An endurance rider who struck his tiring horse with a slosh bottle has today been suspended six months for horse abuse by a three-member panel of the FEI Tribunal.

The incident involving UAE rider Ali Mohd Ali Al Hosani was captured on the official livestream from the Sheikh Mohammed Cup CEI 160km at Dubai International Endurance City on January 4. Al Hosani also been fined 2000 Swiss francs and disqualified from 16th place.

The protest was lodged by contributor Pippa Cuckson, after the video clip below went viral.

Tribunal found that the rider breached FEI endurance rules which forbid using any item to strike a horse, and FEI general regulations regarding abuse.

This incident occurred during the fourth loop. The horse, LC Corleone, completed the first three at high average speeds – 24.24, 25.72, 24.15kph. His average speed dropped to 18.12kph in loop 4, and again in loop 5, to 14.11 kph.

Tribunal said it was likely the rider realised his horse was tiring and, with fading hopes of a top 10 placing, he hit the horse out of “frustration and anger.” Al Hosani could be seen taking slosh bottles from assistants, simultaneously “giving the horse a big kick.” After sloshing, he swung his right arm forward and struck the horse “aggressively” on the neck twice with an empty bottle.

In his brief defence, Al Hosani said this was a “misunderstanding.”

“It is clear that when I took the second water bottle from the groom I started spraying water of the horse neck [sic], I did this twice because I felt that there still water in the bottle so I poured it again. It is true that I poured the water vigorously due to speed and I tried to pour as much water as possible, but I did not intend at all to hit or abuse the horse.”

In rejecting his explanation, Tribunal found Al Hosani’s behaviour “unacceptable and meriting sanction.” He “participated in his first race when he was 13 years old. He should be well informed that using a water bottle as a whip is prohibited in endurance racing and any form of horse abuse will not be tolerated.” In addition, the Tribunal noted he “seemed to show no remorse.”

In a similar protest, also lodged by Cuckson and former Horse & Hound editor Lucy Higginson in 2014 CEI 120km, Tribunal ruled that striking an endurance horse constituted abuse whether or not it can be claimed the horse experienced any pain or suffering.

Cuckson is an award-winning journalist who has campaigned for endurance reform for many years. She commented, “Naturally I am pleased Tribunal has recognized that this incident violates FEI rules and is an affront to horsemanship and the welfare of the horse.

“I am only sad I was reduced to lodging this protest because the ground jury did nothing – notwithstanding the incident being captured on the official livestream of the ride, and then going ‘viral’ on social media. This type of odious behaviour on the field of play is often seen in FEI Group 7.

“The FEI endurance temporary committee is reviewing the future and doing sterling work in a difficult political climate. To my mind, the biggest stumbling block is an entrenched culture of weak judges in thrall to the wealthy paymasters in FEI Group 7. There can be no other explanation as to why incidents like this are overlooked time and again.”