Grace. Strength. Decorum. These are the words one might think of when speaking of the Olympic sport of Equestrianism. Yet the sport which is viewed as one for the elite and the privileged found out that it isn’t immune to violence or malicious intent.
Last month, British equestrian athlete Charlotte Springall’s horse, Folds Gretna Vow, was found dead, lying in her own pool of blood. She died from a wound which punctured her diaphragm. Officials do not think the gash was accidentally self-inflicted.
Although oftentimes horses can impale themselves, it seems very unlikely in this case that the horse’s death was the result of her own unintentional actions, but rather the result of a human’s malevolent actions.
For an equestrian athlete, a horse is much like a bicycle is to a cyclist or a sled is to a bobsleigher. However, unlike other sports, it takes years for an equestrian athlete to train with his or her “equipment.” The horse must be trained to become part of a winning duo with its rider. Unlike an inanimate object, a horse is a living creature, which doesn’t respond to just a push of a button or a change in steering. The horse must be trained to communicate with its rider, to respond to the rider’s movements and commands. The rider must train as well to learn the horse’s nuances and how it communicates to its rider.
Springall, whom the BBC reported is convinced that her horse’s death was a deliberate attack, was quoted as saying, “It has dashed my Olympic hopes totally. I broke her, I produced her, it takes years and lots of time and effort….I now have to look towards 2016 with my young horse.”
My heart does sympathize with Ms. Springall. This is the equivalent of a debilitating injury to herself. Sadly, the 2012 Olympic dream of competing in her home country has been dashed. However, let us not forget that an animal lost its life as well. Unlike damage to a sled, a surfboard, or a bicycle – all of which can be replaced – a living creature cannot be replaced.
Ms. Springall was quoted as saying of her horse, “It is tragic how the horse has died and we will find the person who did it ….” Why does this come across as more of an afterthought? I realize that perhaps her true feelings were lost in print, or she could have been misquoted. I certainly hope this is the case.
I don’t know why, but this news bothers me on several levels. Certainly, I pity any athlete whose Olympic chances are thwarted. That another human being would impede Springall’s Olympic chances is horrifying. Yet what about the horse? What about Folds Gretna Vow? Her chance at growing old in an English countryside field was abruptly halted. On purpose. She was murdered.
Are we that consumed by the Olympics and the dreams of gold medals that we fail to remember the bigger picture? While I am sorry for Ms. Springall and her dashed dreams of Olympic Glory, my heart bleeds more for Folds Gretna Vow and the life which was cut too short.
Swifter, Higher, Stronger.