Top Scottish showjumper, James Smith, suspended from competition

Showjumper James Smith at Dumfries and Lockerbie Agricultural Show 2018

British Nations Cup showjumper 31-year-old Scottish James Smith has been suspended from competing as of March 16, 2024, at home or abroad due to concerns about the welfare of a horse. Smith is currently under investigation and barred from national and international competitions due to allegedly having used an outlawed training method during a European event.  

Concerns relating to the horse’s welfare were raised after photographs circulated on social media appeared to evidence a cane being used to make the horse lift its hind legs higher over a practice jump at a recent FEI event.  

The governing body, British Showjumping (BS), is liaising closely with the British Equestrian Federation and the FEI. British Showjumping has released this statement: “This suspension prohibits him from entering and/or competing or training Athletes/Horses at any FEI Events or any national events until further notice while the images and circumstances of the incident are being investigated. See FEI General Regulations Article 164.6 for the full definition/description.”

There has also been a block implemented against groom, Nicola Park, from renewing her BS membership whilst investigations are underway. In the photographs, Park can be seen holding a long narrow pole or cane close to the rear of the horse as it negotiates a practice fence, and serious questions have been raised as to why on-site officials did not deal with this alleged rule-breaking.  


The training methods portrayed in the photographs have no place in equestrian sport, are in contravention of regulations and should not be tolerated. British Showjumping, BES and FEI all put the highest priority on the welfare of the horse who commit to ongoing collaboration to ensure their rules and regulations around horse welfare and safety are respected and enforced.  

This outlawed training method, known as ‘rapping’ or ‘poling’, has been banned under both FEI general regulations and FEI jumping regulations. The regulations bar any kind of touching or interfering with the horse’s legs whilst it attempts to jump, whether this be manually or technically. The banned method, known as ‘touchieran’, which involves gentle touching by an assistant using a pole, had been allowed under German national rules until this was even forbidden in Germany in 2022 following the recommendations of a working group.  

Smith, 31, is a three-time medal winner at European pony jumping championships and has been a British representative twice at Nationals Cups. He has not, to date, made any comments about this current issue and he appears to have deactivated his Facebook page.  

Pressure around horse welfare is mounting, particularly in France, ahead of the upcoming Paris Olympic Games 2024. Former Olympic athlete Frederick Cottier has alleged that ‘pinch boots’, which encourage horses to raise their hind legs higher over fences, remain widespread in use despite being banned by the FEI.  

This incident comes hot on the heels of the suspension of Swedish Showjumper Douglas Lindelow after five grooms made allegations against him for horse abuse, putting forward a dossier of the claims which includes photographs and videos of the (alleged) abuse. The grooms allege that Lindelow will punish the horses as he struggles to manage his own behaviours, and one groom even alleges that he threw a hammer at a horse that would not stand still. Fortunately, the horse was not injured. In an interview with Swedish publication Sportbladet, Lindelow denies the allegations and states that he has not violated any Swedish horse welfare legislation at any point. Nonetheless, Lindelow remains suspended from participating in any national or international competitions at the present time.  

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