Austrian Dressage Rider, Trainer Fined for Using Electric Shocks in Training

Training by electric shock is inadmissible in Austria, according to a recent decision of an Austrian court house ruling against international dressage rider Ulrike Prunthaller and trainer Friedrich Atschko of Bartlguts Stables.

Prunthaller has been fined 4,000 euros (about $5,351 USD) and Atschko 5,000 euros (about $6,689 USD) in a civil court decision resulting from a lawsuit filed by the Australian Equestrian Federation. Prunthaller has also been banned from competition for nine months, according to the federation's website.

Electric "stun guns" were discovered in the stables without plausible explanation, the website reported. Experts, including German welfare expert Maximilian Pick, DVM, searched the premises after learning of reports of abuse.

According to the German equestrian magazine Pferd Plus, Bartlguts grooms anonymously posted a YouTube video describing training methods, including the use of stun guns, nails poked against the withers, and stones under nosebands. However, the court determined that the plaintiffs lacked sufficient proof to substantiate claims other than use of the stun gun.

Bartlguts Stables owner Wenzel Schmidt released a statement Tuesday describing "serious allegations" against the court and its decision. Schmidt and the defendants intend to file an appeal, the release read.

Austrian Grand Prix dressage stallion Bartlguts Harvard, trained by Atschko and ridden by Prunthaller, was Austria's national champion as a 6-year-old in 2005 and was nominated to be Austria's Horse of the Year in 2010.

About the Author

Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA

Christa Lesté-Lasserre is a freelance writer based in France. A native of Dallas, Texas, Lesté-Lasserre grew up riding Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and Shetland Ponies. She holds a master’s degree in English, specializing in creative writing, from the University of Mississippi in Oxford and earned a bachelor's in journalism and creative writing with a minor in sciences from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She currently keeps her two Trakehners at home near Paris. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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