Thursday, December 31, 2009

new year's eve day, 1 p.m.

This morning, upon return from barn chores, I found these lazy bones, Kyra and Wickens, sleeping in - please ignore my messy unmade bed!

Now, sitting here at the computer, I look out and see Keil Bay and Cody looking in:

And when I turned to open the window, I realized they are ALL out there! I suspect the equines would be nudging me as I type, if they could only get inside.

Alas, when daughter went out to feed Salina her first lunch (or second breakfast, or onesies, as we sometimes call it) and give hay to geldings, they promptly abandoned me and my open window.

Off to the store. I haven't left here in a week!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

ending the year on November Hill

Daughter and I took some photos today as we worked, marking the end of this year on November Hill. Redford asks, you want to take WHOSE photo?

Here is Rafer Johnson, who I believe wins the award for the kindest eye:

No barnyard is complete without a cowboy, and here you see the thoughtful demeanor of our resident "desperado."

Not much more to say than this - I give you... the diva and her donkeys, whose favorite pastime is tipping round bales.

For those who don't know, Rafer Johnson is an aspiring medical professional, thus his nickname, The Amazing Dr. Johnson:

The ice I removed this morning from Salina and the donkeys' water trough. Note the donkey sized nose hole:

I titled this one Redford sky. But it basically denotes who seems most dominant in the herd right now, in terms of which equine puts himself front and center NO MATTER WHAT!

I love Rafer Johnson's photos, which often reveal something that gives away a secret - one that I've told here before. Rafer is a being of light, and lest you doubt it, look at the beautiful light fairy hovering near him here:

This is the Rafer Johnson version of Matthew's magnificent Tree of Life Bay photo which turned into my profile picture:

The wonderful humor of donkeys:

And Redford against a winter blue sky. The spirit in that small body is just about that big!

More tomorrow, with more of the amazing animals on November Hill. They make our days bright, and I'm looking forward to another year with all of them!

Need to add on the Keil Bay story that probably summarizes the overall wisdom of the Big Bay and the ongoing human-ness of me.

This afternoon I was cleaning his hooves and applying oil of oregano to frogs. He is quite taken with the scent of the oil of oregano, and can barely contain himself when I'm opening the bottle to get the drops ready.

Today, he kept craning his head to the bottom of my barn jacket, and I kept saying "what? there's nothing in there." At which point he would look at me and then crane his neck again, gently inserting his muzzle beneath the hem of my jacket and lifting it up toward me. I kept offering to let him smell the oregano, which he enjoyed, but then he'd go back to the coat.

I just thought he was being treat-obsessed, after all the Christmas goodies I've been doling out. But I felt in the pocket and found nothing. He gave a big sigh and went to wait by his stall door.

Lo and behold, when I came in just now, and did my ritual cleaning out of barn jacket pockets, I found a lone apple treat that had worked its way down into the lining of the pocket, and no surprise, really, the Big Bay knew what he was after all along!

Tomorrow I will let him sniff it out again and this time I'll listen.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

one december evening, impromptu in the arena

I was out at the barn as night came, and had a sudden brainstorm. I read someplace earlier in the week that a training level dressage test is about a half a mile if you tally up all those long sides and circles and such.

I had opened up the arena to the geldings' paddock, thinking they might enjoy some non-muddy footing to stroll in tonight, and the arena light came on with dusk. Suddenly the arena seemed inviting and I felt like some exercise.

So off I trotted, to enter at A, on foot, to get a half-mile work-out before heading back inside.

I was soon joined by a painted pony, who met me at my halt at X and continued on for a bit of the test. Then Cody the QH came in and took up where the pony left off. We did 3 runs of training 1 and then Cody and I did our own thing for awhile with the pony watching closely.

After a little longer, Rafer asked to come in from the barnyard, but as soon as I went over to let him in the geldings crowded the gate and I asked Rafer to wait.

Cody and I took another turn around the arena and Keil Bay decided all this was too much to resist, so he sauntered in and joined me. At one point he, Cody, and the pony were all standing at different parts of the arena and each one would accompany me for part of my round.

Rafer Johnson could not stand it. He shoved through the gate and joined the fun. After a few minutes of greeting he engaged Cody in a rousing game of tag. The two of them trotted and tossed heads and cantered and danced from one end of the arena to the other, while the rest of us watched. Finally, Keil Bay realized hay was being served and he headed out the gate to his stall. Cody did another round with me, the pony joined for one more free walk, and Rafer got a face rub before we all went in and I opened the clean stalls that had mangers piled with hay.

Rafer did a very tidy run-through when I opened Cody's stall door into the barn aisle, so he could join Redford and Salina.

It is still muddy and damp, but we had a sunny day, no need for blankets, and the evening's impromptu arena party was one of the best times I've had this week.

a horseman's duties to his horse

This is what I'm thinking about today, regarding new year's resolutions and horses and our commitments to them. Sadly I see many of these responsibilities being ignored on a daily basis.

I try to keep them in mind for myself and the horses, pony, and two handsome miniature donkeys who live with me.

And being bold and somewhat outspoken, I would add to this list:

10. Spread the word about your commitment to these duties through example, and by upholding them even when other horsepeople don't. Speak out for other horses when you need to, clearly and with respect, but most importantly with conviction.

From the German National Equestrian Federation books:


1. Anyone who takes charge of a horse assumes responsibility for the living creature entrusted to his care.

2. The horse's management should reflect its inherent needs.

3. Whatever the horse is used for, the utmost importance should be attached to its physical and mental well-being.

4. Every horse should be treated with the same consideration, irrespective of its race, age and gender, or whether it is used for breeding, leisure or competition.

5. Our understanding of the horse's history and lifestyle, and our knowledge of handling and dealing with horses are part of our cultural heritage. They should be safeguarded and passed on, and handed down to future generations.

6. Contact with horses makes a lasting impression and has a character forming effect especially on young people. The positive effects should be encouraged and built on.

7. The rider, who is the horse's partner, must submit both himself and the horse in charge to a program of training. The aim of this training is the greatest possible harmony between man and horse.

8. The use of the horse for competition or leisure riding, driving or vaulting must be in keeping with its type, its ability, its training and its level of fitness. Trying to improve the horse's performance through the use of drugs or unhorsemanlike practices is unacceptable.

9. The horseman's responsibility for the animal entrusted to him continues until the end of its life. The decisions made must always be based on what is best for the horse.

Monday, December 21, 2009

winter solstice 2009

I started thinking about this post on Friday, imagining something grand and wonderful, with accompanying pictures that would perfectly illustrate my words. A number of ideas came and went over the weekend, mostly related to music.

I heard Polyphony's rendition of the Donkey Carol and had thoughts of putting that music to a short video of Rafer Johnson and Redford, doing what they do best - running around the entire front field, taking turns pushing and resisting and holding the crest of the other by the teeth, firmly enough to guide, but gently enough to leave no mark.

