A leading Danish dressage rider has been cleared of animal cruelty, after a social media campaign accused him of using abusive training techniques.

Pictures of Andreas Helgstrand riding his top horse Akeem Foldager at an open day earlier this year (12 April) were released by Danish TV station Epona.tv. The images 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.

The week after the open day (19 April), the Danish Equestrian Federation (DEF) 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 pictures and vets report led to several high-profile sponsors dropping Andreas.

However, last month (28 November) a court in Aalborg acquitted him of all charges. The verdict found the prosecutor did not prove Akeem suffered any harm on 12 April 2014 according to Danish animal protection laws. The decision was based upon the photos and the results of the vet examination carried out by the DEF.

”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.

“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 is one six candidates hoping to elected as president of the FEI this Sunday (14 December). Ulf has served as president of the Danish Equestrian Federation since 2003.

  • Louise Nash

    It’s a hanging cheek with the Weymouth part of the double bridle, an immense amount of poll pressure as well as mouth and curb pressure!! Really!?! No need, simply cruel to put any animal under that much stress and expect it to perform!! It makes you wonder what the mouth pieces of these bits actually are?? !!!

  • Jasmin Yu

    I never knew you could have a hanging cheek snaffle in a double bridle!! Perhaps I’m a bit old fashioned but I get on with my horses really well in just a simple snaffle! No one needs to ride a horse with such rubbish in its mouth. I’d like to see how comfortable he is if he had all that metal in his mouth…and people like Andreas are supposed to be role models in the equestrian world.?!

  • Cici Bauer

    I’m with you! What is that get up in that poor horse’s mouth!

  • Jackie

    That’s not a “normal” double bridle. I have never seen a hanging cheek snaffle used with a Pelham before? Am I so out of tune??

  • Elizabeth Agarwal

    You query the standards of the FEI.I can hardly bear to watch a lot of dressage these days and am not the only one.You watch one stiff horse after another shuffle into the ring, shuffle on the spot.Sorry piaffe and then shuffle out again.

  • Susan Heard

    This is totally unacceptable if this person cannot ride this horse without all the paraphenalia in its mouth he shouldn’t be riding it. How he got off is unexplicable can only be down to Father’s ambitions in FEI. What does this say about the ethos in this dressage arena?

  • Sandy Martin

    This is a terrible thing to do to any horse.If you see this person please make your opinion of him known.People power.