A protest has been filed with the FEI — the governing body of international horse sport — following the disqualification of American showjumper McLain Ward's horse Sapphire at the World Cup Final in Geneva last Friday (16 April). McLain Ward, the US Equestrian Federation (USEF) and American team vet Dr Tim Ober have filed the appeal/protest with the FEI.
McLain Ward said: "This is, without question, the most incredibly unjust decision in the history of show jumping."
McLain Ward and Sapphire were leading overnight at the FEI Showjumping World Cup Final, when the show's ground jury disqualified the horse from the second round as "unfit to compete" following a positive hypersensitivity test. McLain presented Sapphire to a press conference at the event. He said the horse disqualified after three tests with a thermography camera — to check for heat and a possible problem — and clinical examination.
The first was done before the pair jumped, and the last performed at 12:15am after the horse's leg had allegedly been palpated (felt) 57 times. McLain Ward stated at the conference: "This is a situation where the FEI is not democratic — there is no logic being used. It's just a completely corrupt decision on their part."
Mr Ward, the US team vet Dr. Tim Ober and the USEF lodged an appeal against the disqualification on Sunday 18 April — which was denied. Under FEI rules there is no appeal against the decision of the ground jury to eliminate or disqualify a horse from an event for abnormal sensitivity.
The FEI tribunal chairman Ken Lalo said he did not have jurisdiction to overturn the ground jury's decision. The FEI said in a statement: "There was no indication or evidence of any malpractice by Ward or his team."
An FEI spokesman told H&H: "An appeal has been filed with the FEI and is being processed according to the usual procedures. The parties will now agree on a timeline for exchange of submissions and the scheduling of a hearing date before the FEI Tribunal."