Everyone Wants to Support Olympians’ Mental Health Until the Olympian is a Horse


TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 6, 2021: Germany's Annika Schleu competes in the women's individual riding sho...
Stanislav Krasilnikov/TASS/Getty Images

Much has been said about mental health at the Olympics this year, with Simone Biles withdrawing from the games after dealing with the mental turmoil of the “twisties,” which could have led to serious injury of her person and possible literal death. Biles was celebrated by almost everyone for her decision to prioritize her mental health over the games, as she should be. Less grace has been extended to Saint Boy, the horse assigned to German athlete Annika Schleu in modern pentathlon.

For those unfamiliar with the event, modern pentathlon asks competitors to compete in five sporting activities that mimic what it’s like to be in a war in the 19th Century, like a triathlon for Civil War reenactors: there’s swimming, fencing, equestrian show jumping, pistol shooting, and a foot race. The equestrian portion requires competitors to ride an unfamiliar horse that they met 20 minutes beforehand — because on a battlefield in 1863, you’re just hopping on a random horse sometimes.

Schleu, a five-time world champion who came in fourth place in modern pentathlon in 2016, was considered a shoo-in for a medal this year, and was leading the pack after the 200-meter swim and fencing events. As Schleu began the equestrian event, Saint Boy decided she had bad vibes and refused to start. After some coaxing from his rider, Saint Boy felt that he was not being seen nor heard and started knocking over fences.

Despite Saint Boy making it very clear that participating in the Olympics was taking a toll on his mental wellbeing, announcers took Schleu’s side as she was seen weeping atop a horse that was clearly in distress. "It's all falling apart for Annika Schleu. I think she's starting to lose the composure... and now this is really sad to watch," commentators from Eurobox said.

Justice for Saint Boy. Imagine being a normal horse, grazing in a pasture and then suddenly you’re put on the world stage without your consent. You too would probably want to knock over fences and make a scene. Few of us would be brave enough to actually do it, and we should commend Saint Boy for acting out in the name of horse rights.