Selena O’Hanlon felt overjoyed to win the Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International CCI*** (Md.) on Oct. 15 with John and Judy Rumble’s Foxwood High.
She made history as the first Canadian to win the CCI***, and when the announcer listed off the armful of prizes she’d be taking home, including a free equine flight from the title sponsor, she knew exactly how she’d use it.
O’Hanlon and John began making plans to take “Woody” to the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials CCI**** (England) next May, a dream for John, a former Canadian Olympian.
But when John made a call to Fair Hill in late November to inquire about the prize, he learned the free flight was actually awarded to the top U.S. finisher in the three-star, which was Will Coleman, who finished second on Tight Lines.
In addition, according to Horse-Canada, who first reported the news, O’Hanlon only received $11,000 in prize money, not the $15,000 that was originally announced for the winner.
The total prize money for Fair Hill’s CCI** and CCI*** was increased to $50,000 this year, with $35,000 allotted to the three-star.
Anne Haller, competition manager of Fair Hill, told Horse-Canada that she discovered a Fédération Equestre Internationale rule after the event that stated no more than 30 percent of the prize money could be distributed to the winner in any division.
The U.S. Equestrian Federation released a statement on Dec. 14, which said:
“US Equestrian and The Dutta Corp. wish to extend their congratulations to Selena O’Hanlon and Foxhood High on their win at The Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International Three-Day Event and acknowledge their win as a huge accomplishment as the first Canadian to do so. It is our understanding that the event announcer did make a mistake when also announcing them as the recipient of the free flight from The Dutta Corp. We apologize for the confusion and it was our understanding that this miscommunication was going to be followed up on on-site immediately.
“The flight in question is part of the contractual sponsorship agreement between The Dutta. Corp and USEF for the naming rights to the Federation’s CCI*** Eventing National Championship, as well as the air travel and waiver of fees for one horse to Europe. The Dutta Corp./USEF CCI3* Eventing National Championship is held within the CCI*** competition at The Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International Three-Day Event and awards the flight to the U.S. combination that wins the USEF CCI*** Eventing National Championship. Will Coleman was declared this winner, as well as the recipient of the flight in a post-event press release issued by USEF.
A press release from the USEF in 2013, when the Dutta Corp. began its title sponsorship, also states the winning U.S. combination will get the flight, but a press release in 2014 awards the flight to the winner of the event.
“I was disappointed and surprised, but I understand that mistakes happen. I feel like I wasn’t alone in the surprise,” said O’Hanlon, Kingston, Ontario. “It was only posted in a few places, and maybe we didn’t read it in those places. Maybe just be a little more clear in the entries so that we’re aware of what we’re competing for, and when a mistake is made at the event, perhaps somebody should have contacted us before six weeks [after] and let us know.”
O’Hanlon confirmed she’d been offered free entry to Fair Hill competitions next year. She and John are still planning to take Woody to Badminton, and a GoFundMe page has been set up to fundraise.
Fair Hill International released a statement on Facebook on Dec. 15 clarifying that the awarding of the Dutta Corp. flight is the sole responsibility of the USEF because of their contract.
“We sincerely apologize for any confusion that has led to much backlash against the Dutta Corp., a valued partner,” read the statement. “The flight is part of US Equestrian’s relationship with the US Equestrian Official Shipper, the Dutta Corp., and not a ‘prize’ offered by Fair Hill International.”
Updated Dec. 22:
After hearing the news about O’Hanlon not receiving a flight, EquiJet, a leading equine transport company, stepped in and offered to O’Hanlon get to Badminton.
“I’m super excited,” said O’Hanlon. “They contacted Jennifer Anstey with Horse-Canada, and she put them in touch with me, and I spoke to their owner Bastain Schroeder, and he said he could help me and sponsor a flight to Badminton. It’s pretty amazing. I was pretty shocked. I’m relieved too. It’s a big help to [my owners.] They’re really excited and very grateful.”