Two days ago the TV station RTL Extra published some videos taken during two years of undercover investigations at Ludger Beerbaum’s training centre, which is considered one of the world's top show-jumping representatives (4 times Olympic gold medal, 2 times world champion).
The videos show the so-called barring, a forbidden technique consisting of "suddenly placing an unforeseen obstacle in front of the horse after the start of the jump in order to make it hit a barrier and thereby stimulate its attention and memory each time it repeats this action."*
This practice has been forbidden by the FEI International Equestrian Federation (Article 142 of the General Regulations), as well as by FISE in Italy.
“This practice makes it possible to partly achieve the desired result through the animal’s suffering and fear. In fact, the animal finds an unexpected obstacle and in addition to pain due to the impact, it also feels fear and uncertainty because the situation is unexpected and unforeseeable as it occurs after the start of the jump. The horse is then forced to face an obstacle that is different from the expected one" ... "barring should be banned as it is not respectful of the animal and therefore can be considered as ill treatment”.*
FEI too clearly says that this is horse abuse.
A milder form of barring is allowed in Germany, called rapping in English: the dynamics are the same, but very light sticks or poles are used instead of heavy barriers. Beerbaum is trying to defend himself by arguing that he only practices rapping, that those videos are a kind of trap and that he will sue RTL.
The German Equestrian Federation has initiated an investigation and is not commenting on it yet.
In 2004, Beerbaum was excluded from the team gold medal in the 2004 Athens Olympics for doping, as his horse, Goldfever, tested positive to betamethasone, a corticosteroid used against musculoskeletal inflammation.
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* National Reference Centre for Animal Welfare, Lombardy and Emilia Romagna Experimental Zooprophylactic Institute
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