About Witch Hunts…

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.


About Starstone

-Owned by horses. Writer, Photographer, Director, Musician.
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12 Responses to About Witch Hunts…

  1. fatponymedia says:

    Thank you for writing what has needsd to be said for a long time; and very well articulated.

    It’s a curse that socially we default to persecuting the most immediate object of our attention while missing, completely, the bigger picture.

    I hope every person who’s aware of Andreas latest flub reads this.

  2. Rebecca Plon says:

    The comment about Andreas is really really well written. Thumps up for that!

  3. Lill Bergstrøm says:


  4. virginia jones says:

    made me, made me so sorrowful for the animals so abused, if my heart could bleed it would be!!!!!!! SOOOOOOO SAD! Do I want to see more…NO…I am old…and always getting into trouble expressing my views…Poof …they say…you don t know what you are talking about! And how about the show jumpers, who (I believe) do horrendous things on top of their practice jumps to make the horses lift. Must stop…or I will be in jail!

  5. Beth wookey says:

    Thank you to the writer of the article. The comments are completely accurate. The abuse is systemic; therefore all members of the riding community with regard to this style of riding are responsible in not taking a stand. I hope the is a groundswell from the FEI to take a stand.

  6. Pingback: What the Andreas Helgestrand Abuse Is Not About - Writing of Riding

  7. You are absolutely on point and exactly why I quit subscribing as a member to all these corporations who make all the rules for these clubs and organizations. If people would drop their memberships for one year, that would definitely get their attention to our requests to stop hiring judges that would allow this to continue. If it weren’t for memberships, they wouldn’t have an organization or power to continue what the members continue to complain to them about. Just quit for one year and see the power we would have to get things to change.

  8. Kimberly R. says:

    Very well written. It appears the TRUE target of the “Witch Hunt” needs to be the FEI. What do you feel is the best way to bring them down and force them to change their ham handed tactics?

  9. This is exactly why I lost all interest in competitive dressage years ago. It is no longer about the principles of dressage or the satisfaction of training an animal to a high level. It is about gimmicks and greed. BUT if the judges would not PLACE this, it would all STOP. I blame all the Idiots In Charge for this mess (in every discipline). It used to be that you could see far better riding and trained horses in the Spanish Riding School and the various touring shows, but sadly, now they too have resorted to the gimmicks like Rollkur.

  10. Kerrie Goudsouzian says:

    I cannot understand why the governing bodies do not instruct judges and officials to disqualify ANY rider / trainer/ coach or owner that allows the cruel practice of rollkur to be used on these poor horses. Make it a level playing field for those good riders doing the right thing by the animals in their care.

  11. B-j Thurman says:

    ‘Very well said, we need to make the international federations and groups shape up and listen! This is cruelty at the most awful- where is the RSPCA and other animal welfare in all this? They love to stop cruelty? Don’t they?

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