Andreas Helgstrand under fire again after photos spark further welfare complaints

  • Danish dressage rider Andreas Helgstrand has come under fire once again after photos posted of him riding sparked welfare complaints online.

    Danish equestrian website Epona.tv. published a complete series of photos (one pictured above) of the rider warming up grand prix mare Torveslettens Stamina at the CDI in Falsterbo in July.

    The position of the horse’s head and neck has caused anger among dressage fans.

    However, Andreas said he was not contacted “during warm-up nor at any other time during the entire show in Falsterbo” by a steward, official, technical delegated or ground jury.

    Force, violence or other types of abuse are contra-productive to our goal and against our fundamental values,” he added.

    Copy on the Epona.tv site alongside the photos reads: “No yellow cards were given out in Falsterbo this year. Chief Steward Eva Wiklund saw no reason for it.

    “She must have found this riding unforced and non-aggressive, since forced and aggressive use of the reins to induce hyperflexion is banned by the FEI and should cause the steward to intervene.

    “We’ll ask Eva Wiklund how she distinguishes between what we see in the photos and the banned kind of hyperflexion which relies on harsh rein aids.”

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    Andreas countered that with modern cameras it is “very easy to take so many pictures in a second that you get still photographs where a horse, a rider or an equipage looks either fantastic or hopeless, simply because the photograph only shows a tiny part of a continuing movement”.

    He added: “At Helgstrand Dressage, we strive to educate and ride all our horses in a way that enables each individual horse to reach the highest possible level. We train and compete according to the rules and assessments of the judges in our sport.

    “Stamina is an incredibly supple horse, and with a rider in the saddle, she naturally bends into dressage posture.

    “The horse can easily be ridden in a snaffle bridle or with completely loose curb rein. Consequently, I use a baby double bridle for training and shows.

    “If it was allowed to ride the higher classes without a double bridle, I would be happy to show Stamina in a snaffle bridle, also the high level exercises.”

    A spokesman for the FEI told H&H the organisation and the Danish National Federation were both investigating the matter.

    “We have already contacted the chief steward at Falsterbo to ask for a full report specifically on this episode, in addition to the normal event report that has already been sent to the FEI,” said a spokesman.

    “The FEI dressage committee is also looking at ways to ensure that the rules work more effectively to protect horse welfare and that they are enforced more strenuously by our officials.

    “The FEI has horse welfare at the core of everything we do, and we cannot allow misinterpretation of the rules — whether deliberate or inadvertent — by any member of our community.”

    This is the second time that Andreas’ training techniques has come under scrutiny.

    Earlier this year an investigation by the Danish Equestrian Federation found him guilty of “improper use of bit and bridle.”

    He had been under fire since April 2013 after social media users accused the rider of abusing his top ride Akeem Foldager.

    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 Epona.tv.

    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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