IRISH rider Kevin Thornton (28) today totally rejected allegations that he had whipped a horse to death while competing at a show in France.
The Swiss-based rider gave a detailed account of the events surrounding the sudden death of Flogas Sunset Cruise at a show venue in Cagnes Sur Mer yesterday.
The Irish Field has spoken to both Kevin Thornton and the horse’s owner Vinnie Duffy this morning and both are devastated over the loss of the horse and the resulting outcry on social media.
Kevin Thornton said: “I’m into horses all my life. There is no way I would ever whip a horse to death. I did not do that and I never would. I’m not that person.
There is no way I would ever whip a horse to death. I did not do that and I never would. I’m not that person
“I was also not riding this horse for three hours as is being said on social media. I was riding him for 15-20 minutes at most before he keeled over. I have other grey horses that people seem to be confused with because I was riding them earlier,” said Kevin.
Thornton was given the 10-year-old horse to ride about five months ago by Mr Duffy.
Today the well known Ballina owner and sport horse producer, Vinnie Duffy, said: “I’m devastated at the loss of the horse and I’m devastated for Kevin, being vilified like that. There is a lot of inaccuracies and wrongs being taken as fact.
“It’s completely terrible. Kevin has three grey horses. I feel so bad for him, it’s awful what is being said. The last thing in the world I would condone is any abuse of horses. Horses are our lives and our business here and I like to think we do it fairly well.
“I was not there at the show at the time myself. I was 500kms away looking at horses. I am gutted over the loss of the horse, he was talented and I spent a lot of money on him. I’ll be back at the show tonight and see what’s going on. I’m in total shock and very sorry to see Kevin under such attack. Kevin is a good lad.
"I chose him to ride the horse as I was trying to help him get going in a difficult business. He’s a young Irish man living in a foreign country trying to make a go of it. I was trying to help him. And up to that, he had had a great week at the show, very good results.
I’m in total shock and very sorry to see Kevin under such attack. Kevin is a good lad
“I would never condone any abuse of horses at all. I’m all about the horses, I hope to get some autopsy results on the horse and find out the facts of what happened to him. Until the full facts are known, people should not jump to conclusions. There is a lot of misinformation going around, I think it is terrible,” concluded Mr Duffy.
Kevin Thornton outlined how he brought six horses to the French venue. All travelled well and were in good order when they arrived.
“I got the ride on Flogas about five months ago. Vinnie told me he could be contrary and we were trying to get him going. I spent an awful lot of time with the horse and put a lot of work into him.
“I had three grey horses at the show. People are saying online that I was riding the horse for three hours. I was not. I was riding the other greys and was only riding Flogas for between 15 and 20 minutes in total before this happened.
“He was going well at the show. He jumped clear the first day. The second day he napped a bit before the first fence and stood up twice with me in the ring but jumped clear. That was the way he was. I always lunged him first to warm him up and then would sit up on him, that seemed to suit him better.
“I had a chat with Vinnie and he said to get him out on the gallops, going forward. I cantered the other two greys and they were happy out.
“I took Flogas up to the big gallop where a section was open to riders. He was in a normal bit, he acted up at the entrance, I hit him once or twice to get him moving forward. That was the first time he had ever been hit. He bolted off around the gallops. I tried to hold him and stay calm.
“I hunted him on a bit when he slowed and threw the reins at him, turned him around and back towards the gate where a lad was waiting for me with a dressage stick. I normally only ever rode him with a dressage stick at home. He nearly jumped on top of the lad. We got down to the other arena. He was not breathing heavy or fast. He felt very weird under me, I got off and as I did so he keeled over. I took the saddle off him and shouted for a vet. I rang Vinnie and told him what was after happening.
He felt very weird under me, I got off and as I did so he keeled over. I took the saddle off him and shouted for a vet
“I was not riding the horse for three hours; it was 20 minutes at the most.. I got a shock. I spoke to the officials, the show people were sound; they took me for a coffee, asked me what happened.
“They said I was welcome to stay. I wanted to leave, I did not feel fit to ride after it to be honest. They said no problem, they were 100% sound.
“Later I read online that they said they kicked me out of the show. They did not. They told me I could stay if I wanted to but I didn’t want to.
“I’m into horses all my life and would never ever do something like whipping a horse to death, that’s not me and that’s not what happened. There is no way in my life I would do something like that, I’m not that kind of person,” concluded Thornton.