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The German Equestrian Federation responds to RTL video footage of alleged “rapping” at Ludger Beerbaum Stables

Wednesday, 12 January 2022

Yesterday evening, on January 11, 2022, the German broadcaster RTL published an article which included video footage that allegedly shows Olympic Champion Ludger Beerbaum training horses while they are being subject to what the RTL in their reporting has defined as the illegal method of “rapping” [also known as poling, or “Barren” in German]. The article and video footage can be found on RTL’s website. 

Under the FEI General Regulations art. 142, rapping is prohibited during an FEI event or at “any other time” – and is defined as horse abuse. In Germany, national regulations draw a line between permitted touching and forbidden barring. 

In a statement released by the German Equestrian Federation (FN) on January 12, 2022, the federation explained how it was approached by the RTL editorial team back in July 2020 with a request regarding the use of methods that potentially could violate animal welfare in equestrian sports. After further talks with RTL, the editorial team revealed to the federation that they had video footage that they were prepared to publish. In February 2021, RTL editors showed the federation a video sequence that according to the federation did not allow for any conclusions to be drawn, neither about the persons involved, nor about whether it was a violation of the federation’s guidelines. In order to be able to meet its responsibility under the Animal Welfare Act, and for a better analysis of the footage, the federation asked RTL on several occasions to make the entire video material available to them. The federation also stated that it asked RTL to identify the people in the video footage in order to check the facts and, if necessary, to follow up. The federation stated that RTL did not comply with their requests.

In May 2021, the federation took the step to file a criminal complaint against unknown persons of a possible violation of the Animal Welfare Act, with the hope that the authorities could access the full video footage as part of their investigations and clarify whether the Animal Welfare Act had been violated. In November 2021, the public prosecutor's office in Münster informed the federation that the investigation had been discontinued.

Commenting on the video footage released by the RTL yesterday, the German Equestrian Federation detailed on their website (unofficial translation): 

“On January 11, 2022, the TV magazine “RTL Extra” published an article about the alleged use of unauthorized training methods and possible violations of the Animal Welfare Act in Ludger Beerbaum's stable. The German Equestrian Federation (FN) takes the following position:

"As we already told RTL in 2020 and 2021, we take the allegations very seriously. This is precisely why we carefully will analyse the footage broadcasted on Tuesday evening and then draw appropriate conclusions on how to proceed. In order to be able to make a serious assessment of the facts, all video and evidence material is required. We therefore again call on RTL to make this available to us in full,” says FN Secretary General Soenke Lauterbach. He emphasizes: "Even now, regardless of the feature published, we can clearly say that the use of square poles and dimpled or spiked pole material is unacceptable and not in accordance with the principles of fair equestrian sport."”

The federation went on to state that it will deal with the matter on three levels:

“On the one hand, we will look into whether regulatory proceedings can be initiated. On the other hand, with regard to the criminal complaint filed in 2021, we will inform the public prosecutor about the RTL feature so that they can assess the facts on the basis of the Animal Welfare Act. In addition, the FN commission, which was set up in January 2021, continues to deal with training methods in equestrian sport and in particular with the topic of touching.”

The federation added that it several times has requested RTL to make the complete video material available for a technical review, and to identify the people involved, but that RTL has not complied.

Read the full statement in German on the federation’s website. 

World of Showjumping has asked the FEI for a comment, but had not received a reply by the time of publication. 

At this stage, no statement has been released by Ludger Beerbaum. 



*Editor's note: In the FEI Jumping Rules, rapping is described as follows: 

"The term "rapping" is construed to include all of the artificial techniques intended to induce the Horse to jump higher or more carefully in Competitions. It is not practical to list every possible means of rapping, but in general it consists of the Athlete and/or dismounted assistants, for whose behaviour the Athlete is responsible, either hitting the Horse's legs manually with something (no matter with what or by whom) or deliberately causing the Horse to hit something itself, whether by building obstacles too large and/or too wide, setting false ground lines, placing trotting poles or the elements of a combination at a false distance, intentionally pulling or pushing the Horse into an obstacle or otherwise making it difficult or impossible for the Horse to negotiate the practice obstacle without hitting it."

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