Andreas Helgstrand Under Fire for Alleged Abuse of Akeem Foldager

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Andreas Helgstrand on Akeem Foldager at the 2013 European Championships. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Andreas Helgstrand on Akeem Foldager at the 2013 European Championships. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

April 21, 2014

Danish rider Andreas Helgstrand is under fire following a photo of Akeem Foldager displaying a blue tongue that the rider admits was caused by a curb chain around the nose being too tight but a veterinary examination on Monday cleared him of accusations he was hiding spur marks on the horse.

“I am deeply shaken,” Andreas said on a Danish television broadcast from his stables in Vodskov on Monday. “I’ve never tried anything like it.”

An examination of the horse by a veterinarian on behalf of the Danish Federation found no wounds on the gelding and led to Animal Protection retracting accusations of “obvious wounds on the horse’s belly caused by heavy use of spurs… concealed by color.”

“I certainly regret that we have jumped on the bandwagon and have talked about a wound, if it is true that there has never been any wounds. I’m sorry,” Jens Svenningsen from Animal Protection said in the TV report.

Photographs of Akeem Foldager at a stallion show at the Helgstrand Dressage stables were published on an Internet site–seen here http://epona.tv/blog/2014/april/danish-equestrian-federation-reacts-to-akeem-photos). The photos led to widespread criticism and a decision by the Danish federation to have a veterinarian examine the horse.

Akeem Foldager was first competed by Andreas a year ago and the last competition for the 14-year-old horse (Akinos x Loran) was on the Danish team at the Euopean Championships in Herning, Denmark last summer.

Peter M. Busk, an independent vet, examined the horse with a Danish federation official present.

“Peter M. Busk concludes in his report that the skin is normal everywhere on the horse without any scars, wounds or scabs,” the federation said in a news release.

“However, the veterinarian found some pain reaction in the right side of the jaw, where the curb bit applies pressure. ‘The mucosa in the area did not show any scabs or other abnormalities.

“He recommends that the horse does not compete or is trained before the pain reaction in the right side of the jaw is reduced or gone.”

“Akeem will not be trained until he is 100% ready, and at the same time, we will go through his equipment and the use of it,” Andreas Helgstrand said. “Among other things, we have communicated with the manufacturer of the bit in order to find one that is more suitable for Akeem.

“It is totally unacceptable that Akeem has a blue tongue. This should, of course, never happen, and we have concluded that the curb chain had been fitted too tight. It was, therefore, adjusted immediately.

“It is obvious that these pictures create a debate and we are completely focused on making the necessary changes–including adjusting the bridle.”

He said, “Anyone questioning Akeem’s state of health is welcome in our stable.”