a foundation of respect for our equine partners, with a duty of care to ensure their mental and physical wellbeing comes first, ahead of all competition and/or training ambitions.

Through the FEI’s Rules and Regulations, the welfare of the horse, and any action or omission which causes or is likely to cause pain or unnecessary discomfort to a horse constitutes a violation of our rules and will be sanctioned. The FEI remains resolute in its commitment to upholding the highest standards of equine welfare and sanctioning behaviour which deviates from these principles, and will be actively investigating this case as a matter of urgency.

As this is an open investigation, no further comment will be provided in relation to the alleged offences while the investigation is ongoing. The FEI is also collaborating and liaising with the US Equestrian and the FEI’s provisional suspension and any subsequent sanctions will be recognised at the national level.

The FEI is committed to ensuring that horses involved in sport experience positive welfare throughout their lives, and that the FEI’s regulations, policies and practices, as well as the wider community’s actions reflect these principles, and we will continue to address actions and behaviours that are in contradiction with our values.”

This is not the first time the 59-year-old Colombian-born trainer has been under scrutiny for horse welfare issues. In 2012, he was cleared of animal cruelty charges due to insufficient evidence surrounding an incident that occurred at his New Jersey training centre, Piaffe Performance, in June of 2009 when a young stallion he was lunging reared and fell over, permanently injuring itself.

Dr. Parra, who represented his native Colombia at Olympic Games, World Equestrian Games, Pan American Games, and World Cup Finals, became a US citizen in 2008.