Monday, January 18, 2010

some new info on the rollkur issue


On an exciting note, Heather Moffett's Blue Tongue Facebook page now has over 4000 members!

More examples of Helgstrand's training techniques and riding behind the vertical. Please note each horse's angle - I didn't see one single moment where any of the horses were "slightly in front of the vertical" which is the standard. Also note how even Helgstrand is hanging on to the reins and leaning back. Why are the horses so herky-jerky in their movement? Is this really good riding? I leave you to make that call.

In this article on Edward Gal and Totilas there has been some after the fact editing:

The photo that showed another horse in Gal's training facility that was being ridden in draw reins and behind the vertical has now been removed.

This was the photo which originally appeared:

Isn't it interesting that although they all say there is nothing wrong with these methods, they don't want any photographic or videographic evidence linked with them?

NEW: Look in the comments for a link to Gal riding Totilas in the Windsor warm-up. It's 20 minutes of an almost continuously horizontal curb bit, pulling the hand back to the thigh and a few times to the waist, and lots of the Gal "body as lever" riding, which I personally do not enjoy watching, nor do I feel it even approaches the harmony and grace an upper level rider should possess.

Note the foamy sweat forming along the neck where the reins are rubbing, as well as on the flank where Gal's legs are scrubbing back and forth. I don't recall ever seeing foamy sweat in those areas. The sound of T. huffing as he canters by, the foam flying off in flecks behind him, makes me ill. There are several moments when he tries to protest but is immediately shut down with that curb bit.

In the background you'll see plenty more nose to chest riding going on. I'm glad people are videotaping. I'm not sure I could stand there quietly, watching horses under lockdown, body and spirit.

There's a new study which looks at hyperflexion:

A new study by Graf-Lehndorff-Institute (Austria/Germany) is about to be published (Cavallo 02/10). The scientists used a newly developped endoscope to observe the breathing in horses in movement (so far only possible at halt). 16 horses on the lungeing ...line first with long side reins then lungeing session with side reins so short that r hyperflexed. They also assessed superficial body temperature in horses with different degrees of hyperflexion of the neck.
Not only does it take 'their breath away', but pulse rate increases. Thermoscopy shows the horses get tense, blood circulation changes and the back is being hollowed.

On January 11, 2010, this was released:

World Horse Welfare comment on Rollkur

In a recent article in the Observer newspaper, the quote attributed to World Horse Welfare with regards to the practice of Rollkur was not entirely correct.

World Horse Welfare does not believe that Rollkur is a "valuable training method". Our comment was that there are many people within the equestrian world who feel that Rollkur is a valuable training method, although clearly there are many people who take the contrary view. We also stressed that Rollkur, like any training method, can cause great harm if it is misused.

World Horse Welfare is taking a stance on this issue. Current FEI rules do not allow prolonged or excessive use of Rollkur. We are seeking robust guidance for stewards at FEI events as to what “excessive” and “prolonged” use of Rollkur means in practice. We are also pushing for robust research to look at whether there is a welfare issue involved in training techniques using Rollkur.

AND, JUST IN, a note on doping in competition. The FEI has launched a new website:

Ironically this new website, which seems to focus on the FEI's concerns about doping, is actually heralding the NEW RULES they have come up with that actually ALLOW certain drugs to be legal in competition!


Even more bizarre, they have established an "Integrity Unit" with a nice note that says this:

Concerns regarding integrity issues?
Call the Equestrian Community Integrity Unit confidential hotline on +44 (0) 20 7935 5822 or email:

I have lots to report when it comes to integrity on the part of the FEI in the sport of dressage.


Jane said...

Oh for heaven's sake. It's all right there in the study: the horse can't breathe, gets tense, and the back gets hollowed.

All completely opposite of what you want in dressage: deep breathing, relaxation, and a fluid, giving, round back!

I do not understand what there is to "discuss" about this issue. That there would be "robust guidance" for how long a rider can use Rollkur is heinous. How about NEVER. It *harms the horse* and does the opposite of everything you want to achieve in the dressage ring.

Thank you for your work keeping us up with this.

billie said...

The use of the word robust is what got me.

However, that they stepped up to clarify their position means they got a lot of flack for the original quote, so... more reason for all of us to keep pushing, keep writing, and keep speaking out.

Grey Horse Matters said...

Everyone knows this is a destructive practice and still they go round and round trying to come up with a solution. There is no solution to make the ones who use rollkur happy. It simply must be stopped in any form, whether it's 'robust' or 'light' guidance!

I have to agree with what Jane said, it's all there in the studies in black and white. If the FEI and others choose to ignore this, shame on them for not advocating for the horse.

Has it gotten so far gone as to only be about sponsors, money and fame? Where's the hard working talented rider who cares about his horse and about training correctly (even if it does take more time). Isn't it about a partnership with your horse and the beauty you can create together and not force.And finally, what kind of example is being sent for future generations?

Some questions the powers that be might want to ask themselves as they are ignoring the studies about rollkur and it's effect on the abused horses of dressage.

billie said...

Andrea shared this on an earlier post but I'm copying it here in case anyone is interested:

a video from the warm up in Windsor. even worse than the ride itself.

Difficult to watch at times but I think important to remind ourselves why we must continue to speak out.

billie said...

Meant to say, I'm curious who the woman riding the chestnut is. If anyone knows, please share.

Arlene, it's hard to imagine anyone thinking rollkur is a useful tool. There was a fascinating piece I read somewhere from a woman who had been taught to use rollkur and how she began to see it negatively impacting her horse, so she stopped. It would be nice to see some of the riders currently scoring so high using this method have similar epiphanies.