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Rider Bernhard Maier Banned For Unacceptable Behaviour

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Bernhard Maier's catastrophic ride earned him a three month ban.

Bernhard Maier, a 56-year-old Austrian rider, earned a ban of three months after a disgraceful course.

Rider Bernhard Maier Banned For Unacceptable Behaviour

Rider Bernhard Maier got a three months suspension after his unacceptable behaviour during the Wiener Neustadt CSI1 Show, which happened 8-11 June this year. Riding Paddy’s Darco, the man’s unsportsmanlike behaviour earned him a three-month ban from riding in show arenas in Austria. The video of his terrible performance soon went viral, and you can watch it here:

The disaster began at the very first obstacle. Paddy’s Darco demolished the first square oxer, and from there, things went downhill fast. The horse went on to hit the second, fourth, seventh and eighth fences as well. It only stopped when Paddy pulled up on the ninth obstacle. By then, the public already made their opinions felt, booing and whistling for Bernhard to stop and drop the competition, as the horse was clearly not in tune with him.

The video, recorded by a spectator, soon went viral, heaping both praises for Paddy’s Darco and shame for Bernhard Maier. The equestrian community named it a “black day” for the sport. The rider’s inability to stop and prevent harm to the horse drew a lot of criticism. And not just for Bernhard, but also for the judges who witnessed it and did not call for a halt in the proceedings, but let it continue until the horse was disqualified anyway.

The events that led to Bernhard Maier’s ban were not restricted to the ones in the video. He’d disqualified from an earlier class earlier in the day. This raised the question of why the judges allowed him to continue competing at all, or let it go that far. A similar incident, in 2010, earned both the rider and the judges who failed to stop the incident a reprimand from FEI. In that case, it involved a rider aggressively whipping his horse.

It also wasn’t the rider’s first ban of the year. He’d been banned earlier the same year.

Difficult horses and difficult riders

There is some concern about whether the social media’s attention on the case came from deliberate attempts to discredit him. Bernhard seems to believe so. Soon after the video became viral, he reacted with a statement claiming that the site that made his performance public, a Facebook page, had only been set up hours before the video went live. He claims his poor performance is due to age (he is 56) and a heart condition. In his statement, he shows another video where he and Paddy perform much better than in the Weiner Neustadt course.

He also says he knew he should not have competed, and that while Paddy never feared water jumps before, Maier himself had no strength to demand more of the horse.

Paddy’s Darco has a rather promising lineage and potential, but also changed hands and riders quite frequently, which might account for his performance. Bernhard Maier himself acknowledges he didn’t have the opportunity to ride him for very long. You can read his whole statement here (in German).

The Irish Sport gelding has competed at higher levels with Qatari rider Bassem Mohammed and Ireland’s Stephen Moore, among others. The horse came to Maier through sponsors. Maier previously rode him successfully in Arezzo, Italy. Some argue that the issue comes from the lack of harmony between Maier and Paddy. While the former is an aggressive rider, the latter is a difficult horse that needs a quieter hand.

It has been over three months since the ban was set, and Bernhard is allowed to compete again. So what do you think? Was three months a fair punishment for his behaviour? Too much? Just an unfortunate set of circumstances that went wrong? Let us know in the comments below!

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19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Sharon Godsell

    16/10/2017 at 8:00 pm

    This was a horrible display of cruelty and horsemanship by the rider. All through the video I kept waiting for the judges to call the ride. They are to blame as well for allowing it to continue.

  2. Mindy

    16/10/2017 at 9:53 pm

    Horrible horsemanship – if you can even call it that! Since he was banned in another class earlier in the day he should have been banned here! Whipping, kicking (other recent riders) and riding your horse like this should not be tolerated! Judges should be reprimanded as well! This man needs a much longer ban than 3 months.

  3. Nancy

    16/10/2017 at 11:12 pm

    Looking at it from outside the sport but also knowing something about animals and working and competing with them, it looks like the organization is more interested in keeping its big names in the game rather than care for the horses, especially since the man apparently has a history of abuse. The man claims he is physically unfit. If that’s his reason and he obviously doesn’t know enough to take time off to recuperate, it’s up to the sport organization to protect the animals and its own good name by not allowing him to compete.

