Bernhard Maier, the Austrian jumper whose poor riding at the Vienna Neustadt CSI in June caused a social media storm, has been suspended for five years.
The Austrian equestrian federation also took other allegations of mistreatment by the 57-year-old and argumentative behaviour on other occasions into account when grounding him through December 2022. Maier, who is appealing against the decision, is also barred from training or even attending shows on foot.
The federation’s disciplinary panel justified the sanction because of the “severity” of the offences. It said he was guilty of “unlawful and unsportsmanlike conduct, threat and aggression towards third parties, the unfair treatment and overburdening of the horse he has ridden as well as damaging the reputation of the equestrian sport.”
The furore began on June 13th when a vixeo of his round was posted on Facebook the day after the show. Within 36 hours it had been viewed over one million times, though seems no longer available. The video was posted by “Turnierkiebitz” – which loosely translates from the German as “tournament sneak” – a Facebook page set up a few hours beforehand.
The video shows Maier rough-housing Paddy’s Darco before getting “left” at many fences, and incurring three refusals. Spectators can be heard jeering.
Even before the video had chalked up 400,000 views the Austrian national equestrian federation announced on its website that this was a “black day” for the sport. Maier responded with a statement and a video of himself riding better on another horse.
At the time, Maier said he was an older rider with heart-problems, which is why he didn’t cope so well. He had only recently taken on the horse from an Italian rider. Maier’s FEI record shows he only started jumping in FEI competition relatively late in life – starting in just 130 FEI classes in 11 years.
Maier was also fined Euros 5,000 and ordered to pay Euros 1,120 costs.