For most of November and December I listen to George Winston's December cd, and his rendition of Pachelbel's Canon is one that makes me want to overcome my block regarding playing the piano, which I studied for 9 years as a child/teen and then gave up. Now I can't remember the left hand notes. The only thing that would compel me to struggle through that is playing the Canon the way George does. I had a brief fantasy of having a grand piano delivered to X in the riding arena, where I would play Pachelbel while horses and pony and donkeys danced in circles around me. Wouldn't the video of that be a perfect winter solstice post?

Given the fact that I would need an entire year to acccomplish that led me last night to looking for you tube videos of George Winston playing, or videos using Robert Frost's Stopping By Woods poem as the theme. In the end, I abandoned the keyboard to watch way too many episodes of the first season of West Wing, which I watched on DVD a few years ago and have now decided to watch again. I love the writing and the pacing and the way the cast brings the show to life. There was something winter solstice-like about the entire show, and when the first disk came on Friday, with EIGHT episodes, I knew there would be a binge at some point.

This has been an odd year for me. A number of milestones that most of us go through as we live our lives. The death of a parent, the death of a beloved dog, a physical injury that stopped me in my tracks for a few weeks. Caring for an older mare who seems bent on teaching me that aging is a process, and sometimes what seems catastrophic is just a bad day. And that there are not always clear answers to the question "what do we do now?"

I was holding her head on Friday, just being with her and stroking her eye. Salina is a black horse, perfect symbol for the winter solstice, and yet when I stood there holding her head in my arms what I noticed most were the silvery white hairs that sprinkle her face, much like the dawn of the day that follows the longest night. The days that grow longer, bit by bit.

This morning the first images of the winter solstice out my window were Keil Bay and Cody standing side by side in the front field, eating together from a small pile of hay. Now, as I look out, Keil Bay is standing alone in the morning sun, gazing directly at my window, his white star brilliant against his red bay coat.

There have been sounds of various cats growling and stalking, monitored closely by Kyra the Corgi, who likes order and wants them all marching to her Corgi drum.

It's chilly, but the day promises to get warm enough that I can do chores without a jacket. We have a special meal planned, and dessert, and a new box of white candles to light this evening. Today I plan to take a walk in the woods, and maybe I'll take the green velcro sleigh bells out and attach them to a halter or bridle just to hear the jingle and think of Robert Frost.

Tonight I hope to have a small bonfire. I have a stash of big stones by the labyrinth path that I've been collecting to make a fire pit. And sometime today I will set aside an hour to write another chapter in the pony book, which grew by many pages during my writing retreat, but is coming more slowly now.

In years past I have posted poems and excerpts meaningful to this day, and I think I'll look back in the archives and read them again. Mostly, I want to mark the passing of this year, and focus on the coming year, which I think will be a good one.

Happy winter's solstice to everyone. I hope you find something today - a moment in nature, a photograph, a piece of music, a poem - that invites pause enough to stop and reflect on the year that's passed and the year that is coming. How darkness grows and then the light comes. How marking the passage of things makes us human.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

shop for the holidays - right here!

Welcome to the camera-obscura holiday shopping extravaganza! All products here are made by people I know either locally the regular way OR locally the blog world way. I'm thrilled to showcase these beautiful offerings. Support the arts!

(It's not too late to add your items - keep sending them and I'll add them to this post.)

Talk2theAnimals offers a number of great items:

T2TA 1st Annual Commemorative Ornament, a doggie shirt and a totebag are found HERE.

2999 Award Winning Photo book and 2010 calendar are HERE.

T2TA Bookstore


T2TA Gift Certificates

Sheafferwear! You can get t-shirts, mugs, hats, posters, cards, etc. at Sheaffer's store. There are images of Jack too! Proceeds go to Primrose Donkey Sanctuary, a very worthy cause. We have the above poster in our tack room. Sheaffer's excellence and watchful eyes kept Rafer Johnson company during his broken leg convalescence. Now Sheaffer keeps me company every morning when I do breakfast tubs. Somehow I feel he would approve of that.

Beautiful handmade books - weekly planners, agendas, journals and sketchbooks, albums and organizers... and my personal favorite - the book of folders, shown above, for those of us who love to organize!

Gorgeous handmade jewelry, elegant and elemental. The one I'm drooling over, the redfearn bracelet:

Stunning kaleidoscope designs
available on a variety of products:

These are so lovely it's hard to pick. I'm partial (at this moment) to this one - the original (titled Corgi Footprint):

the kaleidoscope design:

A series of photo books--one for each season--featuring original photography and kaleidoscope art along with inspiring quotes. A beautiful calendar available through Lulu as well.

My pick for this season:

The yummiest scarves ever, Dana calls these the "Stevie" scarves:

Dana says, "And a number of beautiful items for which proceeds go to the Malawi Fund at HCC- every cent is sent back to Malawi! We have sent kids to school, bought school supplies, paid for malaria meds, mossie nets, bought people food, put a roof on a house and so much more!"

To inquire or purchase any of Dana's items, click HERE.

shopping for the holidays - at camera-obscura

I had an idea late last week and would like to share it here and see if folks are interested. (ALSO: mystic-lit is hosting a similar shop for authors and their books!)

For the past two years we have done our holiday shopping locally. We're fortunate to live in a very creative area, with some wonderful small stores who carry interesting, unique gifts.

And we'll do that again this year.

But I want to add a new layer to the meaning of "local."

Certainly the internet affords us the opportunity to meet and engage with many people via blogs and otherwise to the degree that we form a community that I would argue is indeed "local."

Many of you who read and comment here feel like neighbors to me. Instead of having coffee while talking over the back fence, I sit at my desk each morning, coffee in hand, and visit blogs, commenting back and forth, and it's a cherished part of my day. I know many of you do the same.

And I know many of you are also talented, creative people who may have wonderful wares to offer.

So... I invite you to send me links and photos and any info you can share so that I can do a camera-obscura shopping week. Readers, new visitors, and I can then browse and hopefully stir up some business for you (and shopping fun for us) during this holiday season.

If you don't have my email address, send me yours in a comment (which I won't publish here) and I'll send you an email.

Books, calendars, artwork, photographs, knitted items - anything you make or create is welcome. Also any horse-related items - your own training DVDs, books, special tack. The bigger variety the better.

I'll try to get everything set up this week so the "store" can open on Thursday or Friday. I'll leave it up top for a full week - giving your items the best chance of being seen and giving ME a nice break from blogging!

Looking forward to it - if questions you can send those in a comment too. I'll only publish comments that don't include personal information.

Happy December!

Friday, November 27, 2009

river walking

For a number of years when our children were young and we didn't have horses, we rented a lovely cabin in the mountains for the week of Thanksgiving. Over time, we accumulated a series of day trips we loved so much we did them year after year, until we had a very full week awaiting us each November when we packed the car and headed west.

There were always at least two days devoted to staying at the cabin and hiking the surrounding 50 acres. One day we went to a small college town nearby and window-shopped, then lunching at a little vegetarian cafe where we had chili served in pumpkin bread bowls.

We usually went to another little resort town one of the days, where we played in the big park and ate lunch from the hot dog stand, ending with homemade peppermint ice cream from the candy shop.

Another day we usually played by ear, and explored places we wanted to go back to or found new things to do.

