A case against a leading Danish dressage rider’s training techniques has finally been completed by the Danish Equestrian Federation (DRF).

Andreas Helgstrand has been under fire since last April after a social media campaign accused the rider of using abusing his top ride Akeem Foldager.

His national federation stated yesterday (2 February) that the appeal committee ruled that he was guilty of “improper use of bit and bridle.”

Andreas was warned not to repeat the offence within the next two year’s otherwise it will be considered “aggravated circumstance”.

The case was started after pictures of Andreas riding Akeem Foldager at an open day last year (12 April) were released by Danish TV station Epona.tv (pictured).

The pictures showed the horse being ridden in a double bridle with its mouth open, revealing a blue tongue — thought to be caused by a lack of blood supply. There also appeared to be spur marks on the horse’s side.

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The week after the open day (19 April), the DRF sent a vet to his yard to check the horse.

The investigation concluded that Andreas’ use of the double bridle had been “completely unacceptable”.

“The bluish discoloration and reduction in reaction of the right jaw is a clear case of improper use of equipment,” the report stated.

The incident led to several high-profile sponsors dropping Andreas and also meant he was not eligible for selection for last summer’s World Equestrian Games.

At the end of last year (28 November) a court in Aalborg acquitted Andreas of all animal cruelty charges.

”I am very happy about the ruling of the court; it is important for me personally, but also for the sport in general,” Andreas said in a statement afterwards.

“It has been quite tough to have these accusations hovering, but my family and I are now focusing on the future instead.”

Andreas’ father Ulf has served as president of the DRF since 2003.

  • Marti Andrews- Pete Fernandez

    Ironic that they don’t allow bitless bridles…

  • Jaime

    Don’t confuse bitless for painless. Bitless bridles still work on pressure points and on sensitive parts of the face at that.

  • Sandy Duncan

    There is such widespread knowledge of the principles and benefits of Natural horsemanship now, that there is no excuse for such abusive, barbaric methods to school a horse. No competition, prize or career justifies such disregard of a horse’s needs and well-being.

  • Liver

    No, it doesn’t. Abuse can be just as harmful with a bitless bridle, as you are exerting pressure on the sensitive cartilage, bones, and nerves in the horse’s nose. You can make their lower face go entirely numb.

    People not being terrible and cruel would entirely avoid this abuse. This is a people issue, not an equipment issue.

  • Karry Gardner

    Its ok finding him guilty but the article doesn’t say how he is being punished . There is nothing wrong with using bits – its the hands holding the reins that are the problem. Bitless is no answer if the hands are abusive .

  • Tuffy

    Riding with a bit whilst using hands and bit correctly would also avoid this abuse! Bitless is not the ONLY answer. A broader picture needs to be seen

  • squiblet

    bitless riding would entirely avoid this abuse and demonstrate true partnership…when you see what is possible without all the tack, then it questions exactly what standards are being promoted