Oscar Pistorius’ Race Against Horse Turns Into Equine Welfare Controversy over Whip Abuse

Man vs horse? Hardly.

Is everything about Oscar Pistorius controversial© Do his artificial limbs give him an advantage over “able-limbed” runners© Should he have been allowed in the Olympics© The latest controversy surrounding the double-amputee South African athlete questions the treatment of the horse that ran against him in a “Man vs Horse” race in Qatar. (Photo by David Ian Roberts)

The horse beaten in the “Run Like the Wind” race experienced being beaten in more than one meaning of the word “beaten”.

Sports promotion for the sake of publicity sparked a new controversy yesterday when South African “blade runner” Oscar Pistorius was pitted against an Arabian stallion named Maserati in a double-track race in Doha, Qatar.

To begin with, Pistorius was allowed to take a head start, while the horse’s rider held back his mount. Journalists’ reports of the distance vary from 15 (USA Today) to 30 (Gulf Times) meters.

An outraged roar could be heard around the world when a video of the “race” was released to media and posted on the web.

[VIDEOSINGLE type=”youtube” keyid=”m1L9McKLf38″, width=”560″, height=”344″]

The South African SPCA was outraged at the treatment of the horse, which it says was “unnecessarily and cruelly whipped from start to finish”.

Allan Perrins, Chief Executive Officers of Cape of Good Hope SPCA in South Africa commented, “If this incident were to have happened in South Africa, the rider, organizers and all participants including Oscar would have been charged with cruelty to animals and, if found guilty, have faced some very serious consequences – not least of all reputational damage.”

Perrins had some sympathy for the runner, however: “In our opinion, this incident has defeated the purpose of Oscar’s message and tarnished his otherwise wholesome image and I am almost sure that when he examines the footage he too will be horrified by the rider’s apparent indifference and would want to disassociate himself from the rider’s misbehavior.”

Pistorius was quick to respond: “I participated in the race in good faith as it was to promote abilities across sport and I was totally unaware of any alleged excessive force being used on the horse. I don’t condone any ill-treatment of animals and would always hope that a horse would be ridden in the correct way. Those who know me well are very aware of my well-publicized care and love of animals.”

Today, Tony Tyler, Deputy Chief Executive of World Horse Welfare issued a statement about the event:

“World Horse Welfare are appalled at the way the jockey used the whip, which was not only completely unnecessary but utterly barbaric.?Excessive whip use like this is a disgrace to racing as a sport. We applaud the achievements of Oscar Pistorius and his race could have been a great spectacle, but instead it was marred by the flagrant abuse of this horse.

“We commented on the race beforehand to say we didn’t see any immediate welfare concerns providing the horse was treated well. Clearly it wasn’t.”


You don’t need a degree in biomechanics to know that you or I, let alone Oscar Pistorius, can run faster over a track-and-field type synthetic track like the one laid for Pistorius in Doha. The horse, meanwhile, was running on a sand strip. Kudos to Runners World’s Scott Douglas, who discounted the race for this fact, along with the other factors mentioned.

And the distance? In a mere 200 meters, the horse didn’t even have a chance to hit his stride. Quarter horses sprint at a minimum of 220 yards, which is approximately 200 meters, but this horse was an Arabian–built for endurance, not sprinting. And he’d been whipped before the race even began.

The SPCA is leaving the case open: “(We) still would like assurances that the horse will be examined by an equine veterinarian to ensure that it suffered no lasting injuries,” read a closing message on the group’s web site.




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