The nonprofit animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has reported German rider Kevin Lemke to the U.S. Equestrian Federation, the Fédération Equestre Internationale and local authorities at the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department after video surfaced of the rider displaying excessive use of the whip at the Desert International Horse Park in Thermal, California.
The incident took place Jan. 30 in a $25,000 open classic during Desert Circuit II, while Lemke was showing Morad Al Masri’s Good Luck, a 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood (El Dorado De Zeshoek—Ufenia). The footage shows Lemke using his whip four times in quick succession and then twice more after the gelding refuses to go forward.
Lemke, 37, was eliminated due to excessive use of whip, but he attempted to jump the next combination.
“If Kevin Lemke will punish a horse with repeated whipping in the middle of a show ring, what will he do when no one’s watching?” PETA senior vice president Kathy Guillermo said in a press release. “PETA is calling on the USEF and the FEI to investigate Lemke’s training practices and make it clear that abusive, reckless riders are not welcome at their events.”
According to JP102 in the “USEF Rulebook,” which covers horse welfare, the judge can penalize a rider for excessive use of whip through official warning or elimination from the class. The rule does not specify a number of times the whip may be used before it is deemed excessive. JP145, which outlines jumping faults, specifies that “actions against a horse deemed excessive (For example: excessive use of whip or spurs at any time within the arena.)” result in elimination.
The San Juan Capistrano, California-based rider was issued an official warning. As stated in GR1038, which covers yellow warning cards, if a competitor, spectator or participant receives three yellow warning cards within a 16-month period they will be subject to a fine or a formal disciplinary action complaint.
“I obviously apologized to the show, my horse and the owner,” Lemke said in a statement. “The horse show dealt with it by giving me a yellow card and a warning, and I obviously accepted it, and it won’t be happening again.”
“The video was first reported to USEF by concerned members shortly after the incident occurred,” USEF said in a statement. “USEF promptly initiated an investigation. The determination of an appropriate penalty for rule violations, including our abuse and welfare rules, is within the jurisdiction of the USEF Hearing Committee. Horse welfare is a top priority to USEF and appropriate action will be taken. We appreciate the shared concern and reporting by our members. As a reminder, all reports of abuse should be made to USEF stewards on competition grounds and can be reported directly to the USEF Regulations Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.”