Burning the witch, doesn’t stop the evil.
I have been halfheartedly following the latest witch hunt that has been going on, on social media, and I have been trying to stay out of it to the best of my ability.
Before we begin then, let me just say; I do not support or excuse or condone the way Andreas Helgstrand rides his horses.
But, I think that we are losing focus on what the real issue is. It is so very easy to keep hunting Helgstrand, because clearly he isn’t clever enough to not get caught on camera time and time again, but the fact is; he is not the problem.
He is a problem, spawned by a sick sport. He is but a symptom, he is not the disease.
Truth is, FEI (the International Equestrian Federation,) and DRF (the Danish Equestrian Federation,) allows, condones, supports, protects and encourages this kind of riding.
They do so by only hiring judges that will not disqualify people who ride like that. They do so, by easily rewarding this kind of riding with big money prizes and glory.
I bet you, Helgstrand wouldn’t ride like this, if he wasn’t rewarded for it. People like him, are in the sport, (I presume,) for the money and the glory, much more than they are in it for the relationship with the horse. As long as the federations allow this and support it, people will ride like this.
Because here is what people keep forgetting when they go on personal witch hunts; Andreas Helgstrand is NOT the only one. He may be more skilled at the art of torture, (or rollkur, call it by whatever name you want,) than most, and he may be more stupid, getting caught over and over again, but truth is; everybody is doing it.
I have not been at one show in the last 15 years, be it international, national or local, and not seen people ride like that, and win. Those very, very few who treats their horse with respect and compassion never win the ribbon. I have been told, quite a few times, that my Apollon was “escaping the bit” because he had his head in or a little above vertical, like he should according to the federations own rules. I have even had more than one judge tell me to just pull on that rein and make him submit, and we would get far…
Most people (most HORSE people even,) can’t tell what bad riding is, when it is staring them in the face, and it has to be as horrible as what Helgstrand displays, for people to respond.
But chasing down Helgstrand is not going to change anything. It really isn’t. Making this personal, about Andreas, is in fact, spoon feeding FEI a chance to save face.
And they are.
Right now, FEI are officially disapproving of Helgstrand.
Not of the sport, not of how everybody else is riding, not of how much abuse and torture is going on in the name of the sport, every single day, no. Just disapproving of Andreas, because he is the one we don’t like at the moment.
That means that FEI can be swayed by public opinion. That means that if rollkur became unpopular enough, they would have to take a stand against it. But as it is, because this is yet another personal issue, it is very easy for them to just shrug it off with Helgstrand being too much of a bad rider. Public doesn’t like him, great, we don’t either.
What if the public didn’t like bits, or spurs, or nosebands, or violence in general, instead of spending so much energy on chasing down one man?
Andreas may stop riding some day, if this continues. We have had other riders in Denmark, who has stopped competing because they have been too unpopular. But they did not stop training horses, and they did not stop training new riders. People still send their young horses to these people, to be broken in.
The abuse didn’t stop, the sport didn’t change.
Nothing was made better for the horse in general, or for the horses owned by those riders, as others just took over riding them, exactly the same way.
But the public felt that justice had been served, as the worst scumbag had stopped competing.
I don’t know. I kind of think that is a hollow victory.
For me, I don’t care about the name of the riders. I care about the horses they ride, the horses bound, broken, tortured and abused, in the name of the sport.
So I am not jumping on the Helgstrand Hunting team here, and I am not posting any new pictures of him. I believe we all saw them on face book, whether we wanted to or not.
I am however, going to take this opportunity to repost some of my pictures from the Danish Nationals 2013 and the JBK horse show 2014 and I would like to point out that I went to both these events, hoping to get some good pictures of the best riders in the world and I was so shocked and horrified by how utterly impossible it is to find a good rider amongst the world elite, that I completely left the equestrian world behind after that.
Or, that is, after I asked FEI if this was truly allowed, and they supported the riders on all accounts, even those obviously breaking FEI’ own rules.
Just think about it, before you make it personal. It is easy to hate on an individual. But it isn’t going to change anything. In fact, it is only making it easier for FEI to allow the abuse to continue.