After scrolling through some of the vet records on the Emanuel Andrade horses going up for auction in February 2019, I am… well.. shocked. If you haven’t yet heard about the big scandal surrounding the Andrade family and where the money for all of their horses, numerous vehicles, properties etc, I encourage you to look that up first so we are on the same page. Anyways, in short, the Andrade family had their string of horses seized by the FBI and now these horses are going up for public auction. As such, their prior vet records have been released and they are… concerning… to say the least.
I quote from the vet record on one of the horses, a stallion named Ricore Courcelle:
“Full thickness 1 inch laceration to the dorso-lateral fetlock from coming off of the trailer at show. Due to the jog in 1 hours time, no medications possible. Irrigate with saline solution. Twitch, ice pack and place 2 staples across wound. Jog passed.
Now, I don’t know about you, but being a good and decent horse person means that if my horse had a laceration requiring stitches or staples, he would be scratched immediately. I’ve scratched him for less. Now, I’m sure I’ll get some people on here going off about how I’m not an Olympic level rider and blah blah blah. I don’t need to be. If anything, riders at that level need to be held to a HIGHER level of accountability, not less. The competitions are more strenuous and harder on the horses than lower levels of competition, there should be even less acceptance for horses to show with injuries that are clearly in need of healing. My OTTB that I recently sold lacerated just above his coronet band and required a few stitches and a full wrap. 2 weeks of stall rest so that he would not tear out the stitches, even in turnout. I had intended to take him to a clinic, but guess who was scratched from it immediately? Archie. It was a little disappointing, but at the end of the day, why would I even be involved with horses if I cared more about attending events than the long term health of my horse? It is ludicrous.
All of these vet records on the numerous horses that were seized are publicly available. There are several other concerning things listed throughout that are worth a read. I encourage you to look them up, but I will not go on further about all of them on here, because this article is actually not dedicated to Emanuel Andrade and family, it is dedicated to the many people like him who have been exposed and gotten away with it or who have yet to be discovered.
You see, as outraged as people may be at the Andrade family, there is something even more insidious about this whole scenario. These horses were passed in jogs. They were allowed to compete by stewards. No matter what people say, I fail to see a reason why a horse with a wound requiring sutures needs to be competed in mere days or hours after said injury. The Andrades were enabled by the vets on duty to ride and show these horses when the horses were likely better off resting. Some may try to defend Emanuel on the basis that it was his father under fire with the FBI and not him, which may be fair, however, I find it hard to believe that Emanuel could have so much family financial assistance for his sport and not have the faintest clue of where said money is coming from. Even if he has no idea, his response to what has been going on and the way he has consistently treated people in the past has deteriorated any sympathy I have had for him. Going as far as calling a girl on instagram the C word, he has a track record of using put downs and immature language on top of his questionable ethics horse wise. And Emanuel is not the only upper level rider who abused his influence and took his horses for granted. In fact, this happens all too frequently.
For example, we have Kelley Farmer, a notable professional producing some very successful horses in the hunter ring. One of the horses in her program, Kodachrome tested positive for cocaine. Yes, COCAINE. You read that right. She was fined and suspended for 2 months only to have the suspension lifted pending further investigation. Now, what people choose to do and use in their own free time is none of my business, but there is no excuse for cocaine to ever come in even remote contact with horses. Absolutely inexcusable. To lift the suspension also sets a tone for what is allowed and what can be gotten away with on the circuit. It lets people who do similar things or worse know that if they have the money, the name and the will, they can probably get away with it. Yes, Miss Farmer herself is at fault for allowing this to happen, whether she drugged the horse personally or trusted untrustworthy people with her horses. However, she never should have been allowed to get away with it in the first place. If the top show organizations started to crack down a lot harder on poor horsemanship, poor horsemanship would seize to exist. There is no benefit in taking illegal shortcuts if the punishments are heavy and you risk losing your entire livelihood from it.
