A video from the Hampton Classic Horse Show (N.Y.) appears to show a rider falling off before standing up and kicking at her horse’s belly from the ground. The Chronicle was able to identify the horse and rider as Joe Cool and Jazz Johnson-Merton competing in the 3’3″ amateur-owner hunter, 36 and over, division at the Hampton Classic on Friday, Sept. 1.
Mike Rosser and Chris Wynne were in the judge’s booth when the incident occurred—Rosser was judging the class, and Wynne was waiting to judge the second round.
“She got up, lost her temper and tried to kick the horse in the stomach,” Wynne said. “I’m not sure she made contact, but then she trotted the horse out of the ring, in hand, and I watched her from the judge’s booth go into the schooling area to see if she was going to do something, and she didn’t. She got a leg back up, jumped two jumps and came back in.”
Wynne called stewards Maria Biancone and Mary Choate to the booth and explained the situation.
“It was one of those gray areas of, was it unsportsmanlike? Absolutely. Did it really hurt the horse? Probably not,” Wynne said. “I called the steward over, and I said we had this incident happen, and they went and confronted her and asked more questions.”
In the steward’s report filed from the Hampton Classic (which is publicly available on USEF.org), the questions “Were there any instances of equine cruelty or abuse reported or made known to you?” and “Were any USEF yellow warning cards issued?” were both answered “no.” No mention of the incident is found elsewhere on the report.
“The USEF was made aware of the incident by the stewards,” said Biancone. She did not wish to comment further on the incident.
According to USEF Rule GR604, found on page 66 of the rule book, a steward “may file a charge with the Show Committee or the USEF Hearing Committee alleging a violation of any Federation rule(s).” The rule further states this charge must be in writing, signed and sent to the hearing committee or the secretary of the competition. Biancone did not confirm or deny if this is the method she used to report the incident to USEF.
Julian McPeak, the director of marketing and communications of USEF, confirmed via email that USEF was “aware of the incident with Ms. Johnson at the Hampton Classic” and is “currently in the process of reviewing the report at this time.”
As of publication time, Johnson-Merton had not responded to requests for comment on the video and the incident.
UPDATE 9/21/17 8:00 p.m. ET: The U.S. Equestrian Federation announced they were opening an investigation into the incident. CLICK to read more.
UPDATED 9/23/17 1:06 p.m.: Jazz Johnson-Merton released a letter she wrote to USEF President Bill Moroney.
Wondering why we reported on this video? Read “If You See Something, Say Something: Why We Reported On That Video.”