Pan American Games dressage team gold medalist Cesar Parra is scheduled to appear in municipal court in New Jersey on April 5 to answer two separate criminal complaints filed by the Hunterdon County SPCA earlier this month, one alleging “torment” and “torture... of a living animal,” the other alleging “overdrive, overwork...abuse of a living animal.”
The accusation came nearly three years after William PFF, a horse he was longeing, fell and struck his head at Parra's Readington, N.J., training facility in June 2009.
William PFF's owner, Trudy Miranda of Passing Fancy Farm in Johnsonville, N.Y., said the horse can’t be used for riding or breeding because he is so unsteady and suffers from a permanent tilt of his head. She is suing Parra and asking for punitive damages.
A statement from Parra said he “is deeply saddened that the horse was injured, but categorically denies any allegation of cruelty, abuse, gross negligence, recklessness or any other inappropriate conduct in the handling of the horse.”
He added, “Sometimes horses are injured in the course of being ridden and trained because of their unpredictable behavior without any inappropriate riding or training method involved.”
Parra said Miranda had lauded him and his staff at his Piaffe Performance “for their extraordinary efforts in rehabilitating William so that he could return to Ms. Miranda’s New York farm nearly two months after the June 2009 injury.”
Parra said the horse was distracted, reared and fell during the incident. Miranda disputes the contention that the animal reared. She maintains the 4-year-old Hanoverian stallion (Wonderful—Dara), who she said was hampered by non-elastic side reins and a pulley rein, tried to lift his head to look for a horse who had whinnied.
According to a statement on her website, “The trainer tried to regain his attention by pulling on the inside pulley rein, which signaled to William to stop abruptly mid-stride, forcing his head up. Unfortunately, due to his momentum coupled with the tight physical restriction of the reins, the laws of physics took him off his feet and over backwards. Once on the ground, he struggled to get back up, but the tight rein restricted him from picking up his head and would not allow him to stand.”
She said her horse was bleeding from the nose, convulsing and went into shock. Stable staff poured water over him to bring down his temperature, and he got a shot of Banamine, she noted, adding it took nearly five hours to get the animal to his feet with the aid of several people and longe lines.
Miranda’s lawyer, Jeffrey Pocaro, said a judge in Flemington, N.J., has denied a summary judgment motion filed by the lawyer for Parra’s insurance company. The insurance company lawyer requested the action on the basis that the liability contract Miranda signed for Parra would exempt him and his staff from a lawsuit.
“The court normally upholds these type of contracts...a pre-release clause...sign it or else I don’t train your horse. Gyms use them, sky diving outfits, hot air balloon rides, all use them. However, if there is ‘gross negligence,’ the contract is not enforceable,” said Pocaro.
Punitive damages are being sought, said Pocaro, because Parra “longed the horse, injured it and against the advice of the treating vet, several days after the injury, he longed the horse again.”
No one from the SPCA witnessed the incident. The charges followed a call from a trainer, E. Allen Buck, who is a consultant for Miranda, according to Parra's statement.
Parra, who is seeking a berth on the Olympic dressage team, is a native of Colombia who earned team silver at the 1999 Pan Ams (Canada) when riding for that nation. Subsequently, Parra became a U.S. citizen and was on the 2011 gold medal Pan Am (Mexico) squad.
Parra said he believes the legal action is designed to distract him in his quest to be on the team and reach a settlement, noting he “has no intention to capitulate to such highly suspect behavior and fully intends to take whatever steps necessary to address the damage that has been caused by Ms. Miranda’s and Mr. Buck’s reprehensible behavior.”
He added that he plans to file claims against them.