The Farmer situation irritates me especially because people are always pointing fingers at the racing industry for the drug use in it. Yes, racehorses can be drugged and unfortunately some trainers may try to do shady stuff. However, the regulations and the amount of testing there is are more of a deterrence and as it stands, there is a lot more of a motivator for all sorts of legal and illegal calming substances to create the perfect hunter. I’m sure there are scenarios of people getting away with hideous behaviour in the racing world as well, but generally, it seems there is more of a “zero tolerance” policy. Such was seen when a trainer with the famed stable, Goldophin, met an 8 year ban for doping. Now, I’m not trying to say the racing industry never needs to change or that there isn’t room for improvement, because there definitely is, but it is interesting where so many horse people turn their critiques and focus when there are despicable things going on within their own disciplines that they often defend or turn a blind eye to. No discipline is immune to doping their horses, bottom line.
Another notable instance of someone getting away with something that perhaps they shouldn’t is with Marilyn Little, who had yet another bloody mouth at The Kentucky 3 Day Event this year. Now, you say, another bloody mouth? Yes. She has had I think now SIX instances of bloody mouths with difference horses. I can understand the horses may bite their tongues or things can go wrong but SIX times in the public eye is not normal. Couple this with footage of Marilyn showing with extremely tight nosebands, double twisted wire gags and other scary bit combinations, it really is not much of a reach to assume that this six time occurrence could be a rider error. This past year in Kentucky, her groom was seen RUNNING to wipe RF Scandalous’ mouth immediately after finishing XC. This is unusual. A horse who has just done an incredibly strenuous athletic feat and the first thing you go to do is wipe their mouth with none other than a RED towel? Suspicious, to say the least. I ride racehorses. They come out of races hot and sweaty, wanna know what the grooms go for first? The tack. Offering water. Sponging the horse… Doing something that, you know, actually benefits the horse in their cool down and overall comfort coming out of hard work. And she continues getting away with it. This once again is showing everyone within the industry that using equipment to over muscle horses, even when there are visible signs the horse is in distress, is A-Ok so long as you are successful.
Marilyn Little did receive a lot of online backlash, but from what I saw, a lot of the backlash was focused on her and her actions. Not the people that enable her. It is terrible that people like her continue to get away with things like that and seem genuinely unbothered by how commonly such events occur, but what about those who enable her to do so? She would be nothing if she did not make it into the show ring. She would be nothing if her knack of getting her horses bloody in the mouth disallowed her to compete. To do her job. She would be screwed. She would be forced to make a very real change and would not continue to be enabled for it. Other riders at the very same events, competing the very same courses do not meet the same issues as her.
Lastly, let’s talk about Adelinde Cornelissen and how the online world absolutely applauded her for pulling her horse, Parzival out of the Rio Olympics after he fell ill. Parzival contracted a fever the day before the dressage event, presumably due to an insect bite. The day prior, his head was swollen and he was feverish. She stopped mid test and left the arena and everyone online applauded her for her “selflessness” when really this is the most basic effort of caring for your horse.. Yes, it is the OIympics, but seriously, anyone with genuine love and care for their horse should realize that not pushing them when they’re ill should be first nature. Couple this with Corneilssen’s questionable methods involving rollkuring her beloved Parzival and it really just rubbed me the wrong way. The photos of her in the Rio show ring during warm up also look odd, the horse seems to be evidently working his mouth oddly. Why are we applauding world class professionals AKA the people who should be the epitome of good riding, proper care and great animal husbandry for the most basic of things that the vast majority of horse owners would do without a second thought, many of which without entering the ring in the first place. Good for her for not continuing to push him, but seriously, the public adoration and amazement over such a feat just goes to show how very unusual it is for people to see their professional idols making the right decision.
