*Article by Josepha Guillaume*
Like many horse lovers, including myself decades ago, we bought the ‘happy athletes’ lie and looked up to the high-ranking professionals in the sport.
So did famous Dutch model and my friend Lonneke Engel . She therefore placed her horse U2, in the - what she thought - to be the loving care, of Academy Bartels. U2 was to be educated for competition, while Lonneke worked in the US.
Lonneke asked about her horse U2 all the time and visited when she could.
3,5 years had passed and Lonneke went and picked U2 up. Alas, immediately she noticed he was not well. The once happy vibrant horses was just a shadow of his former self.
She discovered through veterinary examination that U2’s mouth and jaw were severely damaged, he had spur marks and wounds, and was in very bad shape, both physically as well as mentally. At Academy Bartels, no one cared to give Lonneke an explanation as to why and how this happened.
I myself, in over two decades of being an equine rehab trainer can attest to the fact that many FEI prospects, ‘leave the backdoor’ of these high-end stables, very much in the same condition.
They have become physical and mental wracks, that need an enormous amount of rehabilitation, to be at least somewhat comfortable again.
These horses suffer lifelong damage from the so called ‘happy athlete’ treatment.
I did not know what else to do, then to educate people in a ‘horse first’ approach and how to recognize when horse are actually suffering, instead of being the ‘Happy Athlete’ they are portrayed to be by the (equine) press and the governing bodies such as the FEI.
Once you see it, you cannot unsee it.
It is my hope that enough people will stop supporting competition rider with horses who are suffering. Empty stadiums, shall end the heavy sponsorship and with no large sums of money to be gained, there is no point in forcing and abusing horses, is there?
But Lonneke, she did what all horse caring people with the same experience should have done:
She took legal action!
Weirdly enough, the MSM turned against her. They never interviewed her, never asked for the evidence she presented. No, instead they attacked her and choose Bartels’ side, without question.
Why would that be?
Many fans of Bartels attacked her online. No one ever bothered to ask her what happened to U2 and why she was spending all this energy, time, and money, if not for good reason. No one bothered to ask her how U2 was doing. Lonneke had to endure a long journey of vitriol and bad press, constantly, for almost a decade!
TkThe first judge took the same approach, completely ignoring the evidence.
But warrior Lonneke never gave up!
She appealed.
Finally, after 9 years, she was vindicated, that indeed U2 suffered lifelong injury, due to the way he was handled and trained at Bartels.
Three judges had taken part of the evidence in accord, all though they did wanted to hear any witnesses or appraiser, which is not in accordance with the law. Therefore, Lonneke was not compensated for the huge financial loss she suffered. Nevertheless, she is satisfied with the ruling, as now, she has legal proof that U2 suffered his injuries at the hands of so called professional and widely celebrated equestrian sport establishments and trainers.
So why do it? And why is it important?
It is important because this is the first court case which delivers legal proof, that a horse in the presumed best high end equestrian sport care, has suffered lifelong damage, as a result of that care and that the so-called training establishment, dismissed as nothing abnormal.
This now opens the possibility to other equine victims and their humans to go to court and present their evidence in the same manner.
However, that is not all, what is even more important, is that Lonneke was able to present her case at the Dutch House of Representatives. Member Dion Graus has taken the evidence from U2’s court case as cause, to open up an investigation into harmful practices and training aids, used on sport horses. This means that the Dutch government is now investigating animal welfare, or rather the lack there off within professional and amateur equestrian sports.
This can mean that in the future, animal welfare laws will be applied to Equestrian sport and horse training. Cases like that of U2 can then be brought to the DA and perpetrators such as Academy Bartels can be formerly charged with animal cruelty. I will keep you posted on this.
The Netherlands is not the only country where things are stirring!
This is why I follow up closely on the Helgstrand case. When the undercover video that is made at Helgstrand’s will be allowed as evidence in court. That establishment too, can be charged with many cases of animal cruelty. The first judge ruled that the undercover footage may be uses for showing on television. Helgstrand appealed. Hopefully the next judge will again rule in favour of the undercover journalist.
Furthermore, Blue Horse, is sizing down notably and Viegaard Stutteri has gone bankrupt. During the curator raid, many dead equine bodies were dug up from the grounds. What horrors have gone on here? Sadly, the remaining horses are sold off as commodities, and exactly this has got to change. Horses are not commodities, they are living, breathing beings with intelligence and self-awareness. They form close family bond, and they can suffer both mentally as physically. Investigation such as are going on within the Dutch Government can change this!
I hereby call everyone who has witnessed any forms of cruelty and has evidence as such, to file a police report. If enough of us start doing this, things will start to change.
Let us all take action and no longer allow our beloved, innocent horses to be abused and damaged. We owe it to them! They have serviced us with their lives for thousands of years.
You are not alone, we are legion and we are the #yellowhorserevolution
I let Lonneke tell the rest of her story via the link below.
Please drop her social media a visit and thank her for her relentless fight for U2 and for all the horses in the future!
Click on the photo to go to Lonneke's video
Text © Josepha Guillaume
Image ©  Lonneke Engel