The day after Thanksgiving was almost always devoted to a trip to a waterfall, which had hiking trails that were easy, moderate, and difficult. I remember one year taking all the time we needed so that my not-yet-two-year old daughter could hike the entire way on her own feet, which she insisted on doing. And I recall many anxious mother moments when my son went darting ahead of us, or scaled something I felt needed spotting to climb.

At the end of the hike we had a favorite restaurant we ate in, always ending the meal with strawberry-rhubarb pie.

I think those years cemented all of our love of the mountains and walking by rushing water.

But then we got horses and it was difficult to leave for that long.

Today we drove the few minutes from our home to a favorite river walk. The water was rushing after all the rain we've had, and it was chilly today so it feels like we're actually in November.

Kyra the Corgi scampered along on her purple leash, game to climb anything, including the huge rock outcroppings that in some places required careful footwork and holding on to tree trunks and branches to get up and over.

There was no one else on the trail, and after a few minutes, it was as though we were far out into the wilderness. I discovered some years back that the secret to being rejuvenated by these hikes is to go far enough to experience remoteness.

And now we're back home, and it occurs to me that part of why we went to the mountains those years was to gain what we have right here in our own backyard now.

It's one of the things I'm most thankful for - the haven we've created here, and the access to remote places without having to take a trip to get there.

I hope everyone is having a nice day today. Whether you celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday or not, it's a good time of year for reflection and gratitude, moving toward the winter solstice and the new year.

princess haya and rollkur

What is the current FEI president's stance on rollkur? Here's one shot of her riding, and unfortunately, it doesn't look good to me.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

andreas helgstrand - take a look at his training techniques

This video is on his website (for the moment) and although this one showcases the horse Donna Silver, look at the other horses. At times you can only see them in the mirrors, and if you use the pause button, you'll see even more.

Sadly I don't think I can ever watch his rides on Blue Hors Matine again.

I didn't post this last night but instead saved it, figuring to put it up tomorrow. Already, just 12 hours later, the video has been removed. Isn't it interesting that the trainers and riders doing these methods argue that there is nothing wrong with them, that they are actually good for the horses, and yet they take down the "evidence" when it's pointed out online?

Enjoy the day, give thanks for your blessings, and go hug your horses.


There is actually another video where several horses are being rollkured in the background. Let's see if he takes THIS one down too...

And look at this one:

Behind the vertical, rider leaning way back, horse trying to get its head up to breathe, I presume, or relieve the pressure on the mouth, but if you watch you'll see that this is NOT harmonious riding, not a happy horse at all.

leaking turkeys and pumpkin dog biscuits

My night owl son woke me in the wee hours to inform me that the turkey was leaking. I asked how much, hoping that in fact he was mistaken, and the double-bagged fresh turkey was doing nothing of the kind.

But he said "a lot" and I sighed and got up, knowing that my warm spot in the bed would soon be taken over by whichever cat bodies could make it there first.

Indeed, the turkey was leaking. I spent about a minute fussing at self for not putting the turkey in the roasting pan so at least if it leaked it would be contained. And then the next hour and a half cleaning the entire lower half of the refrigerator, to a degree Martha Stewart and my mother would smile upon.

I woke up expecting sunshine but it's not here yet. Today I'm making the afore-mentioned cheesecake, the cranberry sauce, the mashed potatoes, (which shockingly can be made ahead without losing one bit of goodness) and getting the dinner rolls made up and put in the pan.

And meanwhile, here is the pumpkin dog biscuit recipe just for Dougie Donk, who I believe not only races ex-racing horses and wears kilts, but does a bit of baking on the side:

Cleo's Pumpkin Dog Biscuits:

2 eggs
1/2 cup canned pumpkin (I'm using freshly made puree)
2 tbsp. dry milk
1/4 tsp. sea salt
2 1/2 cups brown rice flour (gives the biscuits crunch and offers better dog digestion than wheat)
1 tsp. dried parsley (optional)

Preheat oven to 350.

In large bowl, whisk together eggs and pumpkin 'til smooth. Stir in dry milk, sea salt, and parsley if using. Add brown rice flour gradually, combining with spatula or hands to form a stiff, dry dough. Turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead if still rough, then roll out to desired thickness. (1/4 - 1/2 inch)

Use cookie cutters to punch out shapes, and rework leftover dough until it's gone. Place on baking sheet - no greasing necessary. Bake 20 minutes, remove from oven, turn, and bake 20 more minutes. Let cool completely before serving!

Enjoy feeding these healthy, yummy treats to the resident canines!

And let me know as the day progresses what you're baking and cooking - we can all share in the feasting today!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

thanks giving in advance of the day

I meant to take the camera out and get a picture or two, but have been so relieved that I don't actually have to GO anywhere today, tomorrow, or Thursday, I've been sort of floating from one place to the next all day long.

This morning I was thankful to see Salina marching around the barnyard, lining up at the feed room door, and generally being her usual self.

When I took the first wheelbarrow load of muck down the path, Redford wanted to join me, so I let him. He walked beside me until I turned onto the woodland path, at which point the labyrinth path was clear top to bottom, and that wild expanse of freedom was like passing a candle wick through flame.

His little face lit up and down he went, with a donkey buck and gallop, down to the edge of the labyrinth itself. I called out to him and he whirled and raced back up, pausing and then galloping all the way up to the barnyard. He was so excited he wanted them all to know where he was and that he had full access to the back.

He flew back down the path, past me, this time all the way into the labyrinth, where he made a complete circuit and then ran back up to the barnyard gate. He turned around and did it all again.

By this time I had dumped my load of manure and had the wheelbarrow pointed back up the hill, so he ran up ahead of me and when I got to the top, he had lured Rafer Johnson into the arena, where they were having another race.

Mid-morning, Keil Bay asked very nicely (with a quiet tap tap tap of his knee against the stall door) to come into the barnyard with Salina, the donkeys, and me.

I opened his door and he sauntered out, immediately taking over the round bale, which is getting low and had been turned over on its side on top of the two pallets. I rearranged the hay so the pallets were obvious - and proceeded with chores.

A little while later I heard a sound (one of those sounds just loud enough and unusual enough to make you go check it out) and Keil had dragged the pallets out from under the hay and shoved them against the barn.

I'm thankful that he's strong enough to move heavy pallets, and also that he didn't do any damage to himself OR the barn in the process.

This afternoon I have two pumpkin pies in the oven, made with the gorgeous puree I mixed up the other night using the organic pumpkin that came from our hay grower's garden. The pumpkin has been decorating our table for several weeks and now will grace our table in a different way.

I should get two pumpkin pies, a batch of pumpkin dog biscuits, and a caramel pumpkin gingersnap cheesecake out of this one pumpkin. If there is puree left, I'll make a pumpkin cake next week.

It's a grey day, good for baking and listening to music, watching a Corgi nap, monitoring the nap cycles of five felines who move and shift from room to room, new spot to new spot, and heading out to the barn every hour or so to visit and continue the chores out there.

