Saturday, October 24, 2009

things you can do in response to the Rollkur/blue tongue

I've written to the FEI voicing my concerns and requesting action on their part. But as we know, that in itself will be a very small part of addressing this issue.

The discussion on how to respond is still ongoing on the classical dressage list. Dr. Thomas Ritter, who I've quoted here before, offered a very well-put perspective on the many things we can do:

That's exactly right. This kind of riding is rampant today. Patrick Kittel is by no means extreme or unusual. The problem is much more pervasive and systemic than one rider or a handful of riders. You can see it to varying degrees at every show, and these riders are routinely rewarded at the highest international levels, which is why it became so widespread in the first place. Somebody just happened to capture this on film and put it on youtube.

The reason why it's so hard to make an impact is because many of the people you complain to are using the exact same techniques. It's like trying to clean up a corrupt government or police force where everyone you turn to for help is corrupt and working for the other side, too.

Persistence is probably the only thing that will work in the long run. It will have to be a multi-pronged approach. It's good to write protest letters and e-mails to the FEI and all the national federations. It's important to support Gerd Heuschmann, the Xenophon society, Allege Ideal, and other individuals and organizations like them. It's important to educate riders, trainers, and judges.

Clients have to boycott trainers and judges who practice, teach, or condone Rollkur. If you are a competitor, don't ride for judges of whom you know that they are rewarding this kind of riding.

Trainers have to educate their clients about physiologically correct riding. Authors have to write books and articles that explain correct riding, and take a stand against Rollkur. Good riders have to demonstrate correct riding in practice.

Everybody can raise the issue at USDF conventions and other events that are put on by the establishment.

Trainers who go through a certification process can raise the issue with the teachers and examiners - at the risk of failing their exam.

Vote people into office in the national organizations who are anti Rollkur.

Ultimately, the only thing that will shut Rollkur down is if it doesn't bring money or fame any more. This is where judges and clients play a very important role. If horses that are short in the neck and on the forehand are consistently placed last, riders will abandon this technique very quickly.

If clients consistently take their money to riders who teach physiologically, biomechanically correct riding, and consistently avoid riders who ride their horses deep, with a short neck, and a high croup, then the Rollkur riders will either have to reeducate themselves, or they will not survive.

When I started to take my first riding lessons in the 70s, we were taught that having the horse behind the vertical was the greater evil than having him above the bit, and that correcting a horse that's behind the bit is more difficult than correcting one that's above the bit. This mindset has to be rediscovered.

(end of quote, posted here with permission)

Someone else on the list suggested that we boycott companies who sponsor upper level riders who consistently employ these abusive techniques. Writing them to let them know WHY you aren't buying their product gives them information. Enclosing a copy of a receipt for the product you did buy from another company who does not sponsor or endorse such riders gives them even more information.

If you go to the website for the WEG games in 2010 in Kentucky, you can find a list of sponsors for those games. Start now and let them know you will not support the games OR the sponsors if this kind of riding is allowed in warm-up, competition, and particularly rewarded with ribbons.

Some people are talking on COTH about wearing white armbands with the "no Rollkur" symbol. Others are talking about utilizing a "stand up and turn your back" to competitors who utilize these techniques.

I feel that going to the stewards and officials is often ineffective. What I personally intend to do if I see such abuse is to call 911 and treat it as an animal abuse issue. Which is actually what it is. The FEI has no jurisdiction over local law enforcement if an animal is being abused.

Someone from the classical dressage list has contacted the Dutch authorities (where the competition in the aforementioned video took place) and reported the abuse. She has received a response that the situation is being investigated.

Any one of us alone can probably not effect widespread change. But if we all report what we personally see, at least the FEI will have to deal with a swell of complaints, and local law enforcement will be activated.


Grey Horse Matters said...

Dr. Ritter and yourself make good points on how to stop this. If we all practiced these specific actions I think we'd have a decent chance of getting this practice stopped. At least publicly. Personally, I've always thought that if you hit these sponsors and riders in their wallet that's where it would do the most good. It's all about the money and the ribbons and fame for some participants in the sport.

You'd think people wouldn't do it because it is so harmful and abusive to the horses they are supposed to care about. Obviously, that's not the case in riding anymore. It's not only dressage either. We were at a hunter/jumper barn where this was practiced. They thought they were putting the horse on the bit and wouldn't listen to any argument against it.There are just so many uneducated riders and trainers it's a sin. I'll compose a letter and send it off too.

billie said...

So true that it's not just dressage. I've read nightmarish things about Western Pleasure and reiners.

Looking over the WEG site earlier, I was tempted to sign up as a volunteer for the games and just walk around with an inconspicuous camera and a cell phone dialed to 911.

Michelle said...

This is just so sad....Although I have seen some questionable things at shows, I have never seen anything so blatantly, openly abusive. It really disturbs me that this person rode around, through, and with all those other horses and not one person even looked twice. Wow. We have a long way to go.

billie said...

We do, but I think this video is having a snowball effect.

jme said...

all great ideas. i will have to get working on this and see if i can recruit some other horse people!

billie said...

jme, I consider your blog, where you post so much wonderful info about riding/training humanely and correctly, to be a big and effective way to battle the craziness.

jme said...

thanks, that means a lot :-) would probably be better if i actually got around to posting again ;-)

billie said...

It's okay not to post if when you DO post it's worth the wait. And yours always are!

Unknown said...

Way back in the 19th century driving horses were subjected to a very similar type of torture by having a bearing rein fixing their heads up and the nose in towards their chest. They had to suffer this and work hard at the same time. This was BANNED in the 19th century!!! This Rollkur is virtually the same with the poor dressage horses being subjected to hard work with overbent poll, hardly able to breath with the riders pushing into the bit (strong enough to stop an elephant) and spurs constantly pushing. What chance do the horses have to object? This is NOT classical riding - just a quick fix. The horse should never be behind the vertical. And the 'powers that be' have the nerve to say they have no scientific evidence that it does harm to the horse !!!
You only have to see the horse's frightened eyes to know they are suffering. Once again the horse is abused for the sake of money.

billie said...

Anne, I did not know this - thanks for the info. I agree - it's so apparent in the eyes.