THE trainer who sparked outrage for smacking a horse on the backside with a branch is free to resume training.
Sir Mark Todd, an Olympic gold medal-winning event rider who started training in 2019, was suspended on February 16 while investigations took place.
At a disciplinary hearing at the BHA’s central London HQ, he was banned for four months – but two months have been deferred meaning he can resume training immediately.
A video surfaced on social media earlier this year of Todd striking a horse several times with a branch to try and encourage it to go across a water obstacle at an 'eventing masterclass'.
His actions were widely condemned, and Todd issued a grovelling apology before his licence was suspended.
In a statement issued on February 13, he said: “I wholeheartedly apologise to the horse and all involved for my actions in this video clip.
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"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."
The hearing was overseen by the BHA’s independent judicial panel chairman, Brian Barker QC, and he said: "The appropriate sentence is one of four months suspension, with two months of that deferred for two months.
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"That means that the eight weeks he has already served is sufficient and that Sir Mark is able to operate under his licence immediately."
New Zealander Todd, 66, has sent out 14 winners from 133 runners since the start of his British training career, though he has enjoyed Group 1 success in his homeland.
After the shocking video surfaced, he stepped down as a patron of the charity World Horse Welfare, who said in a statement at the time:"The treatment of the horse in this video is disturbing and unacceptable.
"There is no place in the horse-human partnership for such use of force.
"Mark agrees that his behaviour was wrong and we welcome his apology."
Racing fans reacted with surprise at the news, with one describing his punishment as "a slap on the wrist".
Another said: "What a joke."
Todd's top horse is the four-year-old Tasman Bay, who finished third in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot last summer in front of the Queen.
Todd won individual eventing Olympic golds at Los Angeles in 1984 and Seoul in 1988 and earned a knighthood in 2013.
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