  4. Lyn

    17/10/2017 at 1:35 am

    He needs a good long holiday (years) away from horses,and learn some values in dealing with animals. The judges should join him.

  5. Annette Sharp

    17/10/2017 at 1:43 am

    Clearly the horse was in distress. Did you see the foam on his mouth? He was way to tight. I’m not show jumper, but I know that the horse was in distress and his rider was handling him severely!
    The horses head was far to high, tight reined to the point he couldn’t stretch his neck out in jumping.

    I blame the rider for this.

  6. Lisa Spidell

    17/10/2017 at 2:03 am

    He’s simply a terrible rider. The horse is doing his best. I can’t imagine who would pay this rider to be on their horse. Mind boggling really.

  7. Diana Fontenot

    17/10/2017 at 2:23 am

    He should have been stopped after the second jump and he should be charged with animal cruelty. The judges that let this dispictable act of abuse continue should also be charged with accessory and This *rider* I use the term loosely, should never be allowed to ride, compete nor ever own another horse.

  8. Bonnie Dugan

    17/10/2017 at 2:50 am

    One could see from the beginning that this horse was in pain because of the bit. It was a cruel ride & should have been stopped immediately!

  9. Angelina

    17/10/2017 at 6:19 am

    The rider and horse don’t go together. He has no control of the horse. The horse can feel his anger, and will behave accordingly.

    I believe the horse will do well if partnered with the right rider. Very powerful horse.

    He said himself he is to old and has heart problems.

    He needs to be put to paster.

  10. Viv owen

    17/10/2017 at 9:27 am

    Man should be banne$ for life – disgusting riding

  11. Vanessa Hill

    17/10/2017 at 9:58 am

    Id take the horse and give it a good home. I have had major surgery this year and 2 minor ones and am not as fit as i was, but both my horses are ridden sympathetically in fact they gallop up field to see me.
    I use to teach riding and would not have let this rider do any bigger than cavalletti until he had a independant seat, it brings the sport into question.
    Hope the poor horse has found a good home

  12. cavallopassione

    17/10/2017 at 5:08 pm

    disgraceful exhibition…incredible the judges didn’t put a stop to it….says a lot about lack of rules to safeguard horses in “highlevel”competition…..the man shouldn’t be allowed to even come near horses because he clearly hasn’t got a clue what they’re about

  13. Martha

    17/10/2017 at 5:19 pm

    Paddy’s Darco did remarkably well in spite of the rider! I would not let that man close to a horse of mine! He’s a mean bully – no horse deserves that kind of treatment.

  14. Emma

    17/10/2017 at 8:54 pm

    It looks like the jumps were above the ability of the horse. Yes the first jump was a disaster and I would of had a lot of thought as to whether to carry on or not, but it is hard to stop through a course and I would of wanted to desperately to finish. Having said that that first jump was shocking and the horse was just not up for it best to let it go.

  15. Lady

    18/10/2017 at 6:12 pm

    That mount had clearly not been schooled enough for that event!

  16. greg

    19/10/2017 at 4:34 pm

    Based on this rider’s history, three years would be a more fitting suspension. The judges should incur at LEAST a 3 month suspension if not a similar three year ban. They obviously do NOT have any regard for horse welfare so should not be allowed to judge anyone, much less a rider displaying no regard for a horse. The only way to clean up these messes is to ban everyone involved in these deplorable acts.

  17. Marilyn Antill

    24/10/2017 at 10:22 pm

    This persons AGE has no bearing on his ability to ride. Men much older than he can ride a lot better than he did. Horse was never given his head to jump properly as rider is staying on by the reins instead of legs. Hope the poor horse isn’t ruined for future jumping.

  18. Mary Hogan

    26/10/2017 at 12:17 am

    Sorry to see a professional act like that in front of judges & allow his treatment to go on.

  19. Sondra Sweeney

    31/10/2017 at 12:04 am

    He should hang it up. Be it age or temperament, the judges should have called a halt to it.
    His riding was pathetic, as it didn’t seem he could sit the horse properly. I feel for the horse.

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