WARNING: video contains graphic content which may disturb some viewers
The British Horseracing Authority has handed New Zealand Olympian Sir Mark Todd a four-month ban from training horses after a video showed him hitting one with a branch in 2020.
The 66-year-old was deemed to have engaged in “conduct prejudicial to the good reputation of horseracing in Great Britain by striking a horse multiple times with a tree branch” during what was a cross-country schooling session.
However, since Sir Mark was already handed an interim suspension on February 16 this year and had freely admitted to the charge and apologised, he was deemed to have already served half of his sentence.
The remaining two months have been suspended until June 14 when, if no further transgressions are committed, they are expected to be wiped from his sentence.
The ruling means he can resume racehorse training with immediate effect.
Following the hearing, Sir Mark told Horse and Hound he was grateful the episode had been put to rest and thanked the “many people who have sent messages and letters of support throughout the period”.
“It’s been a very tough two months, particularly on my family and myself. I would also like to express huge thanks to my family and my staff, and especially the owners who have supported me and stayed with me through all this.
“I am looking forward to doing what I enjoy doing best, caring for horses and getting out there and winning more races.”
Brian Barker, QC, who chaired the disciplinary panel, said the actions of Sir Mark, who hit the horse nine times, “could not be condoned in any form”.
A spokesperson for the BHA said it was satisfied with the panel’s decision-making process.
“As Sir Mark has himself recognised in public statements since the video emerged and in accepting that he was in breach of rule (J)19, his behaviour on this occasion fell short of the standard expected of all licensed individuals and ran contrary to the values of care and respect for the horse that underpin British racing.”
In February, Sir Mark issued an apology, saying it was an isolated incident that was out of character.
“I wholeheartedly apologise to the horse and all involved for my actions in this video clip,” he said.
“One of the main things I preach is about establishing mutual respect between horse and rider and that patience and kindness is the best way to get results.
“I believe this is one of the main attributes along with a great empathy with animals that has enabled me to have a long and successful career in eventing. I am very disappointed in myself that I did not adhere to that in this case.”
Todd is one of New Zealand’s most famous Olympians. He competed in seven Summer Games from 1984-2016, winning gold medals in eventing in 1984 and 1988, as well as three bronze medals.
He was given a knighthood in New Zealand’s New Year’s Honours in 2013 and has since become a racehorse trainer, based in Wiltshire, England.