Irish Rider Sentenced in France for ‘Disgraceful’ Abuse of Horse

French Republican Guards ride their horse past the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on July 14, 2017. (Etienne Laurent, Pool via AP)

NICE, France (AFP) — An Irish show jumping rider has been sentenced for cruelty towards his horse that died after he forced the exhausted animal to gallop on a track with excessive use of a whip, court officials and lawyers said Friday.

Kevin Thornton, 32, was charged with “serious harm or cruelty towards a domesticated animal” for abusing his 10-year-old stallion in 2016 when he participated at a show jumping event in Cagnes-sur-mer on the French Riviera.

The court in nearby Grasse handed down a one-year suspended jail sentence in absentia, banned him from competing for five years, and also from ever owning an animal again.

Witnesses reported Thornton taking the horse named Flogas Sunset Cruise onto the track on the afternoon of October 10, 2016, which was supposed to be a rest day at the tournament, and forcing it to complete two track rounds at full speed with brutal whipping.

“All the riders and the lads, everybody was outraged to the point that Mr Thornton had to be exfiltrated because anger was rising among the professionals,” Bernard Rossanino, a lawyer for the race track operator, told the court.

The prosecution called Thornton’s behavior “disgraceful.”

In 2018, France issued an arrest warrant for Thornton, who was a resident in Switzerland at the time, but police never managed to question him and he did not turn up in court or get representation.

He had already been fined in 2017 over the incident by the FIE equestrian federation which also banned him from competing for four months.

© Agence France-Presse

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