USDF statement on rollkur

Released yesterday:

USDF Executive Board Statement on Animal Welfare

In response to a recent incident at an international competition, the USDF Executive Board has issued the following official statement:

The USDF does not approve of training techniques such as hyperflexion especially when taken to an extreme. While we recognize that we can not control how riders train at home, excessive techniques should not be tolerated at competitions. The USDF feels that it is very important that as a sport we police ourselves and encourage the USEF and FEI to call upon their licensed officials to ensure that cruel and abusive riding does not happen at our competitions.

The USDF agrees with and strongly supports the FEI position as stated in the November 17 press release and in particular the statement: "The FEI acknowledges and welcomes public opinion and will continue to ensure that the welfare of the horse, which has been central to this debate, will remain its absolute priority."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

two new articles at Epona TV

In THIS ONE, Kittel's history of harm to his horse is clearly documented.

An excerpt:

In Wiesbaden, several people were uncomfortable seeing that Scandic's double bridle was fitted with a very low noseband. The judge as well as the chief steward opted to intervene. Friedrich Otto-Erley, head of the German FN's elite sports division said to St. Georg: "The noseband was fitted where a drop noseband would normally sit. The horse couldn't breathe, and was blowing like a locomotive. Where the noseband should have been, there was a sore."

Patrik Kittel was ordered to fix the noseband, and Watermill Scandic placed last in the freestyle, having performed the test with his tongue hanging out. It is not mentioned whether on this occasion, the FEI found it necessary to investigate.

As far as I'm concerned, this is exactly what we should be seeing in every competition arena in the world. Stewards and judges should manage this on the FRONT LINES. If the FEI doesn't see fit to investigate, that sort of blows a hole in their statement that the welfare of horses comes first, but at least the horses are being protected in the moment when they're competing.

And in THIS ONE, Denmark seems to be taking a stand as a country in addressing these abusive practices.

The below excerpt takes the cake for most absurd statement of the day.

LPS also spoke with Danish dressage team veterinarian, Dr. Hans Christian Matthiesen, who was at the time an aspiring international dressage judge, but Mathiessen denied that there are general welfare problems associated with the way horses are trained for elite level sport. "If you're not used to seeing this kind of training, it can appear violent," he said, but stressed that no statistical evidence exists to show that such training is bad for the horse. In his blog on a Danish horse portal, Dr. Mathiessen now laments the "loss of respect" for dressage and claims that the blue tongue clip of Patrik Kittel on YouTube has been taken completely out of context, and claims that there are horses from the Third World pulling heavy loads through Europe with old tires nailed to their feet instead of real horseshoes, which is much worse.

I'm glad to report that Epona TV reporters continue their efforts on this issue.

If the FEI is putting all the power in the hands of ring stewards, perhaps we should all go do what we need to do to stand ringside with our yellow cards and very loud voices.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

we have an abscess (and we're happy about it)

About two weeks ago Salina made a mad gallop in the front field with the boys, and my daughter pointed out to me that she was just a bit off behind that evening. We gave her some Bute and kept an eye on her. She had a series of off again, on again days in which we kept her in the barnyard with her donkeys to give things a chance to get right.

By then it was seeming to me that it was her right front that was off. That knee is the most severely affected by arthritis. It got a little worse, it got a little better.

Throughout all this her appetite was the usual Hanoverian "give me my food NOW."

I used two homeopathic remedies. One was arnica and it seemed to help. I did another course of Bute, which didn't seem to help.

Yesterday things seemed worse. I called my husband home from work and prepared to call the vet, knowing that we might need to be ready to make a bigger decision. And then for some reason I went back out to Salina, who had positioned herself in the back door of her stall, half in and half out, right front hoof extended out onto the ramp of shavings that leads to the grass paddock. She was pushing the hoof down onto the shavings, and using her nose to push at the coronet band.

Now I had looked at her all over, every day for the past two weeks. No sign of anything. No swelling. When I first went out yesterday morning I'd noted that she had rolled during the night, and some part of me wondered how that could be if her knee was so bad. And I had the thought that maybe she had fallen but managed to get up. But the stunning thing was how GOOD she looks right now. Her weight is good, and her coat is shiny and dappled. It just didn't make sense to me that she could look so good and yet things seemed so bad with her knee.

As usual with Salina, when the humans around her seem hopelessly confused, she comes through with a big fat clue.

That right front foot.

She had positioned herself so that when I came back through the gate to the barn, I couldn't miss it. It was literally sticking out at me. And if that weren't enough, she was touching it with her nose.

So I took the hint and made another inspection.

There was a small bulging softness right at the coronet band. When I pushed on it, she bobbed her head. And there were the flies, who seem to be attracted to infection when it's just ready to surface.

Hallelujah! An abscess!

I immediately dashed back in and prepared a warm vinegar rinse, applied it to her hoof, and gave her a dose of homeopathic hepar sulph.

By the time my husband got home, she was already more chipper. She spent her day moving slowly, but using that hoof with a new intent. She knew it was time for that thing to blow.

She got another dose of hepar sulph before bedtime last night and this morning the abscess had blown. She's so much better.

In hindsight, I wonder if adding an antioxidant mix to her feed a few weeks ago has triggered this. Maybe there was something small inside the hoof capsule that needed to find its way out. In some weird way, I wonder if it's connected to the knee, and maybe this abscess blowing will clear things up some for her entire leg.

(those who read here regularly may recall that she has one abscess a year in the LEFT front hoof, and for whatever reason, that process has gotten a month or two later each year, and easier each time)

In any case, while hoof abscesses used to terrify me, when you have a 26-year old mare with arthritic knees and it turns out to be an abscess, it's a huge relief.

In this case, cause for celebration. I'm thinking of it as a clearing process. Blowing out all the yucky bad stuff before winter sets in.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

news of the absurd

This is one of those days when I really can't believe what I'm reading. The FEI's new partner, World Horse Welfare, who has had NOTHING on their website about rollkur and only just partnered with the FEI this past weekend, is now saying rollkur cannot cause a horse's tongue to turn blue, as if they are the authority and actually know what they're talking about!

Even worse, the FEI is debating whether to allow horses to compete on certain painkilling medications.

Follow the links to read more.

From the British magazine Horse and Hound:

Today, the FEI announced a condemnation of any training methods and practices contrary to horse welfare, requesting all stewards to use disciplinary measures — yellow cards — to prevent infringements of the rules from now.

But whether rollkur is actually against FEI rules is still subject to debate.

"And that is exactly what we need to clarify, we have realised much more needs to be done in this area," said FEI veterinary director Graeme Cooke.

"Clearly, anything inappropriately done to excess is something we have concerns about. And there needs to be more clarity about rollkur — whether it is acceptable and to what level."

The FEI will work with its partner, international equine charity World Horse Welfare, on the issue of hyperflexion.

World Horse Welfare chief executive Roly Owers told H&H: "There are issues with rollkur (hyperflexion) and the incident in Odense last month has brought this sharply into focus. We are happy to work with the FEI on this.

"However let us be clear that hyperflexion cannot cause a horse's tongue to turn blue; much of the reaction around the You Tube video seems to imply this."

