Gold medalist eventer Sir Mark Todd has come under fire and been given an interim suspension by the British Horseracing Authority after a video of him repeatedly hitting a horse with a tree branch was posted on social media.
British eventer Chloe Terrell, who identified herself as the rider of the horse being hit, initially posted the video on TikTok and later posted a longer video on Instagram. The Instagram video shows Todd, a two-time individual Olympic gold medalist for New Zealand, standing on the ground, repeatedly hitting a horse who was balking at jumping down a bank into a water obstacle. According to Terrell, the clip was from a 2020 clinic.
A longer video that shows the horse and rider schooling with Todd in the minute or so leading up to the incident was subsequently posted to YouTube:
After the video emerged, Todd issued a statement apologizing for his actions:
“I wholeheartedly apologize to the horse and all involved for my actions in this video clip.
“One of the main things I preach is about establishing a mutual respect between horse and rider and that patience and kindness is the best way to get results.
“I believe this is one of the main attributes along with a great empathy with animals that has enabled me to have a long and successful career in eventing.
“I am very disappointed in myself that I did not adhere to that in this case.”
Terrell said on Instagram that she has received backlash after posting the video: “Since posting the initial edited clip on TikTok I personally have received a lot of negativity and insults and abuse. That is something that comes with being active on social media. Since receiving backlash for the length of time since this clip was taken, for the sake of transparency, this was a clip from a training clinic in 2020.
“Whether I have rightly or wrongly addressed a situation on social media is not relevant to the fact that a top level athlete excessively and repeatedly hit my horse with a tree branch. I personally am not comfortable with how my horse was treated and at the time I was a 21-year-old girl who was not brave enough to speak up about my concerns,” she continued.
Todd, 65, hails from New Zealand but calls Great Britain home. He retired from eventing in 2019 to focus on training race horses.
The British Horseracing Authority on Wednesday announced it has temporarily suspended Todd, meaning that he may not race horses in Britain or elsewhere in the world while the incident is investigated.
Before suspending him the BHA condemned Todd’s behavior on Twitter, saying, “The footage seen this weekend of Sir Mark Todd hitting a horse with a branch has rightly caused anger and upset within the equestrian community and beyond. His behavior, for which he has apologized, fell a long way short of the standards of care we expect of licensed individuals and that we know is provided to the overwhelming majority of horses in training in Britain every day. The BHA is looking into the incident.”
Todd also stepped down as a patron of the World Horse Welfare charity. A spokesman for the charity told Horse & Hound that Todd’s behavior was “disturbing and unacceptable.”
“There is no place in the horse-human partnership for such use of force,” the spokesman said. “Mark agrees that his behaviour was wrong and we welcome his apology. Mark is a consummate horseman, who cares deeply for horses and their welfare but, in this case, either through losing his patience or acting out of frustration, he has badly let himself down.”