Thursday, April 22, 2010

the FEI comments, and I have a few questions

This afternoon I received this comment on my recent FEI post about the new guidelines for stewards. Malina, the FEI press manager, has commented here before and I'm glad she has returned to shed some light on the guidelines.  Her comment:

Hello Billie,

The new Guidelines for Stewards were issued on 15 April 2010; they were announced that day and published on the FEI website. I tried to post a comment on your blog to alert you to the fact but it never appeared. That might be because I included a URL, I've had that problem before.

In any case, I wanted to clarify that, according to the new FEI Guidelines for Stewards, any head and neck position achieved through force or aggressive riding is unacceptable for any length of time. Even a head and neck position achieved harmoniously and without force can only be maintained for a maximum of ten minutes.

Also, just to confirm that the FEI has stated categorically that the use of rollkur/hyperflexion is unacceptable and the Stewards will intervene. The diagrams that will be provided to Stewards will illustrate what head and neck positions are acceptable. The new Guidelines will be implemented from 15 May 2010.

All the best,
Malina (FEI Press Manager)

My questions:

How are force and aggressive riding defined, exactly? I have not yet seen anything revealing how this will be determined by either stewards or judges.
For example, the riders in the photos HERE.

The rider in blue shirt on black horse and rider in tan/black shirt on bay horse appear to me to be riding with force. The arms are behind the riders' torsos, which are torqued back, the curb shanks are nearly horizontal, the horses' muzzles are nearly touching chests, mouths gaping open, and horses' tails are not at all relaxed and swinging. Is this not force and/or aggressive riding? Is it not the perfect illustration of rollkur/hyperflexion?

Secondly, I am very curious and eager to see the diagrams that to my knowledge have not appeared anywhere as of this writing. When will they be revealed to the public? It's pointless imo to refer to them if they are not able to be examined.

As you can tell, I am very frustrated about the way this recent announcement was handled by the FEI. It feels like the assurances that were made have not been honored, and with the current brouhaha concerning McLain Ward and Sapphire, it also feels like the FEI's inconsistency in addressing these issues across the board is veering wildly from no response at all (Patrik Kittel and Scandic, on videotape) to targeting a horse who by all accounts appears to be in sound jumping form and has now been completely disqualified in a whirlwind of "protective action."

What is the bottom line here? If rollkur/hyperflexion is no longer allowed, then why am I seeing photographs of Anky et al doing it as recently as this past weekend? 

To my knowledge there was no intervention by stewards.

The above horses are not happy athletes. The riding does not meet the current FEI guidelines. Why is it being allowed?

If all this is going to change, in a 180 degree turn for the better, on May 15th, I will be thrilled. But I see no evidence to think this is going to occur. I sincerely hope to be proven wrong.


Grey Horse Matters said...

I'd have to completely agree with all your questions. I'm afraid there will be no answers that will satisfy the riders like us who actually care about their horses first and their ego/standings in the dressage community last.

Máire said...

Billie I have to congratulate you for being able to articulate so clearly the issues here. They do matter, very much indeed and they matter to the general horse public, most of whom have the welfare of the horse as first priority. It is quite depressing and those two photos you show really make me feel very sad. These are top riders who should have the skill and the resources to do better.


jme said...

all excellent questions. i am anxious to hear them answered. though something tells me the 'answers' will just add to my frustration.

Anonymous said...

At this point I am just disgusted with the FEI - of course putting a horse into that position for more than a second requires the use of force, and of course a curb bit and chain can, and are used to, produce this force. What in the world can the FEI be thinking? A horse can assume that position for a moment without pain, but the distress of being forced to hold that position must do great mental damage to the horse - it's exactly the same (and exactly as abusive) as the Western pleasure abuse of tying horses' heads around to the side - a horse moving freely can touch its nose to its side for a second, but forcing the horse to maintain that position for longer is abuse, and it's exactly the same as what the FEI is sanctioning for dressage. As I said, I'm disgusted.

Anonymous said...

Hi again, Billie.

The diagrams are currently being drawn and will be integrated in the Stewards’ manual along with the new guidelines. We expect them to be ready by mid-May. I’ll let you know when this is done.

Malina (FEI)

Barb said...

Hi Billie:

I have a question regarding the pictures that you have displayed of the two riders using agressive force. Were these pictures taken before or after the Guidelines for Stewards were issued?

billie said...

I'm very interested in seeing them, Malina.

billie said...

Barb, the guidelines were issued on April 15th and the photos were taken on April 17th, so after.

Barb said...

well, that is very sad that nothing has in fact changed.
very disheartening, indeed.

ponymaid said...

Billie, all I can say to those photos is "OUCH". The one poor soul has his entire hind lifted off the ground. When money and glory go out of the equation, and saner heads prevail, hind ends will stay on the ground.

billie said...

Barb, I should point out that the guidelines are supposed to be in effect as of May 15th - so from that perspective, the stewards are not yet required to adhere to them.

However, my personal stance is that the existing guidelines, if followed, would still prohibit the riding shown in the photos.

billie said...

Sheaffer, I noticed that but neglected to mention it - thanks for pointing it out b/c it's a huge flag that something is NOT RIGHT for that poor horse. :/