Cesar Parra’s World Cup Success Brings Controversy

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Cesar Parra on Van the Man at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival World Cup Freestyle that won the pair an invitation to the Final in Lyon, France in mid-April. © 2014 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Cesar Parra on Van the Man at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival World Cup Freestyle that won the pair an invitation to the Final in Lyon, France in mid-April. © 2014 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

WELLINGTON, Florida, Mar. 29, 2014–The success of Cesar Parra as one of two North Americans to win a trip to the World Cup Final next month has drawn the U.S. Equestrian Federation into a public controversy sparked by a civil lawsuit alleging injury to a horse was the result of negligence by the former Colombian Olympian.

Images of the horse injured in the 2009 accident have been widely shared on the Internet in recent days and triggered a campaign of telephone calls to federation offices in Lexington, Kentucky and to members of USEF committees.

Some callers have demanded an invitation should not be extended by the USEF to Cesar whose Piaffe Performance equestrian training business is based in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey and Jupiter, Florida to compete at the Final in Lyon, France April 17-21.

The calls led to USEF Chief Executive John Long to telephone Cesar on Saturday to offer support.

The 51-year-old rider, competing and working with students at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, has not been convicted of any criminal charge and none are pending against him. The civil case has so far consisted of legal maneuverings with no hearing on the merits.

Cesar and Van the Man placed second behind Tina Konyot of Palm City, Florida and Calecto V among North Americans to be selected for the two World Cup starting places reserved for Canada, Mexico and the United States.

“I think every person who knows this sport and knows riding, it is impossible to have the success we have if we mistreat the horses,” he said in response to questions from dressage-news.com.

As to whether he was concerned he would be under extra scrutiny in Lyon, he said: “Fine. So what, let it be. It’s life. It’s the nature of the job. If we don’t want them looking at us then we should not be in the sport. I’m not going to be intimidated by two or three people.”

Cesar became an American citizen in late 2008 and rode on the U.S. gold medal team at the Pan American Games at Guadalajara, Mexico in 2011 as well as U.S. Nations Cup teams in 2013. The native-born Colombian competed for his country at the 1999 and 2003 Pan Ams, the 2004 Olympics, the 2002 and 2006 World Equestrian Games and the 2005 World Cup Final.

The lawsuit was filed by Trudy Miranda, a trainer, who had taken the Hanoverian stallion, William PFF, to be evaluated by Cesar Parra in June, 2009. The horse flipped over and suffered serious injuries. Cesar Parra acknowledged the incident and said it was an accident.

In 2012, the Hunterdon County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals filed charges against Cesar of animal cruelty. The County Prosecutor dismissed the criminal charges.

The Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division in February denied a move to have the civil case dismissed. A jury trial date has not yet been scheduled.

Cesar described the continuing legal case as a “slly game, a matter of pride and money” to turn a “horrible accident” into a move to “destroy the sport.”

“It’s just not right,” he said. “I know I have done no wrong. It just doesn’t make sense.”

“This is not about taking care of the horse. It’s sad the country has come to this point. It’s depressing. I don’t understand it.”

He had the support of many people, he said, including owners and national coaches.