An incident where a horse was struck repeatedly with a whip in the ring at the Desert International Horse Park in Thermal, California, has prompted the organization People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to contact both the FEI and USEF, demanding disciplinary action.
Video footage shows Good Luck, ridden by Kevin Lemke, a professional from Nauheim, Germany, living in San Juan Capistrano, being sharply hit with the crop following a refusal during a January 30th a $25,000 Open Classic, resulting in the rider’s elimination and a warning. Good Luck is owned by Morad Al Masri of Simi Valley, CA.
On Feb. 25th , PETA contacted Tom O’Mara, president of the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) and FEI president Ingmar De Vos, insisting there be an investigation into the incident and that Lemke’s eligibility to compete be revoked. PETA has also sent a letter to the Riverside County sheriff’s department, saying Lemke violated a California penal code which prohibits cruelty to animals.
“If Kevin Lemke will punish a horse with repeated whipping in the middle of a show ring, what will he do when no one’s watching?” asks PETA senior vice-president Kathy Guillermo. “PETA is calling on the USEF and the FEI to investigate Lemke’s training practices and make it clear that abusive, reckless riders are not welcome at their events.”
HorseSport.com reached out to Lemke, who commented, “I obviously apologized to my horse, the owner and the horse show. The jury dealt with the incident by giving me a warning (yellow card). I am very sorry that happened and it’s not my personality. I truly meant my apology.”
He added, “I would appreciate if the people in charge would spend time in our facility to see me treating and training my horses … that was the first time ever I got in this kind of trouble and is surely the last time.”
An FEI spokesperson provided this statement: “The FEI absolutely condemns all forms of horse abuse, whether it occurs in competition or elsewhere. This incident occurred in a national event in the US and, although the FEI does not have jurisdiction in this case, we are liaising directly with the USEF, which is investigating the matter.”
An individual can be warned and eliminated by officials at USEF shows for “excessive use of the whip” (although how many strikes constitutes “excessive” is not mentioned in the rule book). Anyone who receives three USEF Warning Cards within a 16-month period will be subject to a fine or possible suspension. The FEI rules for excessive use of the whip include being used more than three times in a row or to vent an athlete’s temper. If the person issued an FEI Yellow Warning Card receives another one within a 12-month period, they will be automatically suspended for two months and possibly fined.
PETA‘s motto, in part, reads “animals are not ours to use for entertainment or abuse in any other way” which includes show jumping, dressage, eventing, horse racing, and a multitude of other “deadly” equestrian sports.