Isabell Werth: "Honest and Fair Discussion to Show Difference Between Bad Riding and Animal Abuse"

Sun, 02/18/2024 - 21:01
German dressage legend Isabell Werth and the clinic at Helgstrand Dressage in Wellington, U.S.A. :: Photo © Carmen Franco

Isabell Werth, the most decorated dressage rider in the world, has issued a statement on her social media channels, touching upon the current state of affairs in the dressage world. 

She wrote the following:


There is a lot of discussion going on at the moment, between horse lovers, riders and animal welfare activists. There have been very ugly pictures, which need consequences. I am however worried, that it is a controversy that divides us, although actually there is one thing that combines us and that is the love of horses. That is why we should sort a few things out. 

It is good that we set ourselves a high bar. I try, however, not to make quick judgements of events from afar that I have not witnessed personally. In the past 35 years, I have won many medals and have brought fantastic horses into the sport. After their careers they have spent many years and still spend their time with me as pensioners. However, I have also made many unintentional mistakes on the way and I try very hard, through personal development and good training to keep these mistakes to a minimum. Those who know their boundaries, have more humility when criticizing others.

I went to Andreas Helgstrand's yard for the first time four year ago. Thanks to Madeleine Winter-Schulze, Joshua then came to me. Since then I have been there many times. During these visits, I have never seen any form of incorrect riding or any form of incorrect behaviour. Actually, the opposite is the case. In the mean time my students and I have bought quite a few horses from him, that are all healthy and some are already successful in sport. We are very happy with all of them. 

I was also surprised about the published scenes and the statements made by former employees of Helgstrand Dressage. Although this did not happen at the establishment where Andreas Helgstrand trains himself, it remains his responsibility. I have spoken with him openly and in depth about this. There is however one thing that needs our attention: he was not pictured on any of the horses. 

It was a personal and not a financial decision to give a clinic at Helgstrand's establishment in Wellington U.S.A. While I was there I taught a few good horses with their riders and I rode one horse The video of this has been seen and commented on by some of you: No, I did not use the so called "Rollkur" nor did the horse suffer in any way. I was just not able to keep the hose, during the first time I had ridden him, properly in front of my aids and in front of the vertical. His slightly short neck did not help the situation. 

At the same time as this video was being shown, a ten year video of Bella Rose also surfaced. Bella is now 20 years old and is enjoying her pension with me. Her son is also happily growing up with us. Perhaps she will, which last year was not the case which I quite understand, like to get pregnant again this year? 

Some of you have known for a long time that the o-tone on the old video does not belong to the pictures that are shown. A chance to criticize this film was not given to me. The WDR were ordered by the court to remove this video from circulation because the wrong impression was made. This court order is still in place for anybody publicizing it. 

It is important to me, that in the future we can have an honest and fair discussion, which will show the difference between bad riding and animal abuse. Mistakes in riding however should and must be discussed - this is the core of my sport and the prerequisite for the improvement of the horse and rider. But please, it has to be factual, objective and fair. 

This is not so for cases like Cesar Parra, these are - as has already happened - a matter for public prosecution.

-- Isabell Werth

Related Links
Isabell Werth Masterclass at Helgstrand USA: "As Much as Necessary, As Less as Possible"
Helgstrand's Grand Prix Horses Jovian for Patrik Kittel, Queenparks Wendy to Isabell Werth
Operation X Documentary Causes Cascade of Anger, Indignation, Disapproval