Andreas Helgstrand Under Fire After Publication of Training Photos
Danish dressage champion and Olympic bronze medallist Andreas Helgstrand has been under fire after Epona.tv released photos of him riding his top horse Akeem Foldager at an Open House demonstration on 12 April 2014.
The horse welfare team of Epona.tv published photos of Akeem Foldager ridden in a double bridle with Baucher snaffle, showing an open mouth and blue tongue. On the right flank of the horse spur marks were visible. The Open House day was streamed live on the internet and the video of Andreas riding Akeem can be seen here.
Epona wrote at the time: "Do you remember the horse Akeem Foldager who had to be spurred so hard to perform at the European Championships in Herning, Denmark, last year? The one whose medication for a respiratory illness had been taken away so that he could compete even though he was actually ill? Well he's back in the spotlight, performing at last weekend's open house at Helgstrand Dressage. Don't worry about the blue tongue or the spur marks. Leading Danish Equestrian Federation dignitaries were there to ensure no horses were harmed."
The photos caused an international media upheaval to which the Danish Equestrian Federation responded by sending veterinarian Peter Busk over to Helgstrand's yard to check on the health of the horse. In a press release (in Danish) issued 19 April 2014, the federation reported that that Busk noticed "a single, superficial, dry crack with no reaction of the underlying tissue and without soreness to palpation." Busk also stated he found no abnormalities on the horse's sides apart from a small, cyst-like lump, which Andreas Helgstrand explained that any discolouration of the hairs seen on photos was down to how the horse was clipped.
The press release further stated that "the blue discoloration and the avoidance reaction to palpation of the right bar of the mouth are clear signs of incorrect use of equipment or aids. The Danish Equestrian Federation has made it clear to Andreas Helgstrand that his use of the double bridle has been entirely unacceptable and not in accordance with our ethical guidelines. Andreas Helgstrand admits this and is in dialogue with the Danish Equestrian Federation about the use of equipment. At the same time, Andreas Helgstrand has chosen to follow the recommendation of the veterinarian to give Akeem Foldager some time off from training undtil the pain reaction in the right bar of the mouth has disappeared. He has further agreed to let the Danish Equestrian Federation keep track of Akeem Foldager in order to ensure that the above conditions are brought in order."
In the wake of this controversy, one of Helgstrand's main sponsors, Danish feed company Equsana, has cancelled its sponsorship contract with the rider.
Helgstrand is trained by Danish team trainer Rudolf Zeilinger and the past year he has also been working with Morten Thomsen.
It is not the first time that Epona has red-flagged dressage in Denmark. After the 2013 Danish National Championships, the site also posted photos of several riders training their horses in the LRD-rollkur-hyperflexed position.
Photos © Epona.tv
Statement from Andreas Helgstrand on Epona.tv Training Photos
Rollkur Debate Flares Up Again in Denmark
Equsana: Equsana Opsiger Sponsoraftale med Helgstrand Dressage
Danish Equestrian Federation: Peter Busk report on Akeem Foldager's condition (in Danish)
Epona: Andreas Helgstrand blames bridle
Epona: Danish Equestrian Federation reacts to Akeem photos