We’ve had three stories centred around “the Rollkur issue” in recent days. Readers could be forgiven for being confused about the topic.
The first story noted the opposition to the training method by the British Horse Society, which stated it was “unacceptable”. BHS chairman Patrick Print had written to FEI president Princess Haya in October demanding an investigation into the now-infamous “blue tongue video“. Their comments followed the publication of the results of the investigation, which has surprised many with the findings that the FEI had “found no reliable evidence“ that the methods used by Grand Prix level rider Patrik Kittel were excessive. A video of Kittel warming up Watermill Scandic at a World Cup event last October has done the rounds, and appears to show the horse’s head well flexed and his tongue turning blue.
Kittel has received a warning letter, but there will be no formal claim against him.
Which brings us to the latest story, when at an FEI round-table meeting earlier this week, the definitions of Rollkur, Hyperflexion and Low, Deep and Round (LDR) were redefined. The FEI now says that “any head and neck position achieved through aggressive force is not acceptable, and aggressive riding must be sanctioned.” Rollkur and Hyperflexion “are the same thing”, and defined as “a position of the head obtained by aggressive riding”, FEI Dressage and Para-Equestrian Dressage Director Trond Asmyr said after the meeting. “Low, Deep and Round” was defined as “a method of riding to obtain flexion of the horse in a harmonious way, which is acceptable”.
Stewards will be trembling in their galoshes: Dressage Committee Chair Frank Kemperman is to head a group which will expand the current guidelines for stewards to move along the implementation of the FEI’s anti-hyperflexion policy.
Good on the FEI for giving stewards more power. It will take serious stones to stand up to the top riders. But if a rider is pulled up in the warm-up ring, won’t they simply say they’re doing LDR as opposed to Rollkur? (And who knows what on earth they are doing at home …)
We reviewed a book on equine biomechanics recently, written by rider and trainer Karin Blignault. In “Equine Biomechanics – The Key to Balanced Riding“, she discussed the detrimental effects of Rollkur/hyperflexion, and writes “Take 10 minutes of your time to get into a kneeling position and crawl around with your chin stuck to your chest. After doing this, it is very doubtful that you will ever ride in the ‘deep and round’ position.”
Maybe things would be different if the participants at the FEI’s round-table meeting tried this.