Professionals are imperfect beings and obviously, some may have lapses in their judgment and make mistakes. But, our equine governing bodies are disallowing them to grow from said mistakes by continually allowing people to get off far too easy or in a lot of cases, completely ignoring what is going on. How are we supposed to set the tone for younger generations? For the up and coming professionals who could be very well training under shady people and learning that actual repercussions will not apply to them if they know the right people. We are creating a show world where the focus is solely on winning and the fame behind it, not on producing well minded, happy horses who are ridden well and taken care of even better. It is sad and if something doesn’t change soon, all we are going to do is encourage people to continue taking shortcuts and doing what gives them the most instant gratification and the most fame. They continually see people at the top of the top getting away with stuff, things getting swept under the rug and still continuing to garner lots of awards, clients and fame, thereby pushing people towards these unethical mindsets instead of away.
Let’s ask ourselves a couple of things. Why does the FEI want to ban hackamores on cross country but allow people with numerous instances of bloodied mouths to continue competing with harsh bits? Why are hackamores the thing to ban, but not the people who are showing blatant misuse of their equipment? Why do so many disciplines have virtually no laws on what types of bits you can use, but if you try to show bitless, you won’t pin or you may even be disqualified. Is anyone seeing how odd the disconnect is? People are literally being encouraged to throw on whatever they need to coerce their horse into submission, but be swayed away from even considering softer options due to the fact that they’re illegal. I’m sure some of you will say “some horses cannot be controlled bitless, we can’t risk making that legal!” A lot of horses are also utterly out of control bitted or literally held into submission by a thread and the pain of running through the equipment they’re in… So…. Maybe it should be managed on a case by case basis considering some riders couldn’t ride their horse even with a machete as bit whereas others can go in completely tackless and get the job done without their horse ever losing focus.
Who is watching out for our horses? All I see constantly online is junior and amateur riders alike being crucified for making junior and amateur mistakes or not even doing anything wrong, just not doing it “good enough” or to the liking of the general internet populace. I see them being held to a higher standard than professionals. Professionals doing all sorts of weird riding, unconventional eq (which honestly isn’t a problem, but the disconnect between their judgment and that of amateurs is relevant), lazy or downright cruel training practices are often defended using the sole basis of them being professionals. Or the fact that they showed at the Olympics. Well, that is great that they competed at the Olympics, Sally, but that doesn’t mean they’re nice to their horses. Why are we so hard on riders who are admittedly growing and learning but so soft on the people who should be held to the highest of standards?
Like I said, professionals make mistakes, I get it. But, by the time you get to the top of the top and are attending events such as the Olympics, you should definitely be making less. You should be aware of the fact that having numerous bloodied mouths isn’t okay or that, perhaps, you shouldn’t be jumping 1.60m on a horse with fresh staples in its leg. You shouldn’t be caught publicly beating your horse at a show venue. All of these things occurring in the public eye at shows begs the question of what these people are doing when they’re at home, when they’re risking way less people seeing them. If they’re comfortable doing it in the warm up ring or show ring of a very public venue, they probably take it a step, or several, further at home.
Horses do not give 2 shits about whether or not they live in expensive barns, wear expensive tack or show at the upper levels. We forget that these are grazing flight animals. Animals engineered to wander large distances in a single day in a herd. We isolate them. We make them work and as a result, so many people forget that they are seated upon a living and breathing creature, not a machine. It is completely and utterly inexcusable. I love the horse show world and there are so many good people in it, but honestly, the more stuff I see swept under the rug, accepted and allowed, the more hope I lose. We are moving further and further away from what is best for the horses and doing only what makes their riders and trainers happiest and most comfortable. It is really disheartening. We all need to demand better. Up our standards for those at the very top and allowing an educating and kind voice when speaking to the junior and amateur riders who will make more mistakes due to their own lack of experience.
The anger towards the riders who break rules and get away with it is warranted, but misplaced. Such anger should be directed at those in charge. The people who enable these riders and their careers. Those who set the tone for what is and isn’t okay in the show world. The people at the top of the top should be setting an example and if they don’t, they should be used as an example of why people cannot get away with poor practice. Why are we not doing more to ensure the safety, happiness and overall health of the horses competing as well as the long term betterment of the horsemanship of the riders competing? We can do better, why aren’t we?
Who is watching out for the horses, are you?