Ludger Beerbaum to take legal action over ‘demonstrably false’ welfare claims

  • Ludger Beerbaum is to take legal action after welfare-related accusations were made against him, stating that they are “demonstrably false”, and that his horses’ wellbeing is his top priority.

    TV broadcaster RTL showed a report on the German former Olympic champion last night (11 January), including footage of a rider labelled “Ludger Beerbaum”, allegedly showing what the report described as the practice of “parallel bars” or “bars”, similar to rapping, which is illegal in Germany and under FEI rules. The broadcaster said that a two-year project by an “investigative journalist” had led to the report.

    Ludger said today the video had “nothing to do with parallel bars”; he said it was “touching”, which is allowed under German rules, “performed by a skilled, experienced equine specialist”. He added that the object shown in the video met the German equestrian federation’s requirements for touching, in terms of its dimensions and weight.

    “The contribution of RTL extra is demonstrably false, defamatory and in many ways slanderous,” Ludger said. “Of course we will take legal action against this. It is unacceptable that secret recordings were made on my private property.

    “With regard to the accusations against me and my team: the wellbeing of the horses is a top priority for me and my team. Only a horse that is properly treated, professionally cared for and fed, trained and managed can perform in sport. The horses are our capital that we take care of day in and day out.”

    Ludger added that his yard is run as an “open stable”, with groups of visitors welcomed as guests daily, customers pick up horse feed and “interns are welcome”.

    “Here you can ride in open areas and complete daily training,” he said. “Nothing is hidden or forbidden.

    “The fact that the supposedly two-year ‘investigation’ could only reveal four scenes showing the touching of a horse shows that this permitted training method is used very rarely and is not part of our daily work.”

    Ludger Beerbaum said the “polygonal posts” found in a barn by the “alleged intern” are wooden posts used only for construction and repair of pasture fences, and that isolators for the fence tapes are clearly visible in the footage.

    “Once it is claimed that these are used for parallel bars, this is incorrect,” he said.

    “The same applies to the bars with the ‘buttons’ in the attic. I can only say that these elements have been there for years. These come from a purchased inventory of hurdles and have been selected so that they are not used. They are also not used when training with horses.

    “How any of these parts, polished and clean, get between the common obstacle poles, I can only speculate. To me, it is obvious that one of these poles was placed there explicitly for contribution. This is where we will investigate further.

    “I also note: The withdrawal of my 2004 Olympic gold medal was not based on doping, but on medication that was banned at the time.

    “The area on the practice field called the ‘Styrofoam slab’ is a perfectly normal catch basin that is used daily. This is also an indication that the article lacks sufficient expertise.”

    German federation (FN) secretary general Soenke Lauterbach said that, as FN had told RTL in 2020 and 2021, it takes the allegations very seriously.

    “This is precisely why we will carefully analyse the footage broadcast on Tuesday evening and then draw appropriate conclusions on how to proceed,” he said. “In order to be able to make a serious assessment of the facts, all video and evidence material is required, we therefore call on RTL again to make this available to us in full.

    “Even now, regardless of the contribution shown, we can clearly say that the use of square bars and dimpled or spiked bar material is unacceptable and not in accordance with the principles of fair equestrian sport.”

    FN has previously stated that RTL had been in touch to say it planned to report on bars and claimed that it had “video material that may show behaviour contrary to animal welfare”, but that the broadcaster had not made the footage available to the federation.

    “Because the association cannot fulfill its responsibility for animal welfare in equestrian sport, the FN has informed the police,” an FN spokesman said at the time.

    The federation is to deal with the matter by checking whether regulatory proceedings can be initiated, and by informing prosecutors about the RTL report so they can assess the facts.

    “In addition, the FN commission, which was set up in January 2021, continues to deal with training methods in equestrian sport and in particular with the topic of touching,” the spokesman said.

    He added: “In recent years, the FN has asked RTL several times to make the complete video material available for a technical review and to name the people involved. To this day, RTL has not complied with the requests.”

    H&H has contacted RTL for comment on the intention of Ludger Beerbaum to take legal action, and the FN’s statement.

    An FEI spokesman said: “The FEI is aware of the allegations made in the documentary and is making enquiries regarding the matter. We are already in touch with the German national federation and will continue to liaise closely with them in order to assess the appropriate course of action.

    “The welfare of the horse is central to everything that the FEI stands for and we strongly condemn all training methods and practices that are contrary to horse welfare. The FEI has stringent rules in place to protect horse welfare which allow action to be taken both at FEI events and elsewhere. The FEI absolutely condemns any form of horse abuse.

    “The FEI will provide an update as soon as further information is available.”

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