RTL exposes cruelty to animals with Ludger Bierbaum’s show jumper

Updated March 3, 2022

Touch shall be forbidden

As the Equestrian Federation (FN) announced on March 3, 2022, the method of cruelty to animals in “touching” will be banned in equestrian sports. [1]

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New Equestrian Scandal: RTL TV reported on January 11, 2022 that multiple Olympic champion and world show jumping champion Ludger Bierbaum used illegal training methods on horses. Video recordings show how the horses are beaten in the legs with sticks in place of the jockey while he is training to jump. [2] A painful and violent technique to make sensitive animals jump higher.

PETA files criminal charges against Ludger Bierbaum and an unknown person

Following the publication of training methods contrary to animal welfare, we at BETA Germany are filing criminal charges against Ludger Bierbaum and another person currently unknown for torturing animal abuse as complicity in accordance with Section 17 No. 2b of the Animal Welfare Act and Section 25 Paragraph 2 of the Penal Code.

Specifically, reports are circulating about so-called parallel bars, a traumatic technique in which horses – once they’ve jumped over an obstacle – are hit on the front legs with a pole or stick. So-called parallel bars are incompatible with animal welfare and have been banned in equestrian sports since the “Bar affair” in the 1990s.

The RTL video shows that animal cruelty demonstrated by Ludger Beerbaum and his team is the forbidden “Barren” training method: here there is a sudden movement with a rod on the legs, and an obvious loud noise is heard. According to the recordings, this is by no means a mere touch. [2]

Horses get hit by bars during training

The radio had already announced the publication of the video material in which Ludger Bierbaum could be seen training with the horses in June 2020. The rider’s name was not mentioned until the end. The German Equestrian Federation (FN) responded after six months and formed a committee to look into the case. It’s hard to tell the difference between the prohibited method of parallel bars and the permitted touch. Results should be submitted by the end of 2021.

The Commission concluded that the material it obtained and viewed did not constitute a violation of the National Front Guidelines. After further conversations with RTL, FN filed a criminal complaint against unknown persons in May 2021 – the proceedings were discontinued. [3]

Icon image. In nature, horses only jump over barriers in desperate situations.

Gunther Walraf talks with the whistleblower

Material owned by broadcaster RTL against show jumper Ludger Beerbaum was leaked to editors via a whistleblower. In an interview with investigative journalist Gunther Walraff, she spoke secretly about animal cruelty to Bierbaum’s horses and explained that it was also frightening to her, as a close friend, that “such a respected horseman” tortured animals. [2].

An RTL reporter also snuck into Bierbaum’s company for several weeks and monitored the championship rider’s training. We in BETA Germany are now considering filing a criminal complaint against those responsible.

The “Bar Affair” caused a stir 30 years ago

The scandal known from the 1990s to this day as the “Bar Affair” led to the German Equestrian Federation banning parallel bars and allowing “touchup” in training. With the so-called touch, the size and weight of the shaft are determined. In an interview with FN, FN General Secretary Soenke Lauterbach explained in the context of the case that touch does not conflict with animal welfare and does not cause the horse any pain, suffering or harm. [4] Since the use of touch is permitted in training but not in a tournament, the consequences and damages from violent use cannot be controlled.

In PETA Germany, we reject any form of manipulation – manipulating horses to make them jump over obstacles for human entertainment is cruelty to animals.

A horse jumps over an obstacle with a rider on his back
Icon image. Parallel bars are a prohibited training method for training horses to jump higher.

After doping accidents: Bierbaum stripped of his Olympic title

This is not the first time that Bierbaum has acted against animal welfare towards horses. In 2004 it was publicly announced that Ludger Bierbaum had cheated on the horse Goldfever – he was later stripped of the team’s gold medal at the Olympics. [5] In 2009, PETA filed a criminal complaint against Ludger Beerbaum with the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Münster for doping. The report has been discontinued, but has been referred to the appropriate veterinary office for further examination.

Again, it is incomprehensible why horse riding is still an Olympic sport, and the only sport based on the exploitation and abuse of non-humans. One would think that we would be farther today and realize that horses have feelings and perceive every kick, every punch, every shove in the mouth as pain – and we endure it silently.

After the modern quintet caused an equestrian scandal at the 2020 Olympics by hitting her whip-wielding horse and kicking her heels, Bierbaum’s case is further proof that horses don’t belong in the sport!

Help us finally remove horseback riding from the Olympic program.

  • sources

    [1] Basic, Julia (2022): Touching horses in jumping should be prohibited, (Accessed 3/3/2022)

    [2] RTL: RTL Extra reveals forbidden ‘Barren’ training method at Ludger Beerbaum, https://www.rtl.de/cms/ludger-beerbaum-pferde-im-training-schläge-rtl-extra-deckt-skandal-um- deutschen-reitstar-auf-4897933.html (accessed January 13, 2021)

    [3] German Equestrian Federation: Statement by FN on the RTL Report dated January 11, 2022, https://www.pferd-aktuell.de/news/aktuelle-melden/fei—fn—dokr/stellungnahme-der-fn-zum-rtl-article -of-january-11-2022 (Accessed January 12, 2021)

    [4] German Equestrian Federation: Animal Welfare: Interview with Soenke Lauterbach, https://www.pferd-aktuell.de/news/aktuelle-sendungen/fei-fn-dokr/tierschutz-interview-mit-soenke-lauterbach, (accessed on January 12, 2021)

    [5] Spiegel: Team physician not notified, https://www.spiegel.de/sport/sonst/dopingfall-beerbaum-teamarzt-nicht-informiert-a-322729.html, (Accessed 12 January 2021)

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