Sadly what appeared to be a loving rider and partner standing up for her horse wasn't the entire story. As the drama unfolded photographs from the warm-up just prior to that short Olympic ride began to appear. In the photos Parzival had spur marks, nose pulled into chest, a wild pained eye, and a mouth so foamy white it looked like someone had fed him soap.
I continued reading and learned that AC is the rider who has repeatedly ridden horses in competition with bloody mouths. Her use of rollkur is well established and documented.
Yes, I still think she did the right thing by stopping the Olympic ride. But to do so after a horse suffered a fever 24 hours earlier and after tacking up and warming up to compete (and the warm-up photos revealed how very hard she pushed him, not to mention the outright abuse he suffered from spurs and hyperflexion) is not the mark of a good rider. I had to post a retraction of my own words!
Since then the story has continued to unfold. Now it is being said that the Olympic veterinary record says he was examined and found to have a hairline fracture of the jaw. This is one of the things that can happen when using rollkur due to extreme hyperflexion of the head and neck.
Questions began to be asked. Was there ever even an insect bite? A round of responses came out - the hairline fracture story was said to be a vicious rumor.
I don't know what exactly went on with Parzival. It is clear he has been ridden harshly and with cruel methods for years. That AC rode him hard after either an insect bite or a hairline fracture or both to see what he could do in warm-up before pulling him from competition speaks in my mind to the worst kind of horsemanship. Treating him as a machine instead of a living, sentient being.
Today, Colleen Kelly posted that she is tapping into her retirement income to personally sue AC for animal cruelty. You can read more here:
Her willingness to stand up for Parzival in what is sure to be a complicated, costly lawsuit is a reminder to us all. When we see cruelty to animals, even in the Olympics, where one would hope the utmost integrity would prevail, we have to stand up and speak out. Colleen Kelly has taken on this fight. Let's all vow to take on the fights for horses we see in our own communities. When we speak up for cruelty to animals, we're shining light on a dark shadow. Whether or not we fix things for that horse, we are educating everyone who sees. And eventually that will make a difference.