April 23, 2024

Equestrian Sports – Animal Cruelty in Denmark and the USA Shakes the Dressage Scene – Sports

Warendorf (dpa) – The sometimes shaky images coming from the United States shocked the world of dressage. A man repeatedly hits a horse in the back with a wrench during a training session. The videos from the facility of American jockey Cesar Parra are the second shock after a television report from the Danish dressage hall and horse dealer Andreas Helgstrand.

National team coach Monica Teodorescu told the German news agency that there were rumours: “But the pictures are worse than we feared.” “What can be seen in the videos and photos is disgusting,” Swinke Lauterbach, secretary general of the German FN union, said of the recordings from the United States. Olympic event champion Ingrid Klimke, who also rides dressage, commented on the NDR: “I'm stunned. It's just cruelty and brutality.”

Aggressive and rough riding

Recordings from the Helgestrand commercial dressage stable, broadcast by Danish broadcaster TV2, initially sparked outrage in November. Among other things, horses develop open wounds from the use of spurs and whip bruises as well as aggressive riding. “When I watched the videos, I was shocked myself. It was very sad to watch,” Helgstrand said in a video on his website. “I will do everything to prevent this from happening again.”

The two-time Olympian cannot be seen in the TV2 photos, as they are employees of his stable. However, the Danish FA excluded the 47-year-old from the national team. The horse trade continues, it's big business. According to its own information, Helgstrand generated around 50 million euros in sales and an operating profit of 2.28 million in the period from July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023.

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Dramatic images from the United States of America

Helgestrand is not allowed to ride in the Paris Olympics, but his horses may be first. Jovian is now ridden by Swedish champion Patrick Kittel, who lives in Dolmen, and Windy is ridden by German record rider Isabelle Wirth from Rheinberg. “Both horses are at the peak of their careers, so it stands to reason that they will have ideal conditions to develop their athletic potential as Andreas Helgestrand retires from competition in 2024,” the Dane's website says.

The footage from the USA is considered more extreme than the TV2 images from Denmark. The German Equestrian Association FN obtained “a collection of videos and photos from various sources showing shocking treatment of horses,” according to an FN statement. American dressage rider Cesar Parra was banned by the World Equestrian Federation (FEI) on February 2.

The association finds “criminal significance”

Two weeks ago, the National Front filed a complaint against two Germans identified in the Parra case for animal cruelty in the USA. “We will do everything in our power to take action against this,” Secretary General Lauterbach said. “It is about the importance of criminal law, so we are turning to state authorities, who have much greater options in investigating and imposing penalties.” On the internal level, the National Front began exclusion procedures against the two individuals.

National dressage coach Theodorescu is still shocked by these events. “I completely reject this,” she commented. Regarding the training video from the USA, Theodorescu said on behalf of the national team's technical staff: “We strongly condemn such treatment of the horse's partner. We welcome the harsh approach of the Federation and clearly distance ourselves from training methods of this kind.” It stands for “correct dressage training of riders and horses according to classical riding theory.”

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