Castlebar Contraband died on 15 October 2016, but the incident was brought to the public eye only a few days ago, following a sentence handed down by the FEI (Federazione Equestre Internazionale).
It seems the horse had had injections of Xylazina into the fetlock joint (the lowest leg joint, immediately above the hoof). Xylazina is a sedative, it is a pain killer and a muscle relaxant. It can be used in treatment under strict checks and conditions, but is not permitted in competition horses because of the risk that masking pain will cause the horse to force the joint and damage it further. Which is exactly what happened to Castlebar Contraband: the autopsy showed that the horse had osteoarthritis of the fetlock joint and that the joint had been treated with the painkiller drug. During the race (which took place in France) the horse’s fetlock fractured badly under the excessive stress, and the horse was then euthanised.
The story leaked out because the FEI sentence is the heaviest ever handed down: the jockey was suspended for 20 years and ordered to pay a fine of CHF17,500 with an additional CHF15,000 in legal costs.
More significantly, the guilty party, the jockey, is Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bin Faisal Al Qasimi, of the United Arab Emirates, a country already badly stained with a history of equine abuse (read our articles on the subject on our website).
The FEI has given much prominence to this sentence, not least because it comes after years of legal battles, during the course of which the Sheikh’s lawyers attempted to create the suspicion that the drug Xylazina had actually been administered during the euthanasia.
The FEI legal director, Mikael Rentsch, called it a great outcome for equine welfare, and against doping and other abuses in equestrian competitions.
Without ever forgetting that the horse, in all equestrian sports, is there by force not by choice, we do however consider the sentence to be a positive one...but that it does not go far enough, punishing as it does only the jockey, without taking into account the part played by all members of the support team surrounding the horse, from the stable yard through to the veterinary surgeon. Given that the problem of abuse in Endurance is well known at the international level, where it has been chronic for many years, the FEI has had all the time it needed to make far-reaching changes in the sport, but has stopped short of doing so.
The UAE is a financially heavyweight supporter of this type of competition.
Source: Clean Endurance
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Euston (GB), horse dies after endurance ride (August 2019)
Endurance, another atrocious death of a horse (February 2015)
Equestrian Sports: another two horses dead (August 2014)
IHP demands an investigation into the death of Django (September 2013)
WHAT ENDURANCE IS