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Update: November 2, 2021
Victory! After hearing from PETA entities and following a complaint from PETA Germany, UIPM—the international governing body of the modern pentathlon—has voted to remove horse riding from the modern pentathlon and replace the cruel event with cycling, according to media reports. This is a huge win for horses!
The Tokyo Olympic Games were unprecedented in many ways, but one thing we all could have predicted was that the suffering of the horses used for the equestrian events would continue. Show jumping, dressage, cross country, and other equine sports are dangerous and cruel. Just take a look at some of the incidents from this year’s Olympic Games:
German modern pentathlon competitor Annika Schleu was riding the horse Saint Boy when she was filmed whipping and spurring him during the show jumping portion of the competition after he refused to enter the course. As the rider’s frustration increased, Schleu’s coach, Kim Raisner, was shown punching Saint Boy, who was clearly frightened. After the incident, Raisner was rightfully expelled from the Olympics.
This isn’t an anomaly. Earlier this year in California, show jumper Kevin Lemke aggressively and repeatedly hit a horse named Good Luck. PETA US reported the abuse, and Lemke was suspended. But fines and suspensions clearly aren’t enough to deter other trainers or riders from similar reckless behaviour.
Jet Set, ridden by Swiss competitor Robin Godel, was injured in the middle of a cross-country course during an Olympic competition. Veterinarians diagnosed the injury as an irreparable ligament rupture in one of his legs, and he was euthanised.
During another show jumping event, blood poured from Kilkenny’s nose and, though it was clearly visible to those watching, Ireland rider Cian O’Connor forced the horse to finish the course. Nothing was done by officials to stop the competition to check on Kilkenny.
One thing is certain: horses don’t care about gold medals. And unlike humans, horses don’t choose to participate in dangerous events – they’re forced to. Please take action to call on the International Olympic Committee to remove all equestrian events immediately. Leave the Olympics to the willing participants.