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‘Blue tongue’ leads to social media outrage

Social media has once again put dressage training methods in the spotlight, leading to reprimands and lost sponsorship for one top Danish rider.

Danish TV station Epona.tv released pictures of Andreas Helgstrand riding his top horse Akeem Foldager at an open day last month (12 April).

The footage 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.

In 2009, there was similar public outrage when a video of Swedish rider Patrik Kittel schooling his horse, who was showing a blue tongue, appeared on YouTube. The FEI investigated, but took no action. 

In response to the pictures posted of Andreas, the Danish Equestrian Federation sent a vet to his yard the next week (19 April) 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 vet also found the horse had a cyst on his side, which is believed to have been caused by clippers rather than spurs.

Andreas has agreed to follow the advice of the vet.

“Akeem will not be trained until he is 100% ready and, at the same time, we will go through his equipment and the use of it,” he said in a statement. “We have spoken with the manufacturer of the bit in order to find one that is more suitable.”

Andreas has since been dropped by several of his leading sponsors — including feed company Equsana.

“Equsana puts horse welfare and ethics high and having to comply with these rules is part of the sponsorship agreement,” said a company spokesman. “It is therefore the veterinarian report that underlies Equsana’s final decision to terminate the sponsorship.”

Tack store Passier is also reviewing its relationship with the rider.

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