British Horse Society chairman Patrick Print has written to FEI President Princess Haya demanding an investigation into the use of hyperflexion in dressage training.
Print is demanding the FEI look into the apparent distress of Swedish rider Patrick Kittel’s horse Watermill Scandic at Odense earlier this month, which was captured on video. He is also asking for an investigation in the ethics of rollkur (hyperflexion) more generally.
In the letter, he said: “You cannot be unaware of the disquiet – not to say anger – which has arisen following the depiction on Epona TV of Patrick Kittel’s horse in apparent distress as it competed in Odense on 18th October.
“As you are doubtless aware, in terms both of membership and breadth of interest, The British Horse Society (BHS) is the largest single equestrian organisation in the UK. Our examinations system, and the training and education which underpin it, have earned for the Society international recognition. No less important is our work to promote the highest standards of equine welfare, which suffuses every facet of our work. I am pleased to report that our commitment to equine welfare is shared by all our colleagues within the British Equestrian Federation, although on this occasion I am writing solely on behalf of the BHS.
“Let me acknowledge straight away that no representative of the BHS was present in Denmark to witness the horse’s apparent distress, nor do we have the benefit of a contemporaneous veterinary report. Moreover, we do not for one minute suggest that Patrik Kittel at any time sought to treat his horse other than with proper care and respect.
“Nevertheless, in matters of equine welfare, the precautionary principle must always apply: if, despite the absence of conclusive proof, the wellbeing of a horse is called into question, there will exist a strong moral obligation on the FEI to respond immediately. In our view, the concerns so widely expressed are reasonable and therefore deserving of an urgent two-part investigation: first, an inquiry into the treatment of this particular horse on this particular occasion; and, second, a broader inquiry into the ethics and consequences of hyperflexion.”
He concluded by saying that the BHS had not passed comment “on the aesthetics of seeing a competition horse contorted in a way it never appears to choose for itself when in its natural state.
“Our concern is only to speak out when we believe that the welfare of horses demands it.”