By Sarah Edmonds
LONDON (Reuters) - Canadian show jumper Tiffany Foster was disqualified before the first round of the Olympic team jumping final on Sunday because of inflammation in one of the forelegs of her horse Victor, leaving Canada with a team of three.
Foster, in her first Games, was in tears as team captain Eric Lamaze and chef d'equipe Terrence Millar escorted her back to the international team tent.
Veterinarians determine sensitivity by measuring limb heat under rules set up in 2005 to keep riders from purposely sensitising their horse's legs to make them jump more carefully. However, heat can arise through injury or infection as well.
"There is no accusation of malpractice, but the horse has been deemed unfit to compete by the Ground Jury," governing body the International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI) said in a statement.
The FEI said there was no possibility of appeal.
Canada's Ian Millar, who is making a record 10th Olympic appearance at 65, told reporters: "Our team, all the riders, are devastated by this situation. We feel it's just not right and it's an incorrect application of the rules.
"She's devastated. Her family is here from British Columbia, her owners are here. Everybody's here."
Under the rules, veterinarians check a horse's legs manually or with sensors to ensure they are not warm from injury or for other reasons. Excessive heat can lead to disqualification.
In Beijing, there was a rash of doping cases involving a chilli pepper derivative that, if used on a horse's legs, would increase susceptibility to pain.
"Horses with hypersensitive limbs are disqualified on the basis of horse welfare and fair play; however hypersensitive limbs are not necessarily a result of a manipulation to the legs," the FEI says on its website.
According to the Canadians, the horse had a slight scratch above its hoof and that is what caused the heat.
The Canadian team will now have only three members in contention in the two-round team final that wraps up on Monday, which means all scores count. Other four-member teams are permitted to drop their weakest score from the two-day total.
Canada's Mac Cone was knocked out of the team final in the 2008 Games when his horse was injured, leaving the team in the same position, but they managed to take a silver medal.
"I am sick about it. Having said that, we did it before in Beijing and we got it done, but it's doing it the hard way for sure," said Millar.
Foster had a long road to these Olympics. She broke her back when schooling a horse just before Beijing and spent six months completely unable to ride.
"If you read the rule, the way the rule is written, you could build a case for their interpretation of it, but it is not an equitable interpretation," said Millar.
"To me the athlete should always get the benefit of the doubt and the athlete got the opposite of that here."
It has been a tough Olympics for the Canadian equestrian team with the nation eliminated by falls or errors before the team finals of both eventing and dressage.
(Reporting by Sarah Edmonds, editing by Mark Meadows)