Sir Mark Todd to avoid charges over horse-striking social media video, Scottish SPCA confirms

New Zealand Olympian Sir Mark Todd will face no charges for a video of him striking a horse up to 10 times, the Scottish SPCA says.

Sir Mark Todd, 65, has come under fire for the video which first emerged on social media site TikTok, where the double Olympic gold medallist is seen striking a horse with a tree branch as it hesitates to cross a water obstacle.

He has since apologised for his actions, but has faced calls to be stripped of his knighthood by animal welfare advocates.

But with the video is understood to be at least two years old, Sir Mark isn't able to be charged under Scottish law - where the incident took place.

In a statement to Newshub, Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn explains Sir Mark cannot be charged, due to the time-sensitive nature of the incident.

"The manner in which the horse in this video is treated is wholly inappropriate," Flynn says. "It is distressing to think a man who works with horses on a daily basis is capable of abusing a horse in such a way."

"In Scotland, animal welfare cases are time-barred. This means any evidence must be less than six months old at the time it is submitted to the Procurator Fiscal. 

"This video clip is older than that and therefore we do not have grounds to take action."

But while Sir Mark has escaped any charges over the incident, he has also stepped down from his role as a patron of World Horse Welfare.

A spokesperson for World Horse Welfare says Sir Mark voluntarily stood down from his role, after the video came to light.

"There is no place in the horse-human partnership for such use of force," the spokesperson told UK organisation Horse and Hound. 

"Mark agrees that his behaviour was wrong and we welcome his apology. Mark is a consummate horseman, who cares deeply for horses and their welfare but, in this case, either through losing his patience or acting out of frustration, he has badly let himself down."

"We all need to take heed from this episode. If equestrian sport, which we actively support, is to continue to maintain the acceptance of the public - its social licence - there cannot be any tolerance for unacceptable practises, no matter how experienced the rider or trainer."

Equestrian Sports New Zealand has distanced itself from Sir Mark Todd, while Kiwi animal welfare group SAFE has questioned whether the incident was a one-off.

Sir Mark was knighted in 2013 and is unlikely to lose his title. Government guidelines state honours are only usually revoked for serious crimes resulting in at least three months' imprisonment.