In an interview with showjumper Mandy Johnstone, HQ was advised that the information published online regarding the recent Tack n Togs SA President’s Cup controversy has included some inaccuracies.
During the feature class of the show, held at Maple Ridge on 15 March, Ms Johnstone’s initial round was marred by a pole down – it later transpired that this was due to a commotion at the edge of the arena close to the combination she and Callaho Lissabon were facing.
After the round, she approached the judges’ box to ask if they had been aware of what had occurred and to request that they ask spectators to take care during each horse’s round. A number of spectators who had witnessed the disturbance to the horse brought this to the attention of the judges, as they must have felt it had unfairly disadvantaged the horse at a critical moment on the approach to the triple combination. Ms Johnstone has assured HQ that at no time did she make a request to have the penalties annulled, as reflected in the statement made by the SA Showjumping association (SASJ). This decision was made after the judges had reviewed the evidence presented by the spectators and had presented their view to the competitors in the class who at the time made no objection to the ruling. However it has been noted that there was an objection to the officials’ decision at the time. This objection, along with an apology from Callaho Stud owner, Ian Callender-Easby, led to an investigation of the occurrence by SASJ.
Ms Johnstone and Callaho Lissabon went on to ride two more clear rounds and were awarded the title of the President’s Cup class. Following the conclusion of the SASJ hearing reported on by HQ in a previous article, Ms Johnstone’s title has been upheld.
During HQ’s conversation with Ms Johnstone, she made the following statement in a bid to clear the confusion: “This controversial incident has caused a lot of animosity within our sport which is already facing turmoil. Instead of apportioning blame and criticism, we should all band together and use this incident in a positive way to move forward in bettering our sport. The judges made a decision that they felt was fair. General consensus reflects the call was too lenient. This is indeed a very grey area. If the judge has no jurisdiction over making such a call it can lead to future ‘intentional’ disturbances, which I do not believe for one moment this incident was. However it is very difficult to draw the line at what the FEI rules suggest are “unforeseen or exceptional circumstances”. As riders, spectators and show holding bodies, perhaps we all need to become more cognisant of potential disturbances in and around the arena. In this way the judges and riders will not be put into this type of compromising situation.
“Personally I am extremely uncomfortable that the outcome of this event has caused so much controversy, and although my horse, Callaho Lissabon, jumped exceptionally well the entire week, this is a very bitter-sweet victory for me. If it were at all possible I would prefer the result to be re-calculated, but have been informed that this decision cannot be overruled. I do not say this with any disrespect to the judges concerned as I do feel they attempted to make a call in a ‘sporting spirit’. Finally I would like to thank Verity Combrink from Maple Ridge, the sponsor – Simon Burn from Tack ‘n Togs and my fellow competitors for their support and understanding of this unfortunate incident.”
The official statement by SASJ may be viewed on their site. At the time of publishing this feature HQ was still awaiting further clarification from officials at the event.