Bodily Autonomy

Grooming horses
Bodily Autonomy
grooming horses
Traumatized horses, healed by living species appropriate
They have been through so much, since early childhood
Due to human ignorance, greed and cruelty
They had to fight for their lives more than once
PTSS is a constant reminder of what they have been through, without them having had any control over their own body.
No bodily autonomy
That is most horse’s daily and life long faith
And honestly, if I was not such an experienced, outside the box rehabber and had they not lived #speciesappropriatly
They would have been dead, many years ago
But now they are 16 and 21
And they have full bodily autonomy
They can choose:
Whether close together or apart
Inside or outside
Eating or not
Training or not
And I thank God, we can give this to them every day
Which healed them, both in spirit as well as physical... as far as possible.
“Forever altered
But healed to be risen”
Josepha Guillaume
From the poem ‘Healed to be risen’, chapter about the traumatized horses, from the Book Dressage in Hand - What horses want you to know
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Making the transition (to the track system)


Making the transition

I think it was 15 years ago when I read the book Paddock Paradise from Jaime Jackson and since then I always dreamed of having that for my horses. Alas, our little equestrian facility is rather small, and we had already spent a lot of money on traditional stables, arena etc. and that set up, to my mind would not function to make a track. Also, we had around 7 to 9 horses on the premises, of which 4 or 5 were horses in training. My own 5 horses could not even be together in a paddock as they would fight to the death. Remember, whether my own horses or those I received in training were always deep troubled, traumatized and/or lame and injured horses. Therefore, I saw no workable way of putting them together. My husband often said we could make a track in our grass paddock but I thought, to what use, much to small. Later I should find out that this was not what he meant. I needed to learn to ask questions rather than assume…

Since September 2020 we only had 3 horses left, of which two could stand with 29 year old Owen, but putting them together or putting Don Conquistador together with Inocencio was absolute warfare. You see, Inocencio has an extreme traumatizing past, since before he was 6 months old and he was weaned much to early and not socialized until he came to us at 6 months in 2003.

Inocencio would chase Don Conquistador relentlessly until he had him cornered and would start kicking into him without end. As Donny is already a very fearful horse with hypermobility, PSSM and severe childhood trauma, this was the last thing he needed. Still, I thought, if I had more room where Donny could get away from Ino, this problem would solve itself.

The last time I tried Donny and Ino together was 7 years ago. Since then, both changed a lot, for the better. Inocencio is still kind of awkward with personal space, but he is very calm and no longer stressed nor in any way aggressive. Seeing them standing in their separate paddocks bored out of their wits and me not having enough energy (because of chronic illness) to take care of their entertainment needs with training each day, made me circle back to the track system idea. I thought and thought and then I said to hubby: “what if we make a tiny track in the grass paddock and connect it to the arena on two sides and connect that to all the paddocks, with two openings everywhere, so Donny can always get away if needed?”

Brilliant, turns out that was exactly what hubby meant years ago… never mind. I got there in the end.

I still wanted to think some more, but hubby had already ordered material to build the ‘try out’ track, so there we went… here is the blog I kept on fb in one piece. You shall find my final thoughts on the process and how I felt the horses changed, down below.


- Transferring from individual paddocks to commonly used track system - part 1

The first step was actually an opening from 29-year-old Owen’s paddock to the Arena.

This was immediately a great success and I don’t know why I had not thought of that sooner

After that, whenever Owen was in the grass paddock, I would in turn place Inocencio or Donny there, so they felt at home in the situation.

Today I decided to try out putting Ino in with Owen, the open paddock/arena space, to see how that would work, and it works fine.

I have a lot to figure out and obstacles to overcome but I will keep you posted with each step!




 - Transitioning to track system part 2 -

So... here is the plan 😊

The arrows show where we will open up the 3 paddocks. The first arrow on the left is already open (from the first paddock to the arena, where Grandpa Owen lives).

Hubby has already ordered everything (he is always annoyed that I need to think about everything 10 years before I act lol), so I guess Thunderbirds are Go!

I’ll post about our progress, all right?


