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  • Writer's pictureJulie Taylor

Danish federation reacts to Akeem photos

The massive, international reaction to photos of the horse, Akeem Foldager, from an open house event at Helgstrand Dressage has forced the Danish Equestrian Federation to make a rare statement.

"The pictures have given us occasion to look further into the matter, and therefore we have decided to call a meeting with Andreas Helgstrand and at the same time have a veterinarian examine Akeem Foldager."

If you are unfamiliar with the way the Danish Equestrian Federation works, you would be excused for taking such a statement as an indication that the matter were being taken seriously. In actual fact, for a number of reasons, we won't be holding our breath waiting for Akeem's ordeal to end.

The first clue is the way the DEF includes in its statement that the pictures were taken at "a private event" - thereby distancing itself from the show and failing to mention that Danish Equestrian Federation President Ulf Helgstrand was present at the event, being the father of the rider in the pictures, international Grand Prix rider Andreas Helgstrand.

Also present were a journalist and photographer from the Danish Equestrian Federation magazine, Ridehesten. A report from the event was published on Ridehesten's website with no mention of any blue tongues or spur marks. Even "Norman" the FEI's mascot for the 2014 World Equestrian Games in Normandy was present at this "private" event hosted by the son of the DEF President. The only reason the governing body of equestrian sport in Denmark would try to distance itself from such an event is to be able to claim that it has no say in what sort of riding took place there.

The second clue that nothing much will happen is that a vet will even have to examine Akeem Foldager in order for the Danish Equestrian Federation to form an opinion of the photos. What is the vet going to do? Will the photos only have consequences for Andreas Helgstrand if there is scarring to be found in the horse's mouth or on his sides? Is that really what it takes? And if so, what are the odds that the Danish Equestrian Federation will employ an unbiased vet to perform the examination? What are the odds that the DEF will really come out and announce that the son of its President abused a horse in the presence of the President himself and a host of other dignitaries, including the WEG mascot? Imagine the implications. It's just not going to happen.

The third clue that Akeem Foldager is stuffed and nobody will come to his aid is that he is not just owned by the son of the DEF President. He is co-owned by one of Denmark's biggest sponsors of equestrian sport, Hanne Toosbuy Kasprzak of ECCO Shoes. Mrs. Kasprzak was right there at the event as the photos were taken. Smiling and laughing. What was done to Akeem was done with her blessing. She has the power to retire him today, heal his wounds and give him a wonderful life for the rest of his days. But she doesn't have to because the Danish Equestrian Federation cannot afford to even try to force her hand.

Meanwhile, the sponsors of Andreas Helgstrand are largely silent. Feed company Equsana have issued a dubious statement saying they will have to "consider future business partnerships" - but as the company was present at the event where the photos were taken and even posted videos and photos of the riding, Andreas Helgstrand's treatment of Akeem Foldager can come as no surprise to them. Time will tell if Equsana is really listening to its customers or just paying lip service.

The tack shop Linsmark told clients they would not judge Helgstrand on the basis of photographs but would only distance themselves if the rider were convicted for animal cruelty.

We have sent questions to head sponsor for the Danish Equestrian Federation, Sydbank, as well as Andreas Helgstrand sponsors Passier & Sohn, Kingsland and Jan Nygaard BMW. We're still waiting for replies.

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