The first installment of the highly anticipated undercover documentary “Operation X: Secrets of the Horse Billionaire” broadcast on Wednesday evening, November 22, 2023, on the Danish commercial television station TV2. It has sparked a wave of rage, outrage, and displeasure, resulting in an expected social media firestorm.
Helgstrand attempted to prohibit the broadcast through two judicial procedures because he opposed the undercover tactics, but he was unsuccessful in both.
The first segment features covert film of grooms caring for and concealing traces of the horses’ training: The horse Devolution has open spur wounds and the horse Floss Dance has whip markings. When customers arrive, undercover groom Rebekka discovers that her fellow grooms clean up spur marks with shoe polish and hide whip markings by blanketing horses.
Horses are featured in a later period of the programme, all rode with draw reins. Some horses are spurred so fiercely that they jump into the reins, one rears, another collides with the kickboard, and yet another refuses by going into rein-back. Several horses being hauled from left to right in an extremely tight frame, behind the vertical. For a few seconds, one rider forcefully spurs the horse and kicks it with the heels. A horse is lunged with his nose tethered so close to his chest that he must trot in a circle no larger than 10 metres in diameter.
Another stable scene features Rebekka and another groom discussing the wounds in the mouth of horse Natural Spring. Rebekah inquires of her colleague about the wounds. She responds yes and explains that she always takes the horse with her and that she applies ointment to it every day. This is true of practically all horses. “Bonjour and Darwin bleed frequently,” she adds. Every now and then, devolution bleeds. Natural Spring bleeds constantly.”
The groom claims she also spoke with the rider and urged him to stop “doing it.” He grasped “some” of it. “Naxos, too, bleeds all the time.” I’m growing used to his being rough on the horses.” The identity of “he” remains unclear. In the undercover footage, Andreas Helgstrand is not seen biking.
Helgstrand Dressage is a prominent equestrian training and sales stable specializing in dressage horses. The company was founded by Andreas Helgstrand, a Danish dressage rider, and business entrepreneur. Helgstrand Dressage is known for its high-quality dressage horses and its involvement in the training and development of top-level dressage talent.
The stable has gained international recognition for its success in breeding, training, and selling dressage horses that compete at the highest levels of the sport. Andreas Helgstrand himself has had a successful career as a dressage rider, representing Denmark in various international competitions.
In addition to its focus on competitive dressage, Helgstrand Dressage is also involved in the sale and export of dressage horses to clients worldwide. The stable has built a reputation for producing horses with excellent movement, temperament, and the potential for success in the dressage arena.