From Eurodressage:

The FEI General Assembly hasn't caused such a stir in recent years than this afternoon at the 2009 Assembly in Copenhagen. Today the clean sport committee made the shocking proposal of allowing horses to compete on a low level of painkillers. This is a complete changeover from the zero-tolerance policy the FEI has been advocating passionately for years.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

the FEI responds

FEI Statement on Horse Welfare 17/11/2009

The FEI condemns all training methods and practices that are contrary to horse welfare. The welfare of the horse has always been and will always be at the core of every aspect of the Federation’s work as the international governing body for equestrian sport.

During its meeting in Copenhagen (DEN) on 15 November, the FEI Bureau had extensive discussion on the issue of hyperflexion. The FEI Bureau insists that, with immediate effect, stewards in all disciplines use the disciplinary measures available to them, such as verbal warnings and yellow warning cards *, to prevent any infringement of FEI rules.

The FEI is now engaged with World Horse Welfare, a leading international equestrian organisation, in addition to continued consultation with riders, trainers, officials and veterinarians to thoroughly research the issues. The further education of stewards will also continue to ensure that welfare issues at FEI events are dealt with promptly and professionally.

The FEI acknowledges and welcomes public opinion and will continue to ensure that the welfare of the horse, which has been central to this debate, will remain its absolute priority.

* If a rider receives two yellow warning cards within one year, he / she is automatically suspended for a period of two months immediately following the event at which the second yellow warning card was received.

I am extremely disappointed in this response. The FEI has NOT focused on the welfare of the horse, and putting this responsibility in the hands of ring stewards is absurd. It's been widely reported that the ring stewards are in many cases shouted down by the top riders and trainers when they try to issue these cards.

It's time to renew the effort - contact all sponsors previously listed and let them know you will not support their companies if they support rollkur.

Alltech, HSBC Bank, Meydan, and Rolex all show up as "sponsors" on the FEI development page. Write to these companies and let them know that the FEI is NOT taking care of horses.

Take cameras to shows and use them to document inhumane riding.

Report anything you see that is not humane, and if nothing is done about it, take the complaint to a higher authority.

Educate yourself so that when you encounter this practice, you can SPEAK OUT about it with clarity. And please, SPEAK OUT. Do it respectfully, do it with courtesy, but SPEAK OUT. The horses can't do that. We need to do it for them.

my head is full of horses this week

I listened to Klaus Hempfling's tele-conference on Sunday (available for listening now on Dressage Disgrace) and was wowed by his eagle eye view on the subject of humans and horses and trauma. Subsequently, my mind is buzzing. Much of what he said mirrors my take on the bigger issue of rollkur AND my work as a psychotherapist. It is so startling when one part of my life (psychotherapy and psychology) intersects so perfectly with another part (horses and riding and spirituality). I haven't processed all this enough to write much about it, but I will.

Meanwhile we have a grand old mare who is having a rough few weeks after a mad gallop in the field with the geldings and donkeys. She has had good days and then not so good days and I suspect the weather wildly fluctuating is not helping her any. For now I'm not sure if this is another rough patch we'll walk her through or if this is the first glimpse that we're nearing a difficult decision. I have been here before with her, and I'm trying hard not to succumb to the overwhelm that comes with not knowing exactly what to do. Thus far she lets me know, and we get back to a good place. I'm hoping for that outcome again.

Please send some healing thoughts her way.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

outside my sunday morning window

There is a red tree, a red bay, fallen acorns, a big chestnut, tobacco brown leaves on green grass, and a painted pony whose upside-down V is, today, an arrow pointing up to a clear and beautiful sky.

Friday, November 13, 2009

don't forget - Hempfling on Sunday

For more info, go to:

Thursday, November 12, 2009

sojourn from the storm

Yesterday morning I opened the curtains to our front windows to find a small flock of birds taking refuge from the rain.

They were on the chairs, on the porch rail, and even lined up on the threshold of our front door.

The cats were lined up begging to be let out there, as it was the day of the big rain from Hurricane Ida and the front porch is a way to get outside without getting wet. I made them wait, though, because the birds were obviously trying to find a place to sit and dry out.

Today most of the rain has gone and now we're weathering gray skies and big wind.

As I did my daily check-in on Facebook, to see what news there might be in the rollkur debate, I found a reference to a book called Empowered Horses by Imke Spilker. Further research yielded THIS, a blog post that looks at Spilker's philosophy and work with horses.

I've ordered it, my own little sojourn from rollkur and the insanity in the dressage world.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Gerd Heuschmann and Joni Bentley - EXCELLENT article


And please make sure you scroll all the way down to the photos of Anky and Patrik Kittel riding in Windsor 2009.

I don't think anything I could ever write on this blog can express the horrors of rollkur better than those photographs.

And the fact that judges give them ribbons speaks to the insanity in the sport as a whole.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

we have redtails and donkey races today

This morning I went out with the intention to get all the barn chores done early, as we are expecting two days of possibly heavy rain associated with Hurricane Ida. I fed breakfast tubs and then stood in the little barnyard while the horses and donkeys ate.

The redtail couple came out together for the first time. I've only seen the male, in a series of close encounters written about previously, and although I assumed there was a female close by, had never seen her.

Today, beneath the gray sky and still brilliant autumn color, including that rich tobacco brown of leaves past their prime, the redtails carried on a lovely conversation, pinwheeling along from fence post to fence post, while I watched.

As equines finished up their tubs, we opened the arena gate in hopes that the donkeys and Salina would go in and get some exercise, but the way it ended up was that Rafer went in, was quickly joined by Redford and Salina, and then Rafer decided he wanted to play, but on his own terms.

So he went through the arena fence into the paddock where he could face off with Redford through the fence. The two of them played a new donkey game today, in which they played hide and seek from either side of the fence and the mounting block. Redford would peep out at Rafer, then paw the ground. Rafer would prick his ears and Redford would gallop a full circle of the arena, return to Rafer, roll, and then they would start it all over again.

At some point Rafer decided he wanted to race. The dirt paddock is a long rectangle that parallels the arena, and since we're using the back field this week, Rafer was able to run down the paddock, through the back gate, and around the outside of the arena all the way around except for the short side by the woods.

He and Redford raced like this for about 15 minutes, and at some point Cody joined in from the back field and he and Rafer were neck and neck on the outside, while Redford kept up inside the arena.

I have never seen anything quite like it. I began to have visions of building a race track, and having our own donkey derby in the spring. We could drive the truck into the center of the arena and have our own private tailgate party!

As quickly as it began, it ended. I'm not sure who the winner was, but they got quite a work-out this morning and should be all set to enjoy the rainy part of the day when it rolls in.

For now we have a slight wind blowing and leaves gliding and then cascading in groups as the wind picks up. The longer the rain holds off the better, but we're ready for it when it gets here.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Monday: catch up on the rollkur debate

Epona TV has a wonderful article up titled Rollkur Round-Up: Fact and Fiction. Julie Taylor and Luise Thomsen look point by point at the FEI's 2006 investigation of rollkur and break it down showing what research was done, how it was done, and what it actually revealed. This is a very good look at what is being cited as "the evidence" that rollkur does no harm. And how flawed that conclusion actually is.

Over the weekend a number of links were posted that indicate clearly that Patrik Kittel's use of rollkur and harsh techniques was not a momentary lapse in Odense that just happened to get captured on video.

