Former Olympic champion’s animal welfare charges dropped – and ‘touching’ training method banned

  • ALL welfare charges against Ludger Beerbaum have been dropped – but the previously allowed method of “touching” has been banned by the German equestrian federation (FN).

    The former Olympic champion said last year that the allegations made by a broadcaster concerning his training were “demonstrably false” – he was accused of “parallel bars”, a practice similar to rapping, at home. He said it was “touching”, which is allowed, “performed by a skilled, experienced equine specialist”. He added that the object shown in the video met the FN requirements for touching, in terms of its dimensions and weight.

    The FN disciplinary committee has now dropped the case.

    “In January 2022, FN was presented with video material that was supposed to show the alleged use of illegal training methods in Ludger Beerbaum’s stable,” an FN statement said.

    “Proceedings before the FN disciplinary commission followed, which have now been discontinued.

    “The reason: There is no evidence that the horse was inflicted with significant pain in the video sequence on which the procedure was based. In its reasoning, the disciplinary commission is in line with the decision of the Münster public prosecutor’s office, which also dropped the criminal proceedings pending there in September.

    “Although the FN was presented with several video sequences, only one sequence was the subject of the proceedings. In the remaining sequences, either the people involved could not be identified or the filmed behaviour did not give rise to any initial suspicion of a violation of the LPO.”

    Ludger Beerbaum, who said last year he planned to take legal action against the broadcaster, said he considered the decision a “clear acquittal”.

    “The whole procedure has taken far too long and this decision was foreseeable,” he said.

    But since the accusations were made, FN has banned touching, which was described as “professional sensitising of the horse through targeted touching of the horse’s legs during the jumping process”.

    “This stimulates a horse which has become sloppy to increase its attention and coordination again,” the former rule states. It is no longer allowed.

    FN said that for a year, its experts had “dealt with the training method of touching horses at the jump and examined the method from all sides”, before the ban was decided on.

    Secretary general Soenke Lauterbach said the experts had determined that the practice is now “not relevant” to animal welfare.

    FN training manager Thies Kasparit added: “We have found that even experts often find it difficult to illustrate and convey where the limit of the previously permitted, professional touching is at the jump. For us, the wellbeing of the horses is our top priority. Our training system, which has matured over generations, is based on the classic riding theory, which is described in our guidelines for riding and driving and taught by our trainers. However, it is very difficult for the actors involved to carry out the touching at the jump exactly as it should be done according to the guidelines.

    “There is a possibility that mistakes are made when touching the jump. There is almost no fault tolerance with this method. Small deviations can have negative consequences for the horse.”

    Public acceptance of horses in sport was also considered; Mr Lauterbach said: “The public, whether close to horses or not, however, does not differentiate between parallel bars and touching at the vault and considers both methods unfair to the horse. We have not succeeded in making the differences clearly understandable. This is one of the reasons why we are now saying goodbye to touching on the jump. At the same time, we stand by our classic riding teachings, which we are the custodians of. And this also includes the professional use of equipment such as spurs and crops.”

    You might also be interested in:

    Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.

    You may like...