Okay so Epona.Tv has been stirring up trouble again, by displaying Andreas Helgstrand and his horse Akeem Foldager at an openhouse event at Helgstrand Dressage. Akeem has rather clear wounds from the spurs and his tongue is to say the least, blue, in these pictures.
I won’t say we didn’t expect that. Honestly, that is one of the reasons why my friends and I would never go to open house events at Helgstrand Dressage. Akeem is not the only horse ridden like that, in front of a live audience, all of who are clapping their hands off at the end of the ride.
Even the Danish Equestrian Federation has had to pretend to respond to these pictures, and one of Andreas’ sponsors, Equsana, has made a public announcement that they are reviewing their partnership with Helgstrand. Long story short, everybody knows that this horse is being tortured, and no one is going to save him.
I know, just pictures, right? It could be an unfortunate moment… because of course, Akeem’s tongue tend to go blue from one moment to another… I even heard someone on facebook try to explain that Akeem recently changed riders, and we all know that Andreas sit on the horse like he was water skiing, with his legs stretched forward, (allowing him to hang on to the rein with all of his weight, and to actually look like he is sitting quietly on a horse that does not carry itself at all,) so it couldn’t be him who made those wounds on Akeem. Really, his legs never get this far back on the horse… And he only just got it…
Now, what is killing me about this is not the ignorance of the statement, as much as it is the willingness to make up excuses for a man who is quite obviously mistreating his horse in full view of the public.
First off, Andreas bought Akeem LAST YEAR. If the wounds from the spurs, from any previous rider hasn’t healed in a year, well… I would say you can’t hold the current rider totally blameless then. Second, here is the video. Watch it in full screen. The spur marks only get worse as we go through it.
I am actually astounded. Why would anyone clap their hands at this kind of riding? The horse is SO off beat you can SEE it with the naked eye at a trot, which is usually quite difficult. The horse is screaming to the audience and they are… applauding?
Watching this video makes me feel sick. Is this where Dressage is going? No wait, this is where we are at. Can we stop now, please?
Akeem is one of the BEST horses in the world, there can be no disputing that. I have to wonder, WHY is it needed to ride him like this? If Akeem was born and breed for dressage, why then, should you need to kick his sides until he bleeds, why would you need to hold on to the rein so hard that you block all circulation to his tongue? Shouldn’t dressage be easy?
Let me post another video of Akeem and Andreas, from last year, when they had just become a “team.”
Now here, we actually get to see a pretty good horse. Akeem is fighting to remain the well ridden horse he used to be. His trot, his piaffe, his passage, it’s not as horrible, as painful, to behold as it is now. Look at his piaffe work, how he carries himself, by raising his back and supporting himself on his hindlegs. And then go back and watch the video from this year, how he is off beat, jumping up and down, and giving up on doing what his rider wants.
So, one of the best riders we have in Denmark, pretty much managed to ruin one of the best horses, in about a year?
Am I being cruel now? Maybe. I just think these videos speak for themselves, and if I was Andreas, I would take one long, hard look at these two videos and wonder why I have let myself destroy this talented, well trained horse, and why I let my everyday life with the horse turn into a war that no one can win and no one can gain anything from. This was a fantastic horse when he got it, and it held on to its training as long as it could. Now, let’s see, I’ll give it another year, two perhaps, if it gets secret treatments for its joints- (which of course I can’t say if the Equestrian World would ever use and I am NOT saying that Andreas would ever dope his horses, I am just saying that Akeem would live longer if it is doped)- before it breaks down for good and we never see it again.
So, let’s applaud here, like the audience in the video from the open house event 2014. Let’s applaud the slow murder of this horse. Let’s applaud his silent screaming for help, his gasping for air, his tense and aching body, and let’s applaud the rider, the trainer and the sponsors for all taking part in this abuse.
Yes, the sponsors. I know, I haven’t really wanted to go after the sponsors in the past, because I must admit, the Equestrian World needs sponsors for all the big events. I was one of those who told people to lay off Ecco last year, for sponsoring the National Championships, not feeling that it would do any good to just force the major sponsors out of the sport.
I have to admit, I am slowly changing my mind.
Equsana, who is a horse feed company, is sponsoring Andreas. The second I saw their logo on his saddle pad, last year, I stopped feeding my horses any of their products. Why? Because unlike Ecco, Equsana is a HORSE product. They should KNOW better.
Which leads me back to Ecco. Well, Akeem is co-owned by Hanne Toosbuy Kasprzak of ECCO Shoes. She was at the open house event, she saw the horse being abused, and she didn’t stop it. If that were MY horse, being ridden like that, I would not have been watching silently, much less applauding.
So, maybe it is time to go after Ecco after all. Maybe it is time to accept that even those who might not know any better has a responsibility to look into what it is they are backing, and if they don’t care, those of us who do, should walk away. It is all we CAN do, walk away. And keep posting the pictures, talking about it. Maybe someday, the Danish Equestrian Federation won’t be led by Andreas’ father anymore. Maybe someday, change will come.
Unfortunately, it will almost certainly be too late for Akeem. It probably already is.
In the interest of fairness, I will add a link to Helgstrand’s sponsor page. And I know, Ecco is not on it. They just part own the horse he is killing.
And now, before people think I just have a special bone to pick with this guy, I don’t. I really don’t. I don’t know Andreas. I don’t know Akeem. I don’t know any of the players personally. I just have a very low tolerance for animal abuse and I can’t stand it that people keep talking about this kind of riding like it goes away as soon as the horse is let back into his stall.
Yes, it is horrible, how Akeem’s tongue is blue, how the spurs are used, and so forth, but what no one is saying, is how this affect his spine, and his joints. This is not just an hour of torture he has to endure every day, when ridden, this kind of riding IS killing him, because NO horse can handle this in the long run. Basic horse anatomy. This horse will be suffering from ligament injuries and damaged joints, if not yet, then soon. Go back and look at what you CAN see of the horse’s legs, above the bandages, and tell me that the hook is not swollen. I know, that could be caused by anything, but one must wonder, what does the rest of the legs look like, underneath the wrapping?
Again, I am not out to get Andreas in particular. He just keeps spoon feeding us examples of everything that is wrong with Dressage sport these days. I am sorry, I am really sorry, for this magnificent horse.
And for all of you who think I am over reacting, well, time will tell. Let’s see how long Akeem stays in the sport before he breaks down for good. Did that feel like a sick game to play? Well, yes. Dressage has turned that ugly these days. So let’s sit by and watch as this horse dies before our eyes.
And before I am getting sued for this post, prove me wrong. I would love to see Akeem live the next 25 years. Prove me wrong, please.