Disturbing news is coming out of France today that a horse died yesterday on a non-compete day at the GPA Jump Festival in Cagnes-sur-Mer under suspicious circumstances. A warning that what little information we have may be distressing to some readers.

What we know:

On October 10, witnesses reported seeing a horse being ridden for a long length of time by Irish rider Kevin Thornton while an additional person got after the horse on foot with a dressage whip. The witnesses say the horse was forced to gallop without stopping, and subsequently collapsed and died in the ring.

The show claims they immediately began issuing witness statements for people to sign who saw the event, and removed Kevin Thornton from any remaining classes during the festival as they investigate the case.

On the GPA Jump Festival Facebook page, the show issued the following statement (translated from French):

“Following the accident at the venue, our organization will take all necessary measures to clarify the circumstances of the tragedy and punish those responsible. Animal compliance is our priority and we are committed to upholding it!!!”

The deceased horse is Flogas Sunset Cruise, a gray 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse stallion co-owned by Vinnie Duffy and Kevin Thornton. Several reports mis-identified the horse as another of Kevin’s gray horses, Startschuss.

Kevin and his owner together released statements to The Irish Field claiming that the accounts of the incident are completely false, and they are devastated at the loss of the horse. They also claim that the GPA Show Festival did not remove Kevin and his horses from the remainder of the event, but that Kevin opted to retire.

Thornton goes on to say that he credits the confusion about the incident to the number of gray horses he has, telling the Irish Field that he was not riding the horse for hours as the reports suggest, but closer to twenty minutes when the horse collapsed. He stated that he had previously been riding his two other gray mounts in succession before mounting Flogas.

The owner was not present for the incident, but fervently defended Kevin. A full autopsy is being performed today, and the FEI states that they have launched an investigation.

We will continue to bring you more on this story as it develops.