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!