Friday, September 22, 2006

Dopes and Ponies

A pony doping scandal has rocked the insular equestrian world of Jersey according to (Pony doping scandal shock - worth viewing just for the image of "A pony: note the vacant stare").

In some kind of crazed mash-up of Dick Francis novels and kids books about ponies, the world of junior showjumping was stunned today by claims that children's ponies were drugged at a national championship. It is believed that the ponies may have been fed a fast-acting sedative to ruin their chances at the the British Show Jumping Association's under-16s junior championships in Jersey. The mother of one eleven-year old competitor is thought likely to be questioned by police, after witnesses reported seeing her giving several ponies what appeared to be mints.

One of the ponies apparently didn't like the taste of his "mint" and spat it out, which it is claimed was found to be acetylpromazine, a common sedative in the horse industry.

EoR's a bit bemused by all the upset about this. Doping in the equestrian world is fairly widespread (so he hears - EoR wishes to make it clear that he has never shot up anything or imbibed anything illegal behind the stables). Usually, however, the doping is being done by the competitor on the competitor's own horse in order to hype it up or calm it down (as required). A lot of doping is performed "legally" in that the presence of banned substances is only an offence if they're detected during a competition. Use prior to competition and allowing the substances to clear the body is not an offence (but could certainly be considered questionable). Since different metabolisms excrete chemicals at different rates though, sometimes competitors get caught out at competitions. Just as in human sport, the pressure to succeed can be immense and even at Olympic levels there have been doping scandals in the equestrian events.

Doping other owner's horses is far less common however, simply because the other people tend to notice there's something wrong with their horses and complain about it.

The woman at the centre of this scandal, and who is alleged to have fed the suspect mints, has been forced to come out and explain herself.

Eight days after the event, 36-year-old Mrs Baudains is feeling understandably bruised. "I did not feed those ponies anything other than Polo mints," she insists, after emerging to give her first interview. "Instead of pointing fingers at me, they should find out what the real reason was for those ponies being lethargic." With her shoulder-length mousey hair and oversized lilac sweatshirt covered in dog hair, Kim Baudains does not look like a typical horse-doper.

Oh, tell us please, what does the "typical horse-doper" look like? Then we'd all know who to look out for (EoR suspects it's someone with a shifty look and hat pulled down low over his head, and who does a lot of skulking).

Mrs Baudains cries, pleads poor, and berates the "Pimms Parade" - all those well-to-do moneyed johnny-come-latelies whose only merit is the possession of money. Yet, strangely,

Wealthy parents, she says, will pay up to £25,000 for their child's horse in the hope of winning local tournaments. One mother bought a pony from Mrs Baudains and insisted on a receipt. "She left that receipt on the dashboard of her 4x4 for weeks, just so all the other mums on the school run could see exactly how much she paid", she says.

So, isn't Mrs Baudains the one with the money (and the excessively priced ponies?).

EoR would consider anyone at a competition wandering around feeding other people's horses (and it is claimed that Mrs Baudains only fed the ponies of people competing against her son) suspicious behaviour. At the very least, you'd be pretty stupid not to think you weren't leaving yourself open to accusations of various sorts.

Mrs Baudains has learnt her lesson:

"Well, I will never feed a pony a mint again. It will be carrots from here on in. So many awful things have been said about me, I'm afraid the mud will stick."

A common way to feed substances to horses (such as medication) is to hollow out an apple or carrot and put the substance inside. Perhaps Mrs Baudains knows about this as well? Or is she really the archetypal naif ingenue?

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