I am on the road this week, coming to you today from the charming ex-pat enclave of San
Miguel de Allende for a wee pause to catch my breath between
gigs in Mexico City and Spokane (now there’s an exercise in contrasts). I know
you are all anxious to know the latest in the Michael Morrissey Jr. (MMJR)
story, which – sorry to tell you this, FEI and USEF folks – seems to be gaining
momentum with the public interest, rather than drying up and fading away like a
dead spider under the bed. I’m afraid this particular spider is still staring at you hairily from the ceiling over your heads.
So here’s the latest: last week I had a long conversation with a Very Important Steward
type who admonished me for my initial post, the one in which I criticized the
stewards at the WEF for failing to punish MMJR for his whipping frenzy. He or
she was unhappy about two things I wrote:
1. That the stewards were to blame.
2. That I said MMJR was not given a yellow card.
For the first item, I must both apologize and set the record straight. Stewards are
responsible for absolutely everything that happens at a competition, except for
what happens in the competition ring itself. The ground jury is solely and
wholly responsible to make sure that rules aren’t broken during their watch in
the actual show ring. So to all stewards at the WEF week seven – hell, let me
extend this to all stewards, whose job is too often a thankless one: I humbly
apologize. Instead, I now direct all my disappointment and sense of injustice
toward the head of the ground jury during the US team trials on February 27th
– I will find that person’s name just as soon as I am back in the land of free, widely available internet. Note to all you sleuthing friends who have been so helpful: if you feel inclined, just go ahead and post the name as a comment to this blog.
For the second item, I defended myself to the Very Important Steward type by saying I
had heard from several sources close to the action that nothing had been done
by the officials. I asked the VIS type if I as a member of the public or a journalist would even have had access to information about a warning or penalty, and he or she was – this boggled my mind, given his or her creds – unable to answer that
question. However, one thing I can say for sure. In spite of his or her disgust at my irresponsible reporting, he or she did not deny that nothing official happened to MMJR that evening. Oh yes. Let’s not forget that MMJR was out there
jumping Crelido the next week at US team trial three.
I am now being told by the FEI that, due to the ongoing investigation into the MMJR
incident, I am no longer going to get any answers about anything. In order not
to ‘jeopardize’ the case they will not even answer my general questions about
how yellow cards, fines and penalties are given out in these cases, whether
they are posted on the FEI website once verdicts have been handed down, and how
a hypothetical case of hitting a horse 13 times (as hard as possible) with a
whip should have been addressed, had everyone responded appropriately. If I can
muster the energy, I will wade back into the Byzantine rules of the FEI and try
to find out for myself, but I’m not optimistic I’ll get answers that way.
You know, transparency was such a trendy word for a while. But I guess the idea just
One thing that IS transparent is the fact that, in spite of the
FEI telling me that they and USEF are taking this case ‘very seriously,’ MMJR
still racking up the show miles with Crelido. Two helpful fans of my cause sent
me the results from last week’s Gene Mische (that’s great-uncle Gene to MMJR)
$200,000 American Invitational in Tampa. MMJR and Crelido were eighth in the class. I may not be getting any answers
from the federations, but it’s crystal clear to me that as of right now, MMJR
is free to continue whipping his horse in competition. And I am fully aware that this last comment will cause some hackles to rise but I’m just saying what is a natural assumption, given the fact that apart from some booing from audience members when he left the ring that night at WEF, MMJR has suffered no real consequences so far.
I did watch the WC Final dressage ten days ago, but found it a fairly underwhelming
experience. If I come up dry on the MMJR story in the next couple of weeks I’ll
give it some blog time.