by Fran Jurga | 13 April 2010 | The Jurga Report at Equisearch.com
This video from the 2010 Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida has been viewed 10,174 times. Watch that number rise now that the FEI and USEF have announced an investigation into this rider's use of the whip.
The Jurga Report received the following notification today:
"The FEI and the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) have both initiated charges under their respective rules against Michael Morrissey (USA), following an incident in class 101 at the Wellington CSI 2* held on 27 February 2010. The FEI will also be investigating the role of the Ground Jury in this incident.
"Given the fact that both the International and National Federations will issue charges for the same set of factual circumstances, the FEI and the USEF will coordinate their existing regulatory procedures to ensure a fair process for the rider and seek the right outcome for the equestrian community."
What's all this about? American showjumper Michael Morrissey has been the subject of much speculation and accusation on the Internet for the past six weeks. In a case of Internet-sparked negative publicity with echoes of the "blue tongue dressage" campaign in dressage last fall, a public outcry rose over Morrissey's whipping of his horse during a class in Wellington, Florida in February. The horse refused once at the water, was whipped on the circle and then reapproached the jump, which it then cleared successfully on the second attempt.
The outcry has been led by blogger Karen Robinson, whose Straight Up blog on the horse-canada.com web site for a Canadian horse magazine publisher has been repeatedly bringing attention to Morrissey's whipping and the ground jury's failure to react.
Highs and lows: How differently was Morrissey perceived by the public exactly a year ago, when his horse Scarabaras cleared more than seven feet in the puissance at the Charlotte Jumper Classic?
There is a marked difference between Morrissey's case and the blue tongue dressage furor, since there are specific rules about whipping in show jumping whereas the rollkur type of training was less defined when that incident took place. The FEI is working on refining schooling behavior at dressage events, with a report due this week.
Morrissey's use of the whip has been documented before. As a member of the United States team at Britain's Royal International Horse Show at Hickstead in 2008, the audience there apparently was offended by his use of the whip at a water jump. Click here to read a mention of that incident in the Times of London.
Michael Morrissey is a highly accomplished show jumper on the national and international circuits. You can read Diana De Rosa's biographical interview with Morrissey from 2006 in which he describes buying Crelido and why he chose the horse.
Was anyone besides me shocked at the whipping in the final few furlongs on the flat of Saturday's 2010 Grand National steeplechase at Aintree? I couldn't wait for the race to end for the sake of the horse who came in second. This was in spite of a warning by the RSPCA before the race. I don't even know how those jockeys could manage to hold onto their whips through that race!