DURHAM, NC—Mere weeks after members of their university's lacrosse team were accused of sexually assaulting exotic dancers, ranking Duke polo and equestrian team members are downplaying rumors that they repeatedly engaged in acts of exotic sexual misconduct during the infamously out-of-control parties held at the team's off-campus barn.
"We've done nothing wrong, veterinarians will find no evidence—DNA or otherwise—showing that horses have been assaulted, and of course no charges have been filed," said senior Nat Hennerty, captain of Duke's equestrian squad and a two-time Most Valuable Rider, in a prepared statement to the press Tuesday. "I urge the media, the alumni, and the people of the community to remember that we at Duke are an elite university and disregard any obvious hearsay."
"Especially anything regarding suspicious bruises or abrasions suffered by the men of the team, allegations that certain horses have not been cantering normally as of late, or photos supposedly showing Duke student-athletes wearing nothing but English riding boots and engaged in sexual congress with tranquilized horses while whipping them with riding crops," Hennerty added.
While no formal accusations have been made, students claim the outrageous behavior of Duke's elite equestrian squad has become campus legend.
"I've never been to one of their parties, but everyone at Duke has heard the rumors," said a sophomore who spoke on condition of anonymity, saying she wished to protect herself from possible retaliation by the "privileged elites" who make up Duke's top-tier riding clubs. "Everyone's drinking, the lights in the stable go down, someone gets some saddle soap and a curry-comb . pretty soon everyone's bareback, they're playing 'strip dressage,' strange lathered-up fillies are prancing around It's only a matter of time before someone becomes Catherine the Great."
Although no Duke equestrian sports team has ever come under official scrutiny, an informal examination of team medical records shows that Duke riders are four times more likely to suffer unusual injuries, such as broken bones from startled horses stepping back onto riders' feet, deep horse bites in or around the groin area, or massive internal trauma along with explosive perforation of the colon. Duke teams also lead the nation, and organized horsemanship in general, in the sudden destruction of large livestock for unrecorded or sketchily documented reasons.
Despite the rumors and mounting evidence of mount abuse, few in the university believe that the team will be subjected to the possible disgrace of a joint university/SPCA investigation.
"These guys were brought up to believe that they can have any horse or woman they want, and that's unconscionable—but a formal investigation would tear this campus apart," history professor Woodrow Peterson said. "After all, the Duke University community barely tolerated the systematic sexual abuse of two black women at the hands of its students. If word got out that valuable horses had been treated that way, this place would explode."