The Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) Tribunal has issued its final decision on the case opened last November against Irish jumping athlete Kevin Thornton for alleged abuse of the horse Flogas Sunset Cruise, who died at Cagnes-sur-Mer, in France, on Oct. 10, 2016.

The FEI opened the case against Thornton in accordance with Articles 142 and 163 of the FEI General Regulations. Article 169.6.2 of the FEI General Regulations (page 41) states that sanctions for abuse of horses in any form can entail a fine of up to CHF 15,000 and/or a suspension of a minimum of three months to life.

The FEI Tribunal found Thornton guilty of horse abuse and has suspended him for four months from the date of the decision (June 6), and imposed a fine of CHF 5,000 and costs of CHF 5,000.

In its findings, the FEI Tribunal determined that the athlete’s behavior "went way beyond what could be considered an acceptable conduct towards a horse." It further concluded "with confidence that the horse has been whipped repeatedly, substantially, and excessively, and clearly more than the three times alleged by Mr Thornton."

The FEI stated in its testimony that “even if the horse had survived, a case of horse abuse would still have been opened by the FEI.” As the necropsy did not confirm the cause of death, the FEI Tribunal clarified that it was “not deciding on the potential responsibility of Mr Thornton for the tragic death of the horse.”

Sabrina Ibáñez, FEI secretary general, said "The FEI stood up for horse welfare by taking this case to the FEI Tribunal and given the severity of this incident I truly would have expected a much tougher sanction. It was important to the FEI that the allegation of horse abuse was confirmed by the Tribunal. We had requested a two-year suspension, but the level of sanctions is at the discretion of the Tribunal and we respect its independence.”

The decision can be appealed before the Court of Arbitration for Sport within 21 days from the date of notification (June 6).

The full text of the tribunal’s final decision on this case can be viewed online