Confused about Rollkur? You’re not alone.


We’ve had three stories centred around “the Rollkur issue” in recent days. Readers could be forgiven for being confused about the topic.

Watermill Scandic at Odense
Watermill Scandic at Odense

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 …)

Equine Biomechanics for Riders

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.

3 thoughts on “Confused about Rollkur? You’re not alone.

  • February 14, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    UNBELIEVABLY I saw a well known kiwi/international showjumping rider schooling his horse in a very deep frame (rolkur)for a long time, not only that but the poor creature was expected to jump in the practice ring in that frame! I was completely amazed and have NEVER seen any thing like it in all the years I have been involved with horses. Of course I have seen draw reins used often but the horse is always released to jump. Granted the practice jumps were small but I don’t think thats the issue. I was horrified and commented to a horsey aquantance who was nearby and she had seen him do the exact same thing on a horse he was schooling at a clinic for a much longer period of time, she is a very experienced horse person and like me had never seen anything like it here or overseas. I do hope this form of animal abuse is not crossing the disciplines

  • February 28, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    I cannot see the point in LDR any more than I can see the point of women(and now 4 mos old infants!) walking around in high heeled shoes. These activities are physically harmful and judged by people that have absolutely no clue about anatomy and physiology and the need for simple things like easy breathing and blood-flow!
    Yes they both alter the shape of the body and they are both touted by famous and powerfully influential people that this ‘the thing to do,’ regardless of the physical effect on the creature expected to perform in that frame.
    There is little thought of the welfare of either the horse or that of the woman/child – it is all for show and “damn the torpedoes.”
    Totally ridiculous and more examples of human authority driven by egotism – just like the destruction of native tribes and rainforests etc…

  • April 17, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    I don’t think anyone should have any say over this until/unless they have trained and competed at Grand Prix. I passed up buying a little NSH because she flunked 3 out of 4 leg flexion tests. But my friend was willing to take the risk, and I trained her. I worked her super round, low and deep (“loose and juicy, I call it) for several months, until her back felt good. Then we re-did the flexion tests…all 4 legs were completely sound. This ring sour trail horse then began to LOVE her work…more than her food. She went from nothing to PSG in record 2 years, and Grand Prix in 3. She is now 22 and better than ever. We still need to warm her up overly round, and when she extends she wants to go down below the vertical. I have to work hard to keep her poll up and carrying herself. But if I did that a lot, she’d get a sore back. “Ride the back, not the frame.”


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