Thursday, February 25, 2010

3 very concrete steps the FEI could take towards definitive progress?

The week's end has come quick! And I am on a tight schedule today, so am not going to ramble on as I have done previously.

What I'm proposing is that we offer three concrete steps we each feel would lead to progress with reference to the issue of rollkur/hyperflexion/LDR. I know some of the issue is that there IS a distinction between the first two and LDR, but I personally feel they need to be considered as one. You don't have to follow my categorization at all.

Pretend YOU'RE on the working group that's trying to clarify the new rules. Pretend you can go beyond that if you want to. What three things would you add in to the rules, or change?

I'll add mine in later, probably early evening, and then will go through any comments tonight with the intention of posting the entire list tomorrow.

One thing I'm happy to read this morning from Horse For Life:

Today at 7:27am
In March 2009, in concert and with the support with a number of other horsemen, we put online a petition for the two finger rule. Knowing that a properly adjusted noseband could help make it that much more difficult to maintain and hold a horse in an overflexed position. It gives the horse his voice back!

Now 3000 signatures strong the USEF has in 2010 answered that call at a national level!!!

Rule 121.6. .... At any level of competition, a cavesson noseband may never be so tightly fixed that it causes severe irritation to the skin, and must be adjusted to allow at least two fingers under the noseband on the side of the face under the cheekbone.

As someone noted, it could be better - could have specified two fingers between top of nose and noseband. BUT, this is progress. I've argued this with trainers for years and loosened many cavessons the trainers had made overly tight. Now at least the rule tells you where to put the fingers! Not under the horse's jaw where the crevice is!


Dougie Donk said...

Goodness, only three things to add in ?! In no particular order :

1. Double bridles are not permitted at levels below Grand Prix. (Harder to get hyperflexion in a snaffle!)

2. Horses that do not track up fully in trot exercises will be severely penalised.

3. The horse's poll must ALWAYS be the highest point of the neck.

I could go on & on, but wil stick with the rules for a change :)

billie said...

Dougie, it's the couples' therapist in me limiting the number of items of things to work on!

I think the limit forces us to look at what we think are the most important things to begin working on.

Asking for too much too soon sometimes breaks down communication!

Dougie Donk said...

Hi Billie

Think it's time to tell you that Dougie really is the donkey in my herd. My name's Lynda. LOL :))

billie said...

Lynda, I knew Dougie was the donkey but I don't think I knew YOUR name - thanks!

billie said...

My three things:

1. Institute a review for all judges and stewards as to the existing standards, the new distinctions, with visual examples of what is okay and what is not. Sad to say this but I think some of the upper level judges need to see what a horse whose nose is slightly in front of the vertical looks like!

2. A strengthening of the process so that stewards are not intimidated or argued with - a rider can appeal a warning, etc. but must cease what he/she is doing until the judge reviews the call. Intimidation or argument with stewards is grounds for immediate disqualification. (there is no reason to argue with the stewards if there is an appeal process in place and especially if there are cameras so that looking at the infraction is simply done by the judge)

3. Include long-time classically trained dressage riders/trainers in the working group, the round-tables, committees, etc. IMO, Sjef Janssen being included as the "dressage representative" is counterproductive. According to Janssen, he invented rollkur. It seems unlikely that he will now denounce it as abusive. We need a balance of perspectives discussing these issues. He is not representative of the discipline and sport of dressage as many of us know and cherish it.

Máire said...

Hmm. This is difficult and highlights just how tricky it could be for the working group.

Absolutely, stewards must be protected from intimidation. I am absolutely stuck on how to define aggressive force. Do they look at the rider's position, the horse's position or both? This is crucial as it is how they have distinguished Rolllkur from LDR. I wish they had not made this distinction but it is a given for now at any rate.

They could have a clear length of time that a LDR frame is held for.

It would also be quite nice, in relation to what you say above, Billie, if they were shown some old competition dressage videos. There is a very nice one on Horses for Life at present. I know there is the arguement that the modern dressage horse is a very different animal, but we can get too used to seeing a particular outline and it is good to get another perspective.

These are not three very clear points such as you are looking for here. I can see a huge challenge for the working party.

I do appreciate that Malina comes here and is interested in our opinions.

billie said...

Thank you, Maire! You are right to stick with the definition of aggressive force. That's critical in moving forward.

jme said...

without taking too much time to ponder this one (i may have to come back!) i can think of three off the top of my head that may, in fact, be at the top of my list as well. they all have to do with judges. these shocking methods and sub-standard performances would never have been allowed to become the norm if judges had done their jobs correctly. here's what i'd change:

1. selection: i don't know exactly how it works in the FEI, but the USEF selects judges based not upon education and testing, but upon brief, meaningless references from other horsemen. in other words, do you know x number of USEF members who think you'd make a good judge? great! you're in. that's it. and if you happen to have won a major award, quite often you don't even need those recommendations. you get a free pass. so if you happen to have won your award with questionable riding methods, those methods become an asset to any rider who shows in front of you. it becomes a vicious circle and there is nothing in this sort of system to ensure that new judges understand, recognize and enforce the standards of riding set forth by the organization. it's all on the say-so of their friends.

2. training: i think all judges should have to undergo a lengthy and detailed course as well as apprenticeships with qualified judges regardless of their prior accomplishments or level of riding. too few judges have any idea what they are looking at much less WHY it is good or bad. maybe some formal education could help make that clear to them.

3. testing: not only should new judges be thoroughly examined on their ability to correctly recognize correct and incorrect performances and weight one against another, but they should be graded and certified as judges exclusively on their ability to do so. an objective system of grading should be developed in order to try to keep the process as apolitical as possible. the fact it, not all good riders make good trainers and/or judges, just as not everyone with an eye for judging is necessarily a good rider or trainer. assuming that they are all related skills has gotten us a lot of ill-equipped judges. perhaps a more rigorous system of training and testing would help weed out those who simply don't posses this skill. in addition, i think all existing judges should undergo regular review and be required to demonstrate their skills as well as their commitment to the standards of the sport before renewing their license. recently our new USEF dressage coach (someone i have known personally and can atest is an unethical moron - one day i'll tell you all about how, when no one is looking, she likes to use kicking chains to school passage...) has said that judges should be reviewed, but even if they fail their test, should not have their credentials taken away. excuse me? after someone has clearly demonstrated they are unqualified, they are still allowed to judge? in what other universe could that possibly happen? these are horse show judges, not supreme court justices!

this sort of thinking is at the heart of what is wrong with competition today, and i think placing more emphasis on the role of judges, stricter requirements on licensing, and real and meaningful consequences for failure to uphold the organization's standards are a good place to start reforming the sport from the top down. that's my little wish list, anyway. in the meantime, we'll have to keep doing our part from the bottom up.

billie said...

thanks, j - all excellent points and very useful to read here. you're so eloquent - thanks for taking the time to add these in.