Irish rider sentenced for abuse of horse Flogas Sunset Cruise who died

Horse made to jump in France, photo: Philippe Oursel on Unsplash
Horse made to jump in France, photo: Philippe Oursel on Unsplash

An Irish horse show jumping rider has been convicted of cruelty towards his horse Flogas Sunset Cruise. Flogas died after the rider made him gallop on a track with excessive use of a whip, court officials and lawyers said Friday.

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

Witnesses reported the rider taking Flogas onto the track on the afternoon of October 10, 2016, which was supposed to be a rest day at the tournament. The man forced the horse to complete two track rounds at full speed with brutal whipping.

The court in France handed down a one-year suspended jail sentence, banned the rider from competing for five years, and also from ever owning an animal again.

“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 Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) which also banned him from competing for four months.

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