Oliver Townend Responds to Public Outrage Over Whip Use at Badminton

Cooley SRS and Oliver Townend on course at Badminton. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Oliver Townend released a statement this morning in response to the public outrage over his use of the whip during his cross country rounds with both Cooley SRS and Ballaghmor Class on Saturday at the Mitsbubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials.

The Badminton ground jury gave Oliver an official warning for “over-use of the whip” at the conclusion of cross country day.

Oliver’s statement reads:

“Having watched my Badminton cross-country rounds for the first time when I got home last night, I’m so disappointed and upset about the way I rode. It didn’t look good and I don’t want to look like that.

“I fully accept the warning I received from the ground jury. My competitive instincts got the better of me and I will work hard to improve in this area.

“I try really hard to give my horses the best ride possible — I try to be as fit as possible, to be as light as I can be, to sit as still as I can, to get them on the best strides and take-off points to minimise the energy they have to waste. I care enormously about their wellbeing and their welfare.

“I feel I have let my amazing team down. I am aware of my position in the sport and of my responsibility to be a suitable role model to younger people, and I apologise to them.

“I love my horses — I live for them. I am extremely proud of all four horses — Ballaghmor Class and Cooley SRS, and the two who went so brilliantly at Kentucky, Cooley Master Class and MHS King Joules — and of every horse on my yard.

Oliver’s whip use at Badminton has dominated national news headlines both in Britain and abroad since Saturday, provoking a debate on social media over appropriate whip use.

FEI Rule 526.3 states:

Excessive and/or misuse of the whip maybe considered abuse of Horse and will be reviewed case by case by the Ground Jury according to the following principles:

a) The whip is not to be used to vent an Athlete temper.

b) The whip is not to be used after elimination.

c) The whip is not to be used after a Horse has jumped the last fence on a course.

d) The whip is not to be used overhand, (i.e. a whip in the right hand being used on the left flank).

e) The whip is not to be used on a Horse head.

f) The whip is not to be used more than three times for any one incident.

g) If a Horse skin is broken the use of the whip is always excessive.

FEI Rule 526.2 states: “Any act or series of actions that in the opinion of the Ground Jury can be defined as abuse of Horse will be dealt with one or more of the following provisions: a) Recorded Verbal Warning. b) Yellow Warning Card. c) Elimination. d) Fine. e) Disqualification.”

FEI Rule 515.3.5 states: “The Technical Delegate has the authority to warn or stop an Athlete on Cross Country course for dangerous riding (art. 525), riding an exhausted Horse, excessive pressing of a tired Horse, riding an obviously lame Horse, excessive use of whip and/or spurs (art. 526).”

The Badminton ground jury of Sue Baxter (GBR) President, Christoph Hess (GER), and Katrin Eichinger Knieley (AUT) did not stop Oliver on course with either horse and instead issued a recorded verbal warning later in the day.

Having won the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials in 2017 and the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event last week, Oliver was riding for the Rolex Grand Slam at Badminton, which awards a £255,000 bonus to a rider who can win Kentucky, Badminton and Burghley in any consecutive order.

Cooley SRS jumped a clear show jumping round yesterday to finish in second place on a final score of 33.1. Ballaghmor Class added two rails down to finish fifth on 36.0.

Jonelle Price and Classic Moet added 0.4 total penalties to their dressage score across the course of the competition to take the win at Badminton on a final score of 28.0.

[Statement from Oliver Townend]

[Oliver Townend Warned for Excessive Use of Whip at Badminton]