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.