Hampton Classic Executive Director Shanette Barth-Cohen today confirmed that on Friday, Aug. 28, Devin Ryan, a competitor at the Hampton Classic, held Aug. 23-30 in Bridgehampton, N.Y., was banned from competing further at the show due to concerns about horse welfare violations.
“The Hampton Classic considers the welfare of the horse to be of utmost importance and has absolutely no tolerance for abuse. Our position on horse abuse and animal welfare is well known and clearly stated in our prize list,” read Barth-Cohen’s statement.
“The incident in question was first noticed by one of our schooling supervisors who reported it to [U.S. Equestrian Federation] stewards. The stewards, with the assistance of the show veterinarian, looked into the matter immediately and confirmed evidence of abuse. The President of the show and I were updated about the situation by our Equestrian Manager, Allen Rheinheimer, and a steward. We determined that the rider and his horses should be barred from further competition and must leave the Hampton Classic grounds.
“Consistent with USEF policy, the stewards have filed a report with the USEF and have recommended charges of abuse against the individual,” the statement continued.
According to one of the USEF stewards involved, Ralph Alfano, the schooling supervisor had noted concerns with one of Ryan’s horses as it exited the ring after competing. Alfano and his fellow steward, Maria Biancone, were called in to investigate. “There were marks on the horse’s leg. We don’t know how they got there, but there were unusual marks on the horses’ legs. Do I know what caused them? Definitely not,” Alfano said.
Alfano, Biancone and veterinarian Isaiah Robinson of Miller & Associates, the official show veterinarians, accompanied the horse back to Ryan’s stabling area and documented their observations with photographs. “From there, it spanned out to other horses as well. In the end, there were a total of five horses involved in our report,” Alfano said. “All of the paperwork was filed with the Federation. He was charged with violation of horse welfare.”
It was not made known which horses the report involved.
“As a steward, this was an unusual occurrance for me. I’ve never witnessed this sort of thing before or filed an abuse charge before,” Alfano said. “But it wasn’t like we had to ponder, ‘Do we report this or not.’ What we saw definitely required a charge to be filed.
“The Hampton Classic [officials] really did do the right thing. Once we’d gathered the information, we met with them and explained the whole thing and showed them the photographs. They determined that it was in the horse show’s best interest and in accordance with the rules that they ask him to leave the grounds.”
Ryan, of River Run Stables in Long Valley, N.J., previously that day had won the Split Rock Farm $30,000 6-year-old Young Jumper Championship East Coast Regional Final on Eddie Blue. He was also 12th in the $50,000 Douglas Elliman Grand Prix Qualifier on Cooper that day.
The Chronicle has reached out to Ryan and the official show veterinarian for comment and will update this story when they respond.
UPDATED on 10:00 a.m. on Sept. 8: The USEF temporarily suspended Ryan as a result of the filed abuse charges. He has the right to request a hearing to address the temporary suspension before the scheduled November meeting of the USEF Hearing Committee to hear the case of his abuse charges.
(At 12:10 p.m. on Sept. 2, the Chronicle updated this story with remarks from USEF steward Ralph Alfano.)
The USEF rule applied here:
GR839 Cruelty to and Abuse of a Horse
1. Cruelty to or the abuse of a horse by any person at a Licensed Competition is forbidden, constitutes a violation under Chapter 7, and renders the offender subject to penalty. The Show Committee must bar violators from further participation for the remainder of the competition. It is the duty of the competition officials and any properly constituted humane organization to report to the Federation any person who indulges in this practice for such further action as may be deemed appropriate.
2. The Federation or the Judge, Steward, or TD may appoint a veterinarian to inspect any animal in competition. Refusal to submit an animal for examination by an authorized veterinarian after due notification shall constitute a violation.
3. Show Committees are encouraged to contact the American Humane Association, 1400 16th Street NW, Suite 360, Washington DC 20036, which will provide experienced humane inspectors to work with them in eliminating cruel practices.
4. The following acts are included under the words Cruelty and Abuse but are not limited thereto:
a. Excessive use of a whip on any horse in a stall, runway, schooling area, competition ring or elsewhere on the competition grounds, before or during a competition, by any person. Except in emergency situations, any striking of the horse’s head (on the poll and forward of the poll) with the whip shall be deemed excessive.
b. Rapping the legs of a horse with the butt end of a riding crop or other implement.
c. Use of any substance to induce temporary heat.
d. Manual poling with any object other than a bamboo pole.
e. Use of a wire or chain in conjunction with any schooling jump.
f. Use of electric device in schooling or showing.
g. Use of shackles, hock hobbles and similar devices (not to be construed as rubber or elastic exercising devices).
h. Showing a horse with raw or bleeding sores around the coronets, pasterns or legs.
i. Use of any explosive (e.g., fire crackers, torpedoes, fire extinguishers except in case of fire, etc.) or laser beam devices anywhere on the competition grounds, except in an exhibition or if required in class specifications.
j. Withholding of feed and water for prolonged periods.
k. Letting blood from a horse for other than diagnostic purposes.
l. Inhumane treatment of a horse in a stall, runway, schooling area, competition ring or elsewhere on the competition grounds, by any person.
m. Use of any object that prevents the horse’s ability to close his mouth. (Exception: use of an oral speculum by a veterinarian or equine dentist to provide legitimate dental/oral medical care.)
n. Soreing and/or the use of an action device on any limb of a Tennessee Walking Horse, Racking Horse, or Spotted Saddle Horse (each a breed not recognized by the Federation) in any class at a Federation Licensed Competition is prohibited. An action device is defined by the USDA as any boot, collar, chain, roller, or other device that encircles or is placed upon the lower extremity of the leg of a horse in such a manner that it can rotate around the leg or slide up and down the leg so as to cause friction or strike the hoof, coronet band, fetlock joint or pastern of the horse. (Protective bell boots or heel boots are specifically excluded from this definition). The use of a weighted shoe, pad, wedge, in conjunction with a hoof band or other device or material (commonly referred to as a performance package) placed on, inserted in, or attached to any limb of a Tennessee Walking Horse, a Racking Horse, or Spotted Saddle Horse (each a breed not recognized by the Federation) constructed to artificially alter the gait of such a horse, and which are not protective or therapeutic in nature, in classes at a Federation Licensed Competition is prohibited.
5. Any action(s) against a horse by a competitor or an exhibitor, which are deemed excessive by a judge, Federation steward, technical delegate or competition veterinarian, in the competition ring or anywhere on the competition grounds may be punished by official warning, elimination, or other sanctions which may be deemed appropriate by the Show Committee. Such action(s) could include, but are not limited to excessive use of the whip, spurs, or bamboo poles. Competitors and exhibitors have the right to contest any action taken pursuant to GR839.5 by filing a protest or grievance pursuant to Chapter 6 of the Rules for hearing and determination by the Hearing Committee.