- Transitioning from individual paddocks to a track part 3 -

Today we placed Donny in with Owen. O won’t let his food be taken away, which I am happy about, for I worried about that.

I just have to figure out how to give each their supplements, once together on the track.

We also decided not to place the hay station on the pavement as it is to small for 3 horses and no tractor can pass to the stable if needed. Even though I really loved having the hay station on the pavement, we probably decide to do it in the grass paddock where the tractor can easily reach and place a bale.

We then have to place mats or something to prevent mud.

Next week the material for the track will come.

Can’t wait!!



- Update on our transition from separate paddocks to a track system, part 4 -

Today our large organic hay bale was delivered. I put 3 nets over it and let Don Conquistador in with Owen. I keep Inocencio separate for now and will switch him in later for Donny, until we have the track finished and a second hay station. We decided to place the 'try out' bale on the tiny pavement section anyway.

I thought they would just eat all day, but after 20 minutes they left the hay station 😊


The horses thanking hubby for all the hard work he is doing, creating their track 🤩


- Operation separate paddock to track system part 5 -

Yesterday, hubby build our first try out track in the grass paddock, which is opened up to the arena and Owen’s former individual paddock where one hay station is now.

We had fun exploring it together in the dark.

When we watched from the camera last night, this is what we saw:

This weekend we will switch out Donny for Inocencio so he can adjust as well.

We need to put in at least one more hay station before we can try out with all 3 of them.



- Operation separate paddock to track system part 6 -

We switched out Donny for Inocencio so he can adjust as well.

I showed Ino the track and he and Owen happily followed me.

I was to much in the moment and forgot to film for you guys, so we did a re-enactment for you lol

Watch here:

Next step: more hay stations


- Operation separate paddock to track system part 7 -


We placed Donny in with Owen and Inocencio and it went amazing!

If Ino as much as frowned upon Donny, I told him off and I told Donny to give Ino space, which he then did.

Everything went brilliant but I took Inocencio out for the night, just in case.

Tomorrow afternoon when I can be present again, I shall place them together and build it up this week 😊

I am in ecstasy and hubby and I have so much ideas to create their awesome habitat!!

Watch here:


- Operation separate paddock to track system part 8 –

Here is where I thought it would go wrong. 😱Before Inocencio would keep chasing relentlessly and then start kicking without end when he had Donny cornered.

But no, all went normal and beautifully and there has not been any incident since!

I now have them together during the day, keeping the parts closed where Donny could get trapped. I watch them on camera.

At night, I take either Donny or Ino out in turn.

Next step: removing more fencing and replacing it with electric tape with handles, so we can make sure the horses can go round everywhere and not get trapped.

We also have to adjust the individual stables at some point, but for now we keep them closed when all 3 are together 😊



 - Operation separate paddock to track system part 9 –

The changes that I already have noticed these last few days without the track even being completed or all three horses being in 24 hours:

 The horses are much more relaxed. They just ooze calmness. They seek me out, but without being ‘clingy and needy’ or demanding.

  • Owen is usually grumpy and can really bite hard when I place him in the court and groom him. Now I groomed him standing free on the track, and he just stood there calmly and enjoyed it. Donny groomed me from behind and then dropped to roll almost on top of me. He obviously wanted grooming too, so I did. Normally Owen would chase Donny away if I attended to him when they were together in the paddock, but now he just stood calmly with us, leaving us alone.
  • They eat far less hay. When standing in their paddock, eating hay is all they do. Obviously, as there is nothing else to do. Now they walk and brows the whole time and interact much differently. I love it!
  • Now, when I hang with them, I feel it is much more quality time, as I do not feel like I need to separate my time between the three of them, but we simply enjoy time together, all four of us. I also feel much more rested, less hay eating, less feeding, less dung, much easier clean up etc. I was busy feeding and cleaning at least 2 to 3 hours a day. Now they can just reach the hay bale when hungry so no work for me at all! I have not trained with any of the horses during this transition period. Looking forward to seeing if there are changes as well on that front.
  • The hooves seemed to have started self-trimming. More on that subject later!


- Operation seperate paddock to track system part 10 -

They spend their first night together, enduring a thunderstorm.

They are fine! I guess we are definitely over now! 🥳🥳🥳

Extending the track with the rest of the paddocks will have to wait though, as the storm did a lot of damage to our property and hubby has to fix that first... like he has nothing to do...

