Equine Canada mended fences with star rider Eric Lamaze on Wednesday after the former Olympic show-jumping champion threatened to stop competing for Canada unless the organization showed more support for a disqualified rider.
Tiffany Foster’s horse Victor was disqualified from the Olympic Games on Sunday for failing a hypersensitivity test intended to protect the welfare of horses. Mr. Lamaze had called the decision a “miscarriage of justice” because the sensitivity amounted to a minor scratch above the hoof and he felt the horse was fit to compete.
He said he was “shocked” by a statement released on Tuesday by Equine Canada president Michael Gallagher that supported the protocol of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI).
Online reports that surfaced late Tuesday said Mr. Lamaze would be boycotting the Spruce Meadows Masters at Calgary next month and the Sunshine Tour in Spain unless Equine Canada changed its tune.
“Yes, I was hurt by the press release from Equine Canada,” said Mr. Lamaze, who coaches Ms. Foster. Mr. Lamaze finished 29th on Wednesday in the individual show-jumping final on his inexperienced mare, Derly Chin de Muze.
Mr. Gallagher issued a second statement on Wednesday saying that while the organization supports the intent of the hypersensitivity tests, it believes their application should be reviewed. The rules are meant to disqualify riders who put irritating substances on horses’ legs to make them jump higher.
"We feel that further discussion of the hypersensitivity protocol needs to take place in order to ensure a balance is reached between the philosophical intent and the real-world application," Gallagher wrote.
Canada appealed the decision to bar Ms. Foster’s horse from competition – even though there are no avenues of appeal for this rule – to no avail.
Mr. Gallagher admitted the initial statement should have had another line or two to show support for Ms. Foster, adding,“we said it badly.” He said that the injury on Victor was so small, “you couldn’t see it unless you moved the hair.”
The purpose of the original press release was to point out that FEI president Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein assigned no blame to Ms. Foster,
Mr. Gallagher said, particularly since he was concerned that media reports might suggest that the Canadian rider had abused her horse.
Mr. Gallagher spoke with both Mr. Lamaze and Ms. Foster Wednesday to clarify his views. Mr. Lamaze said he is satisfied with Equine Canada’s actions and therefore will ride at Spruce Meadows.
With reports from Sean Gordon in London and Kim Mackrael in Toronto
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