Modern pentathlon’s world governing body has launched a review into the women’s show jumping event in Tokyo and stressed the importance of animal welfare after a coach was thrown out of the Games for hitting a horse.
Germany’s Kim Raisner was seen striking Saint Boy with her fist on Friday after he refused to cooperate for rider Annika Schleu, who was also widely criticised for her use of the whip as she tried to begin her round.
Video footage, in which Raisner was reportedly heard telling Schleu to hit the horse harder, was shown around the world and overshadowed the Olympic competition, where Britain’s Kate French and Joe Choong claimed a historic double gold.
It also focused attention on the riding element of modern pentathlon, in which athletes have only 20 minutes to bond with an unfamiliar horse before attempting a show jumping round.
The global federation, the UIPM, stressed how integral this is to the sport but said it “regrets the trauma suffered by Saint Boy” and that lessons will be learned.
It said in a statement: “The events of August 6, 2021 in the Tokyo Stadium have caused distress both inside and outside the global UIPM Sports community.
“The unpredictability of athletes riding on unfamiliar drawn horses, with only 20 minutes to establish an understanding, is part of the dramatic spectacle that makes modern pentathlon unique and compelling.
“While the number of refusals and falls on August 6 was slightly above average, the Olympic Games is designed as the most challenging of all competitions.
“The experience of Annika Schleu and Gulnaz Gubaydullina (who rode first) on Saint Boy was unusual in high-level modern pentathlon, especially for riders of their proven ability.
“That said, UIPM has a duty of care to all participants in the competitions it oversees; this includes the Olympic Games and it includes horses.
“Not only will UIPM conduct a full review of the riding discipline of the women’s modern pentathlon at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, it will also reinforce the importance of horse welfare and athlete safety across the entire global competition structure.
“UIPM regrets the trauma suffered by Saint Boy in this high-profile incident and has penalised the coach who violated the UIPM Competition Rules by striking the horse from outside the ring.
“Although no athlete or horse was physically injured on August 6, the best possible safeguards must be in place to minimise risk in future.
“Changes in riding were already in the pipeline due to the new modern pentathlon format coming into force in 2022 for the Paris 2024 Olympic cycle. Horse welfare and athlete safety will be at the centre of this process.”