Statements from McLain Ward and David O’Connor on FEI World Cup Finals Disqualification for US Jumping Horse Sapphire

by Fran Jurga | 19 April 2010 | The Jurga Report at

Meet the press: McLain Ward and Sapphire were face-to-face with a wall of reporters this weekend, following Sapphire’s controversial disqualification from the final round at the 2010 FEI World Cup Finals in showjumping in Geneva, Switzerland. Sapphire trotted soundly back and forth. The horse and rider combination have two Olympic gold medals to their credit, and the 2006 silver medal at the World Equestrian Games. They were leading the World Cup Final on Friday night when the mare was re-tested for hypersensitivity in her lower front limbs and ultimately disqualified by the ground jury. A protest to the FEI Tribunal by the US Equestrian Federation was not acted on as the Tribunal’s jurisdiction may not over-rule a decision of the ground jury. Ward continues to protest the ruling; his statement is below. Photo strictly ?

The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) has issued the following additional statements related to the disqualification of US show jumper and double Olympic gold medal-winning mare Sapphire at the 2010 FEI World Cup Finals in Geneva, Switzerland on Friday night. Sapphire is ridden by McLain Ward, who is also part-owner of the 15-year-old Belgian warmblood mare. (The overall event was won by Germany’s Marcus Ehning.)Statement from rider McLain Ward:

“I think that there is a serious concern with the direction the FEI has been going for a long time and this time they have gone over the line. It was an unjust ruling and I feel like they acknowledged that in the hearing this morning because they didn’t finish ruling on it. They did not end the ruling. There are flaws in the process and in the overall ruling. We have huge support, we have the support of the world press, they can see obviously that this is incorrect.

“I think that with the great support of my National Federation, who has come through 150 percent for me, we will come through this particular incident and consequence and make the sport better in the future.

“But I will never get this back, what was lost here today personally, I will never get it back and that must be considered. But on a much larger scale what is going on with the vague rules that are left up to the very subjective interpretation of people who are volunteers or part-time employees of the FEI and bear little responsibility for the decisions that they make. We must change these procedures; we must have a governing body that is democratic. This wouldn’t be tolerated in the United States and I am not sure how much more the sport can tolerate.” Statement from USEF President David O’Connor:

“The United States Equestrian Federation will await the FEI Tribunal’s decision, then after continued consultation with McLain Ward, decide the next course of action to move forward.”

A new Facebook page in support of Ward and Sapphire has more than 3,000 members as of noon on Monday.Stay tuned to The Jurga Report for more information on Sapphire’s disqualification. Subscribe to headlines with the RSS feed, or follow the blog on Twitter. Special thanks to Corinne Druey, Press Officer for the FEI World Cup Finals, for her help with photographs from the event.

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