Organic mourning on the track

I have lost 5 horses over the course of 23 years, of which my first and childhood love Jimmy. Jimmy’s passing affected me so heavily I had to go into therapy. I was this always happy, outgoing funny person, always singing, always making fun, always laughing… Jimmy’s passing changed that forever. I became an entirely new person, I had to learn who I was and how to live all over again, without Jimmy. Of course, I grew up with him, which makes things entirely different than loosing a horse when one is already an established adult. Still, even so, these tremendously loved horses can have an impact on a human’s life that is incomprehensible for those who never loved a horse and was loved by a horse, so deeply.

The support I received for Owen’s passing was immense, and I thank each and every one of you for your messages of love and understanding. It meant a lot. And, as many of you have suffered the same and will suffer the same in the future alas, I wanted to share the following.


This post, in fact, is not actually about Owen’s passing in itself. It is really a post about track life. You see, the passing of a horse in a classic box situation and the passing of a horse in a track or in a herd was largely different to me and to the horses and I thought this too needs to be shared, as it is of equal importance than are all the other factors in play, when having horses living on a track.

With Owen’s passing, there weren’t a lot of ‘last time things’. With that I mean, the cleaning of the box for the last time, for instance, or looking at the empty box which can be so excruciating. This, even though Owen still left a huge empty hole, actually lessened the trauma a bit.

During Owen’s last painful night hours, he was not alone in a box but he was accompanied with his nephew and his best friend, who were with him the whole time. Staying close to him and often licking him softly. While I arranged things such as getting the vet in etc. When Owen passed in my arms, the other horses were there too. They comforted me, as I comforted them. They took turns to take watch over Owen’s body the first day. When my mother came to say goodbye to Owen and cried next to his body, the horses came and started comforting her, very softly and carefully (she is blind and they somehow know to be very careful around her, even rambunctious Ino). Ino gently stood over her and touched her head with his chin, barely noticeable. It meant the world to her. As sad as it was, it was very beautiful to witness, and it was again proof to me of how cognitive horses are. The way the horses and I had our wake at Owen’s body was a healing experience I never had before. Yes, we would let the horses say goodbye to one that had passed before, but that is not the same than when they are free to move, visit and watch, whenever they wanted, as was possible now, living… and dying… on the track.

When a horse has his last resting place in a box, all of this is not possible. I will include this in my new book ‘On the right track’ as one of the many advantages for horse and human alike, of herd life in general and track life especially. I am sure I am not the first one to find this out obviously, nevertheless, I found it important to share.

Thank you for reading and thanks again to all of you for your support and to read that Owen meant so much to so many of you for many years. We are coming to terms with the fact that he is no longer physically with us, and we are taking the time to reinvent ourselves, in a world without him. This transition is clear to see with the horses as well, as their roles now have changed. Another thing I never saw this clear, before track life.

If you are thinking about transitioning to a track… I can full heartedly tell you to just go ahead and do it. Don’t wait, just do it.


For the love of horses,


What Josepha wants you to know

What Josepha needs you to know…
Social Media campaign update!
Dear friends, yes normally there would be a 'what horses want you to know Wednesday blog' today.
As you might have noticed yesterday our social media format has changed. I decided to go from 5 posts to 3 a week, to save time to write my other new books. I also have interviews and photo shoots scheduled by two magazines and a lot more projects coming. But more important, I need to spend quality time with my family, which includes my 3 horses of which two need special care.
My whole point of writing my book, in the first place, was to finally have time to do other things instead of having to write content constantly and answer questions, so that much needed information that horses so desperately need and want you to know, got out into the world.
Next to that, just as before publishing my book, many (sweet) people are sending me questions, photos and videos of their horses and it is in my nature to help and this help costs me a lot of time and I do it free of charge. It is not that I do not like to help, but I must watch out for the signs of (reoccurring) burn out, and I too have to take care of my family and pay the bills.
The questions you want answered are ALL answered in my book!
Therefore, I simply and humbly ask you, do you find all the info useful, I share on this page? Please, buy the book. In the words of many who read it: It will be life changing!
With the new paperback version and the discount WELCOME15 that gives you 15% off, there is really no reason, not to do it, is there?
If you would like to have me looking with you and teaching you, this too is possible, all over the world via pivo lessons. This can be done in English, German and Dutch. You can book 30 minutes or an hour from Monday to Thursday each week. You can find the information on
If you already read the book, you will agree, all horse owners and equestrian need to read it. Please help spread the message, you will be doing the horses a great service! If enough equestrians read it, we will create the tipping point and alter Equestrianism in the favor of horses forever!
Is that your dream too? Then help me make it happen.
I might have another blog coming in the coming months, but for now, I share this older blog with you, that I think is the most pressing matter of the moment and needs to be shared!
Find it under this here:
I hope that under all of you understand, dear horse friends.
As always, for the love of horses,