On September 19, 2008, THIS appeared on St. Georg Magazine's blog. I have provided a translation below:

Scandic, which means something like Scandinavian. And the name fits the chestnut, who starts at the CHI in Donauschingen in the mediacup of the up and coming Grand Prix horses. It fits, because the Swedish rider Patrick Kittel is a Scandinavian, it also matches the temperatures however, which reign in the palace park o...f the Duke of Donauschingen. In the morning it is bittercold and the thermometer barely reaches freezing point. However the kind of training which is meted out to the chestnut by Kittel lets the blood freeze in the veins of the spectators: Head pulled down to the chest. Always properly tight and hard (!!) "positioned" to the left and to the right. Until the chestnut puts the emergency brakes on. He must have bitten on his own tongue, at least the blood was dripping from his mouth. No steward was present, who could have noticed. Only when the flow of blood was not to be stopped, even after the groom had routinely mopped the horse’s mouth a second time, did Kittel stop!

There was also a link to a photo of Kittel riding Scandic in a double bridle with a dropped noseband that was so tight the horse looked as if he were gagging and choking. Unfortunately I cannot provide you with the link because the photo has now been removed.

But someone captured it:

A quick google search just turned up THIS:

Patrik Kittel in trouble

A video on You Tube about Swedish team rider Patrik Kittel has shocked the dressage world. The fragment shows Kittel losing his stallion Watermill Scandic in Odense in Denmark in a low frame. The moment Patrik realizes that the horse’s tongue is out, he stops and pushes the tongue back. The flood of negative reactions forced FEI dressage director Trond Asmyr and FEI Executive Director sports David Holmes make an official statement prior to their lectures at the Global Dressage Forum in The Netherlands last Monday that the FEI will investigate the incident.
Meanwhile Kittel is shell shocked by the flood of negative reactions, although the tone in Sweden has mellowed. Watermill Scandic is owned by Dutch team veterinarian Jan Greve who says, “Patrik Kittel has a perfect relationship to Scandic and the situation that has arisen now is absolutely overdone. Yes, the tongue has been out for a short while. This can happen. But nothing harmful has been done.”
The British Riding Association has urged the FEI to start a more thorough discussion about hyperflexion. Other countries will probably follow Britain.

Interestingly, there was also the following:

In Lyon this happened to Edward Gal. On Thursday the competition had started in a very disappointing way for the runner up of Odense. Sisther de Jeu had only moments before entering the ring for the Grand Prix bitten her lip, causing a small wound that started to bleed. The bleeding was stopped quickly. The sympathetic officials even allowed Gal to take the mare to the stable for a while and return later for a new start. He and his trainer Nicole Werner however, decided to let that chance go by. “Everything was alright, but we considered the risk that Sisther might bite her lip again during the test, to be too high. It’s a shame of the 600 mile ride to Lyon, but so be it”, Edward Gal said.

Edward Gal also uses rollkur and I'm finding it slightly horrifying that we are seeing horses biting their tongues and lips to the point of blood flow that actually inhibits the ride. And more importantly, does not seem to be necessitating any adjustment of the bits/bridles!

If you have time to write new emails and/or letters to the FEI, please include these examples as evidence that something is seriously wrong in this sport.

Friday, November 06, 2009

update on the anti-rollkur 'campaign' front

It's been a busy week and many, many people have been working hard to educate themselves on this issue, take action, and keep the issue alive as the FEI continues its investigation.

Richard Johnson, Director of Communications for the FEI, posted on Facebook this morning:

Official Statement from FEI

As previously announced, the FEI is conducting an investigation into the events in the Odense warm-up arena. Such procedures always take time as it is important that they are done in a thorough and fair way. The FEI is aware of the high-level of interest in the issues raised in the video and... the subsequent online debate and would like to thank everyone who has contacted us for their feedback. We understand the concern and we will make the findings of the investigation public as soon as we are in a position to do so.

The FEI is also giving the issue of Rollkür special attention. This topic has been put on the agenda of the FEI Bureau meeting, which is taking place on 15 November in Copenhagen. Important developments will be announced as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, LVM Insurance company will "most probably" stop sponsoring Patrik Kittel due to the many letters and emails protesting. They did ask him for a statement but say as well that he is "on very thin ice"...

Read HERE.

We all need to remember that Patrik is not the only rider out there utilizing rollkur, and while the video that jump-started this movement at this time featured him, we need to extend the circle to include other top riders and trainers who promote this technique.

If you've written to the FEI, thank you! While we wait for them to do their job, find sponsors who support riders and trainers using rollkur and let them know how you feel about that.

ADDED IN AS I JUST COULDN'T RESIST, from the Facebook Blue Tongue group:

OK, I am ready with the first list of sponsors and form letter. As stated before, use it any way you want, as inspiration, in part or all of it, but be sure to personalize it, (add your own comments and of course name) date it and add your country. I am relatively inept on the computer, so if there is a better way to p...ost this, do let me know. Most of these are links to a contact page, no emails were available, so copy/paste in address bar and go from there. Ladies and gentlemen, start your keyboards :-) here we go.

Drumroll, please - let's go for the gold, shall we? We start with - Anky.

Anky van Grunsven Sponsors

Van Grunsven Groep


For dutch contact, go to






(I can't take the time right now to make those all embedded links - but hopefully you can cut and paste for now - billie)

In an exciting announcement, Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling will be doing a live teleseminar speaking to this issue and responding to the video. This will happen on November 15th, the same day that the FEI Bureau meeting described above will be held.

Go HERE to register.

This is an opportunity to "vote" by registering and supporting a rider and trainer who is openly speaking out against rollkur. And it's free!

Dressage Disgrace, the site hosting the teleseminar, is a great way to stay up to date on what's going on. Support them by joining and by commenting.

And finally, I'd like to remind myself and all of us that as we look at and evaluate riders and trainers who are out there in the public eye, competing and being videotaped, we must also look to our own backyards and barns and arenas to evaluate our own riding, training, and horsemanship, as well as the lifestyle we are providing for our own horses.

Are we interacting with our equines with kindness, consistency, and clarity?

Are we staying active on the journey to better horsemanship? (in my opinion this journey never ends)

Are our own horses happy in mind, body, and spirit?

I've had a head cold all week so it's been easier than usual to spend so much time on this issue. (and on the computer!)

And I'm not done! But I'm taking the weekend off to relax with horses and family, enjoy the sudden drop in temps we had last night (we had to bring the porch plants in!) and celebrate my favorite time of year.

I may put up a few photos as the weekend rolls on, but otherwise, see you on Monday!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

we're all connected

The world is a huge place, and I think we all feel the distance on a daily basis when we read and see footage of war-torn countries, countries reeling with poverty, and moments later, lavish wealth in others.

It's easy to think our personal causes are futile, and our contributions limited. How much can one person really DO?

The world is big, too many people have to act to make big change happen, even if I act I don't see a difference.

I remembered over the past few days something I used to struggle with when I worked with abused and neglected children, many of whom had parents' whose rights had been terminated, which put these children in the custody and care of departments of social services. The children had therapists, case managers, teachers, houseparents, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and more, and even so, it sometimes felt like they had no one, because as hard as this team of people worked, they couldn't always provide exactly what the children needed at the exact moment they needed it.

