Helgstrand Dressage's work with and training of horses
- As one of the world's most recognized training centers for dressage horses, Helgstrand Dressage is dedicated to training elite dressage horses under the best possible conditions for both our employees and our horses. In order for our horses to be absolutely world-class, all treatment of horses must be done with the well-being of the horse as the highest priority.
- When training an elite horse, different training methods can be used. It is our responsibility to ensure that these are used correctly. There should be no doubt that mental or physical abuse of horses has always been prohibited by us. Therefore, TV 2's recordings make a significant impression on us. It shows unacceptable riding and treatment of horses, and it does not meet with our guidelines or values.
- We take the clips from the recordings very seriously. We have thoroughly reviewed our work processes and introduced a wide range of measures. We are not only committed to complying with current legislation, but strive to set higher standards for the industry - whether it's our work with horses, our business practices or the conditions for our employees.
- We still have more to learn. Therefore, there will be ongoing initiatives, and we have more initiatives in the pipeline.
We have taken the criticism to heart
We have come a long way – also since TV 2's recordings in January 2023 – but we are still evolving. We have conducted an independent legal investigation of our company's business practices, and we have thoroughly and in detail compared our practices and internal guidelines with the Danish Animal Welfare Act, the Danish Equestrian Federation's ethical guidelines and the International Equestrian Federation's Code of Conduct and general guidelines. On this basis, we have introduced a wide range of measures and improvement points for our animal welfare, business practices, and conditions for our employees.
Our improvement points within animal welfare
Based on the internal review of the industry's legislation and guidelines in this area, we have introduced the following since January 2023:
- Camera setup in all riding arenas, with raw footage available for review by the Danish Equestrian Federation and relevant authorities if instances of poor riding or unethical training methods are brought to our attention. Recordings are fully compliant with GDPR and are stored for 30 days.
- A stricter self-monitoring of horses, where stable managers inspect all horses every 14 days. This is in addition to daily inspections of horses and 3-5 annual veterinary checks. All horse checks significantly exceed legal requirements.
- An updated Code of Conduct and guidelines in our employee handbook that clearly describe our requirements for all work with and handling of horses. The guidelines are based on both the International Equestrian Federation's regulations and the Danish Equestrian Federation's ethical guidelines. Violation of our guidelines will result in a number of sanctions.
- Spreading knowledge of our Code of Conduct and internal guidelines upon employment, and focus on the above has been intensified in our daily work.
- Raising awareness of the whistleblower scheme. Helgstrand Dressage has had a whistleblower scheme since 2022, where investigations are conducted confidentially.
- Further training of employees in addition to ongoing dialog and alignment of expectations regarding our requirements for the treatment of horses.
Our improvement points within business conduct
Based on the independent legal investigation from Bruun & Hjejle from June 2022, we have, among other things, introduced:
- New partnership contracts for co-owners of horses with clear guidelines for ownership, costs and commission. This creates greater transparency in our deals.
- Transparency in all aspects of the contractual basis.
- Documented/written communication that is approved by both party owner and H/D as a basis for 100% agreement on the contractual basis.
- Transparency in any commission settlements (a new industry standard).
- Introduced a thorough KYC (Know Your Customer) process to ensure the validity of the purchase amount.
Our improvement points in employment and working conditions
In 2022, we conducted a thorough review of employee conditions for our employee function "Grooms" and, based on that, implemented the following:
- Significant salary increase effective from June 2022, which is now setting the industry standard.
- Opportunity for industry-leading bonus schemes.
- Significantly improved working conditions with a focus on working hours.
- A newly created function: Groom Manager, employed full-time to ensure the well-being, retention and strengthening of working conditions for the employee group.
We want to lead the way and set new standards for the industry
- At Helgstrand Dressage, we ride 350 horses daily, while selling more than 150 horses annually.
- Our horse boxes are approximately 35% larger than the Danish law requires and our horses receive significantly more exercise and free movement than the law requires.
- Our horses undergo significantly more vet visits and daily horse checks than required by law.
- We only have experienced riders of the highest level and 3 apprentices under DRF's (the Danish Equestrian Federation) Master Rider program.
- During transportation, all horses are checked by independent veterinarians. Out of 257 valid inspections as of November 2021 (approximately 500 horses in total), all have been approved for departure by official veterinarians from the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration.
We continue the development with additional initiatives in the pipeline
- We aim to establish a learning platform, where, among other things, we will educate new employees in relevant courses on horse welfare, compliance with guidelines, etc., during onboarding to enhance the level of knowledge.
- We will record a series of educational videos as part of our upcoming learning platform, which will contribute to the ongoing education of all employees.