I wonder if you’ve been following the excellent posts from Billie at Camera Obscura about the Rollkur issue and a video that was shot by Epona TV of dressage rider Patrik Kittel. If you haven’t, please check out Billie’s thorough, thoughtful coverage of this tragic situation that is occurring in the dressage world and follow the links to sign the petitions to the FEI to stop this inhumane treatment of horses. Thank you, Billie, for providing us with all the information we need to make an educated effort to try to help right a serious wrong.
Briefly, Rollkur is a training technique used by some dressage riders that creates hyper-flexion of the horse’s neck. It is supposed to teach the horse to lower its head and round its neck as it works. In some cases, the horse’s mouth touches the middle of its chest, and this state of hyper-flexion is held for over ten minutes. The video shows the horse that Kittel is riding sticking out its tongue, which has turned blue, an indication that the blood flow has been cut off. The Federation Equestre Internationale is the sole controlling authority for all international events governing Dressage, Driving, Endurance, Eventing, Jumping, Reining, and Vaulting. It establishes the rules for the Olympics, as well as Championships, Regional and Continental Games. In 2006, the FEI decided that it would allow the use of hyper-flexion by experienced riders. Now, they are reconsidering their position. Anything that we can do to convince them that Rollkur should be banned is needed at this critical moment.
I realized that I am quite sensitive to this issue because of the abuse Silk suffered before I bought her. This kind of extreme treatment exists in many disciplines of riding. As a Western Pleasure horse, Silk had the misfortune to be ridden by a man who was relentlessly aggressive in training her to bend her neck and put extreme pressure on her mouth with the bit. It is amazing to me that she forgave humans for what they did to her, and that she is my loving and willing partner today.
I went out to the barn after reading the links that Billie posted and watching the video. If the neighbors had heard me, they would have thought that I was crazy, but I told Silk the whole sad story. She just kept eating her hay, with one ear turned in my direction. I said that we would keep trying to make life better for horses, and that over 4000 people had already signed petitions protesting to the FEI. Years ago, I promised Silk that no one would ever hurt her again, and I am sorry that so many other horses continue to be abused by people under the guise of “training”. I know she listened to me.
Billie quoted Paul Belasik's “A Search for Collection - Science and Art in Riding”, and what he said had such an impact on me that I can’t stop thinking about it. I feel compelled to quote it again here:
"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."