There is a clear memory in my head of a day I sat in a clinical supervisor's office bemoaning how futile it was. I can see the light falling in through the window behind her head and her very curly long hair silhouetted as she said one sentence: "We're all connected. You do your part and trust that it links up to the next person's part."

I immediately had the image of a ladder, or a bridge, and the accompanying notion that my part was not building the entire ladder, nor was it to build the entire bridge. My part was to put my rung in place, or my plank on the bridge. As long as I kept doing that, and everyone else kept doing that, and we all filled in when needed if someone couldn't do their one part, the bigger structure would get built.

This week I decided my plank in the rollkur bridge is to write an article.

In the past 48 hours I have been in contact with Paul Belasik, Gerd Heuschmann, Sylvia Loch, and now Pepper Ballard of the Humane Society of the United States.

I have no connections to these people, except that of course, I DO.

I have audited Paul's clinics several times and love his beautifully written books. I have read Gerd Heuschmann's book and articles, and felt relief that someone with a degree in veterinary medicine is taking the issue on in such a big, important way. I was thrilled to discover Sylvia's writing and her classical riding group that is and has been for a long while so active in working on this issue. This week I have been reading daily about the Humane Society's work in shutting down an abusive veal processing plant.

And although I write a lot about zen and the peace and calm of my quiet little corner of this big wide world, I also know the power of this thing called the internet, and a more subtle power that we all have but don't always remember:

we are all connected.

(photo credit to dear husband - I used this a few weeks ago but it's so perfect for this post I had to use it again!)

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

respite care for equine advocates (and actually all of us)

This morning I went out to the barn to get my head clear and my focus back. After years spent working on the front lines with traumatized children and families, I know how important it is to take care of oneself while doing high-stress work.

Even writing a small series of blog posts about rollkur and opening up images of other equine issues (soring of gaited horses, tying down in various western disciplines, etc.) can lead to feelings of overwhelm and powerlessness. Folks who do this kind of investigatory work on a regular basis have to replenish their wells just as regularly.

While at the barn I purposely slowed myself down. Keil Bay can deal with a certain amount of my zen-like approach to making breakfast, but if I start slowing down my already slow pace, he is pretty good at ramping me back up. Fortunately my husband fed breakfast this morning, so my work was making a long, rambling trail of hay through the front field.

It starts with me and the wheelbarrow piled as high as my head. The herd falls in behind me and we make our way through the field as I toss out hay in very small piles. Today it was especially quiet out. When I stopped moving it was so quiet it almost felt like someone had turned down the volume of the neighborhood. I walked back up the hill and spent a few moments with each horse and donkey, just being still.

I scrubbed and refilled three water troughs, which took awhile. I opted not to try and do other chores while the troughs filled, but to stand and soak in some sunshine, breathe in the air, and listen to the sound of the water splashing.

Hopefully all the people working hard for animals of all kinds, including we human ones, can find some time to take a break, refuel, and go back to work with renewed energy and calm.

I think we all do better when we take time to watch the water run.

(photo credit to my dear husband)

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Rollkur 101: What You Need to Know to Take a Stand

Rollkur is seen in training and warm-up rings around the world as dressage riders (and riders in other disciplines as well) prepare for competition. A recent Epona TV video of a horse being ridden in a World Cup Qualifier warm-up in Odense, Denmark has brought riders, trainers, and equine enthusiasts of all kinds together in protest. Heather Moffett’s Blue Tongue Group on Facebook attracted 2600+ members in less than one week, and two anti-rollkur petitions online boast over 5000 signatures.

What is Rollkur?

Rollkur, or hyperflexion of the horse’s neck, is defined by the FEI (Fédération Equestre Internationale, the international governing body for all Olympic equestrian disciplines) as:

a technique of working/training used to provide a degree of longitudinal flexion of the mid-region of the neck. Hyperflexion cannot be self-maintained by the horse for an extended period of time.

In everyday terms, this exercise uses reins and pressure from the bit to pull the horse’s nose to its chest, thus over-bending the neck.

Why is it an issue?

Rollkur utilizes force to pull the horse’s head down to its chest. In this position the horse cannot see in front of itself, its breathing is impaired, and many experts and professionals believe rollkur may damage the horse both physically and psychologically. Ridden this way, the horse’s natural dynamic movement is lost, and classical dressage movement, as defined by the FEI’s own standards, becomes impossible.

If rollkur is so terrible why are riders using the technique winning at the upper levels of the sport?

Ask the FEI. The following is excerpted from the FEI Rules available to anyone as a downloadable PDF from their website. Read and compare to the Epona TV video. Search for online videos of winning FEI riders for the past few years and compare what’s being rewarded with the actual written standards.

Chapter I Dressage
The object of dressage is the development of the horse into a happy athlete
through harmonious education. As a result, it makes the horse calm, supple,
loose and flexible, but also confident, attentive and keen, thus achieving perfect
understanding with the rider.

These qualities are revealed by:
• The freedom and regularity of the paces.
• The harmony, lightness and ease of the movements.
• The lightness of the forehand and the engagement of the
hindquarters, originating from a lively impulsion.
• The acceptance of the bit, with submissiveness/throughness
(Durchlässigkeit) without any tension or resistance.

2. The horse thus gives the impression of doing, of its own accord, what is
required. Confident and attentive, submitting generously to the control of the
athlete, remaining absolutely straight in any movement on a straight line and
bending accordingly when moving on curved lines.

3. The walk is regular, free and unconstrained. The trot is free, supple, regular
and active. The canter is united, light and balanced. The hindquarters are
never inactive or sluggish. The horse responds to the slightest indication of the
athlete and thereby gives life and spirit to all the rest of its body.

4. By virtue of a lively impulsion and the suppleness of the joints, free from the
paralysing effects of resistance, the horse obeys willingly and without hesitation
and responds to the various aids calmly and with precision, displaying a natural
and harmonious balance both physically and mentally.

5. In all the work, even at the halt, the horse must be “on the bit”. A horse is
said to be “on the bit” when the neck is more or less raised and arched
according to the stage of training and the extension or collection of the pace,
accepting the bridle with a light and consistent soft submissive contact. The
head should remain in a steady position, as a rule slightly in front of the
vertical, with a supple poll as the highest point of the neck, and no resistance
should be offered to the athlete.

6. Cadence is shown in trot and canter and is the result of the proper harmony
that a horse shows when it moves with well-marked regularity, impulsion and
balance. Cadence must be maintained in all the different trot or canter
exercises and in all the variations of these paces.

7. The regularity of the paces is fundamental to dressage.

Why is this important now?

Rollkur is not new. After Dutch Olympic dressage champion Anky Van Grunsven was videotaped in a warmup arena riding her horse using this method and created a public outcry, the FEI met with a panel of world-class biomechanics and equine anatomy experts in Switzerland on January 31, 2006.

The FEI concluded that there was no evidence that rollkur causes direct harm to the horse when used in the right way by expert riders. They did add, however, that it could cause harm if used incorrectly by inexperienced riders and that hyperflexion cannot be self-maintained by the horse for an extended period of time.

