International charity World Horse Welfare has added its voice of condemnation to the treatment of an Arabian horse that raced against blade runner Oscar Pistorious in Doha last week.
The South African easily beat the horse, named Maserati, in the race to promote disabled sportspeople and fight discrimination against those with disabilities, but not before the horse had a whip used on it repeatedly by his jockey.
World Horse Weflare deputy chief executive Tony Tyler said: “World Horse Welfare is appalled at the way the jockey used the whip which was not only completely unnecessary but utterly barbaric.
“Excessive whip use like this is a disgrace to racing as a sport.
“We applaud the achievements of Oscar Pictorious and his race could have been a great spectacle, but instead it was marred by the flagrant abuse of this horse.
“We commented on the race beforehand to say we didn’t see any immediate welfare concerns providing the horse was treated well. Clearly it wasn’t,” Tyler said.
The race also drew fire from South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope SPCA, which said it had been inundated with complaints regarding the manner in which the horse was ridden.
The SPCA said it could understand why the general South African public was so outraged and disappointed with the participation of one of country’s local heroes in this event.
The horse, it would appear, was excessively, unnecessarily and cruelly whipped from start to finish, the SPCA said.
SPCA chief executive Allan Perrins said: “In our opinion, this incident has defeated the purpose of Oscar’s message and tarnished his otherwise wholesome image and I am almost sure that when he examines the footage he, too, will be horrified by the rider’s apparent indifference and would want to disassociate himself from the rider’s misbehaviour.
“If this incident were to have happened in South Africa, the rider, organizers and all participants, including Oscar, would have been charged with cruelty to animals and if found guilty have faced some very serious consequences – not least of all reputational damage.”
The SPCA confirmed it had presented the office of Pistorious with an official animal welfare complaint.
Pistorious promptly replied: “I participated in the race in good faith as it was to promote abilities across sport and I was totally unaware of any alleged excessive force being used on the horse.
“I don’t condone any ill-treatment of animals and would always hope that a horse would be ridden in the correct way. Those who know me well are very aware of my well-publicised care and love of animals.”
Pistorious, who runs on carbon-fibre blades, became the first disabled runner to compete in the Olympics, when he ran in the 400 metres and made the semifinals.