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  • Writer's pictureJulie Taylor

Danish federation backs up FEI stewards in Falsterbo scandal

The Danish Equestrian Federation has finished its investigation of the controversial photos of Tørveslettens Stamina and Andreas Helgstrand at Falsterbo this year. According to a press release issued today, the Danish FN sees no evidence in the photos that a steward ought to have intervened on welfare grounds. However, to protect the image of the sport and himself, Andreas Helgstrand has been asked to make sure all his warm up sessions are video filmed from now on and the footage made available to the federation's officials.

See all the photos of Stamina by clicking here.

To read the federation's press relase in Danish, click here

The investigation was launched following the publication of photos depicting Stamina with her neck severely flexed by what appeared to be strong rein tension on both the curb and snaffle reins. This riding had been allowed to go on at Falsterbo International Horseshow, a prestigious FEI event, without any intervention by the stewards.

According to the Danish Equestrian Federation press release, spectators should contact stewards when they see questionable riding instead of taking pictures. However, it is unclear what that would achieve, since the stewards are fine with this type of riding.

Updated Friday October 2, 2015 at 18:15 CET

When first published the photos, we asked the Danish Equestrian Federation whether what can be seen in the photos is considered correct use of the double bridle. Unfortunately, the federation refuses to answer the question. Instead, we received this copy-pasted quote from the press release:

"As mentioned, we cannot ascertain whether a breach of the rules or anything at odds with the Code of Conduct has taken place."

Now, if you're unfamiliar with the FEI's Code of Conduct, you can read it by clicking here. According to this code, the horse's welfare must be paramount and all times and "must never be subordinated to competitive or commercial influences."

So what the Danish Equestrian Federation is saying is that it is impossible to tell from the many photos which were taken over two days whether Stamina's welfare was at any point compromised in favour of her rider's competitive interests. They can't see any evidence in the photos that the way the bridle was used was at all painful or scary to Stamina. It simply isn't possible.

The reason it's not possible is that Andreas Helgstrand and the steward in charge of protecting horses against abuse in Falsterbo both said that everything was fine and the horse's welfare was definitely paramount at all times. These testimonies are considered more trustworthy than the photos. Only video would have been good enough, says the Danish Federation. Yet, at Danish Federation approved events like the Danish Warmblood Stallion Licencing in Herning, video recordings by spectators and press are not allowed in the warm up.

You're probably wondering now how anybody is ever going to document it if a rider should abuse a horse. But you needn't fret. The Danish Equestrian Federation has told Andreas Helgstrand that he must make sure his warm up is video taped (whatever will he do in Herning where this is not allowed?). Then - if he should have another blue tongue incident or err on the side of rollkur, he can simply hand the footage over to the Federation's officials and they will make sure justice is served. Yes, the Federation put Helgstrand in charge of video monitoring his own warmups. And yes, the evidence will be handed in to the same officials who think the Falsterbo pictures are only slightly dodgy. Do you have some kind of problem with that?

There is one loose end, though. Why did the Danish Equestrian Federation launch an investigation in the first place? According to the press release, the investigation has revealed two things: The stewards at Falsterbo were fine with Helgstrand's riding. Duh! That's probably why they didn't mention any yellow cards in their report, which was available online before the Stamina photos were even published and well before the Danish Federation launched its thorough investigation. The second thing the investigation revealed was that Andreas Helgstrand did not think he had done anything wrong. We're going to have to repeat ourselves: Duh!

The only outcome of the investigation is that Helgstrand now has to film himself to protect his image and the sport. Not to protect his horses, of course. Because you know, if only there had been video from Falsterbo, it would have shown that the riding was totally horse friendly and the poor sport of dressage would not have suffered so.

Now that the Danish Equestrian Federation has come clean and admitted that it will not protect horses from riding such as that in the Falsterbo photos, we'll be talking to some politicians to ask them why they continue to leave it up to the governing bodies of equestrian sport to protect performance horses from abuse.The FEI has yet to issue its statement on whether the type of riding seen in the Falsterbo pictures should really be acceptable at FEI events.

Photo: Crispin Johannesen

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