The controversy surrounding rollkur rekindled recently when Epona TV published a video of dressage rider Patrik Kittel riding his stallion Scandic in a World Cup Qualifier in Denmark. The video showed Scandic’s discolored, limp, tongue hanging out of his mouth. The video has created a global outcry. Groups have been formed and petitions are being signed protesting the use of this controversial method and demanding investigation and action by the FEI.

What you can do to help:

Join Heather Moffett’s Blue Tongue Facebook Group for up to the minute updates.

Help get the word out. Put links on your blogs and web pages educating your readers about this issue. YOU MAY REPRINT THIS ARTICLE IN FULL OR TAKE THE LINKS PROVIDED.

Sign the existing petitions.



Write directly to the FEI.

FEI Dressage Task Force Members and all contact info HERE.

Write to your equine associations and ask them to take a stand.

Write to the sponsors of the World Equestrian Games to be held in Kentucky in 2010. Tell them you want to see happy horses (in all disciplines) ridden and warmed up humanely.

Support riders and trainers who ride and train without using rollkur.

(if you are a rider or trainer who would like to be listed here, let me know in the comment section and I will add your name and brief bio with link)

Support companies who sponsor these humane riders and trainers.

(if you are a company who sponsors riders and trainers who do NOT utilize rollkur and would like to be listed here, let me know in the comment section and I will add your name and brief bio with link)

Monday, November 02, 2009

Walter Zettl's perspective on Rollkur

This was a letter sent to the editor of the German St. Georg Magazine
(In response to the recent article entitled, "Dressage Perverse") - it predates the current video with Patrik Kittel but I feel it is important and offers yet another perspective by one of our contemporary classical masters.

Read more about Walter on his WEBSITE, and remember - part of speaking out against Rollkur is supporting those trainers and teachers who DON'T USE IT.


Translated from German

We can indeed be happy and grateful for having your Magazine and a chief editor like Gabriele Pochhammer who have dedicated themselves unreservedly to the wellbeing of our magnificent horses.

Should this not be the case also for every single rider? Is it not our duty to make the unnatural lives of our horses as tolerable as humanly possible? This does not only include correct boarding and regular exercise but also turn out and work. The objective of dressage should be to strengthen and “ennoble” the horse in its natural gaits through gymnasticizing, to obtain a constraint-free control and to enable us to “access” any exercises and transitions at any given time and at any given place. We should strive for a harmonious partnership, based on equal rights and mutual respect.

What we see and read about what happens in some arenas and warm-up paddocks is tantamount to enslaving and raping our magnificent animal partners. That we can even get close to them, in spite of their strength, we owe exclusively to their infinite patience and utmost devotion to us.

One is often prompted to ask why some riders exercise this sport as if they hated their equine partners, by torturing them with all kinds of artificial means, showing horses with their heads forcefully pulled down below the bit, to the point of touching their chests.

Without doubt, these riders are having great results. However, whoever has a heart for animals cannot condone this type of training, which must be condemned and rejected.

As long as show managers, judges, the National Federations and the FEI do nothing to stop these practices, this torture and abuse will only increase.

It is sad indeed that spectators are getting so upset about this type of riding and warm-up that they threaten show organizers with filing complaints with the SPCA.

How could we ever reach a point where dressage riding is being rejected even in the “prudish” North America?

Indeed, Sjef Janssen asked what on earth got into the heads of these “prudish Americans”. I will gladly answer that question. It is perfectly normal for people in North America to tackle anything that is directed against the moral values and the well-being of human beings and animals, and to rebel against such practices.

In this instance, the subject of criticism was the Show Steward whose duty it is to talk to and potentially admonish riders in cases of ugly and excessively long and harsh warm-ups.

That Steward has shown great courage in criticizing a most successful rider such as Anky. Sjef’s answer was that they did not fly 10,000 km just to see his long researched and finally found training method being torn to pieces by a Steward.

Sjef does not consider this type of long and excessive overbending in the neck to be animal abuse, as has been repeatedly observed. Sjef, Anky as well as their students and fans must surely hold a totally different view of what constitutes animal abuse.

Why is it then that he repeatedly had to defend his training method and to threaten legal action, such as prohibiting any video showing Anky during warm-up or banning photos and comments from a website? He has even gone so far as to seek a temporary injunction against parts of the article “Dressage Perverse?” published in the St. Georg Magazine.

Furthermore, Sjef has repeatedly stated that all horses that are ridden according to his method are happy and like to work for him. This was recently confirmed by some very influential, hand picked Ladies and Gentleman from the equestrian world. However, how can horses be deemed happy when they are pulled together and enslaved with mere force and all kinds of instruments?

Riders like Anky who are constantly in the limelight, should not only enjoy the notoriety but must also be able to accept criticism in the spirit of good sportsmanship. In the so called ”prudish” America, we still enjoy freedom of speech and freedom of the press, which allows us to criticize even the President.

Unfortunately, our poor horses are unable to scream out their pain. Otherwise, we would have to endure a lot of loud screaming and crying in many indoor and outdoor arenas and warm-up rings. It is a pity that Nature has cruelly neglected to equip our horses with the ability to voice their pain. Their lot is to continue to endure all pain and abuse quietly.

Our former “Grand Masters” would turn in their graves if they could see what our beautiful dressage sport has come to.

We can only hope that our sport finds its way back to what it should be: A sport that we can enjoy watching, not only in the show arena but also in the warm-up rings, as well as at home, in the absence of any spectators.

I wish with all my heart that Frau Pochhammer and the St.Georg continue to advocate a humane dressage training.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

remember to say thank you to Epona TV

Yesterday I decided that in addition to complaining to the FEI and signing petitions in protest, and joining Facebook groups that are anti-Rollkur, I would also remember and take the time to say thank you to a group of people who did a very important thing.

Epona TV sent a videographer to the World Cup. That person stood and filmed the warm-up, documenting the Patrik Kittel ride that got all of the above going.

And Epona TV has, imo, handled this entire situation with professionalism and courtesy.

I wrote them an email saying thank you for what they've done for the horses. And this morning I got a most gracious email response, from a real person who signed a real name.

Which was very much appreciated and is more than I've gotten from the FEI.

I think it's as important to note the doers of good as it is to focus on the other extreme.

Thank you, Epona TV.

Paul Belasik's perspective

From Paul Belasik's A Search for Collection - Science and Art in Riding:

The reason why you can’t pull a horse’s head down to his knees and hold it there day after day, hour after hour, is the same reason why you can’t pull a man’s head down to his knees and hold it there. The reason is that it is demeaning to the ...dignity of the horse or man. It is an ethical, philosophical problem, as well as a scientific one. When you act this way toward a horse with this unprovoked, irrational and unrelenting constant aggression, you demean everything: the horse, nature, yourself, the art and the observer. In the wild, no horse would accept this demonic control. Leaders lead because they prove they have the capacity to lead, and they are good at it. The whole herd has a better life. If the leaders choose badly… they will be replaced.

Yet another reason why Rollkur is not good for horses - or for us.