Sir Mark Todd faces a British Horseracing Authority (BHA) probe after a video of the Olympian-turned-trainer repeatedly hitting a horse appeared on social media.
The footage, believed to be two years old, shows the New Zealander, who won eventing gold at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 and at Seoul four years later, striking a reluctant horse on the rear 10 times with a branch in order to make it cross a water obstacle.
As the animal consents to enter the water, cheering can be heard in the background – but the video sparked widespread outrage when it was published on Saturday.
And now Todd, knighted in 2013 for services to equestrian sports before taking out a licence to train in Britain six years later, is set to face a grilling from the regulator.
“The footage seen this weekend of Sir Mark Todd hitting a horse with a branch has rightly caused anger and upset within the equestrian community and beyond,” said a BHA statement.
“His behaviour, for which he has apologised, fell a long way short of the standards of care we expect of licensed individuals and that we know is provided to the overwhelming majority of horses in training in Britain every day.
“The BHA is looking into the incident.”
Embarking on a damage-limitation exercise on Saturday night, Todd apologised and admitted that he “did not adhere” to his principle of “establishing a mutual respect” between horse and rider.
He said: “I wholeheartedly apologise to the horse and all involved for my actions in this video clip.
“One of the main things I preach is about establishing a mutual respect between horse and rider and that patience and kindness is the best way to get results.
“I believe this is one of the main attributes along with a great empathy with animals that has enabled me to have a long and successful career in eventing.
“I am very disappointed in myself that I did not adhere to that in this case.”
But, with equine welfare forever in the spotlight – and the Cheltenham Festival set to start in 29 days’ time – the 65-year-old’s words may not be enough to satisfy the BHA.
The furore comes just under 11 months after Grand National and Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning trainer Gordon Elliott received a 12-month ban – of which six months were suspended – for being photographed astride a dead horse on his Co Meath gallops.