Discussions around animal cruelty started after the coach of Germany's modern pentathlon team was kicked out the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday for punching a horse.
The coach, Kim Raisner, was trying to assist German athlete Annika Schleu as she battled to control a horse named Saint Boy ahead of her show jumping round in the women's event on Friday.
Raisner Hit the Horse Backstage Before Schleu Started Her Ride
Raisner punched a horse during competition as German athlete Annika Schleu struggled to control it. She was screaming at rider Schleu to hit her horse when Saint Boy refused to do what she wanted. Raisner is then seen hitting the horse herself. She punched the animal above the back leg, reports say.
She was caught on camera slugging the horse and urging rider Schleu to "really hit" her mount after it balked at jumping during a pivotal moment in Friday's competition, according to NBC News.
At that point Schleu was in the lead — she went from first to 31st and left the arena in tears because the horse would not budge.
Some reports say Raisner is believed to have been seen hitting the horse before Schleu entered the showjumping arena, leading to her expulsion from the games.
Modern pentathletes compete in five different sports – fencing, freestyle swimming, equestrian show-jumping, pistol shooting and cross-country running. Athletes are given a horse selected at random and have 20 minutes to bond with the animal before being sent out on course.
Saint Boy had already refused to jump for another rider, Russian competitor Gulnaz Gubaydullina, earlier in the competition and the German Modern Pentathlon Union said he had been "traumatized by the previous rider" even before Schleu's round, during which he bucked and refused to trot around the course, according to Guardian.
Schleu and Saint Boy Failed to Click
Schleu had a commanding lead going into the show jumping but with each refusal the German's frustration grew.
She finally exploded with a scream that echoed through the empty stadium as tears poured down her face. Her coach urged her to hit the horse, with Raisner's orders to "really hit it, hit," heard live back in Germany.
Raisner herself punched the horse once above the back leg, according to NBC News.
Great Britain's Kate French won the gold.
In a statement released online Saturday, the International Modern Pentathlon Union said it had "given a black card" to Raisner "disqualifying her from the remainder" of the Tokyo Games.
Its executive board had "reviewed video footage that showed" Raisner "appearing to strike" the horse "with her fist," it continued.
"Her actions were deemed to be in violation of the UIPM Competition Rules, which are applied to all recognized Modern Pentathlon competitions including the Olympic Games," the statement added.
Raisner's Actions Triggered a Wave of Criticism
Meanwhile, netizens have slammed the disgraceful riding and treatment of Saint Boy. Many Twitter users believe it's a ridiculous practice that would be entirely avoided if the athletes were allowed to bring their own horse. One Twitter user wrote "Don't have this horrible sport in the Olympics. How is this even in the Olympics? The horse does all the work. Does it get the medal?"
Another user wrote, "In situations like this one sees the true character of a person, both #kimraisner and #annikaschleu have shown that they care only for themselves. I am sure it is not the first time their horses get abused, but this time it is on record."