Posts Tagged ‘rollkur’

“In the mid-2000s the German veterinarian Dr. Gerd Heuschmann, working with German Olympic dressage champion Klaus Balkenhol, created headlines when they publicized the findings of Heuschmann’s anatomical and biomechanical studies of hyperflexion,” writes Jennifer Bryant in “Rollkur: Dressage’s Dirty Word,” a recent article on TheHorse.com. “Heuschmann said that hyperflexion not only fails to develop the proper musculature for upper-level dressage, but the exaggerated flexion can also restrict the horse’s airway. Heuschmann published a book, Tug of War: Classical Versus ‘Modern’ Dressage, detailing his findings and arguing against the practice of hyperflexion.”

According to Bryant, “Some dressage enthusiasts remain convinced that rollkur still occurs. During the dressage competition at the 2012 London Olympic Games, some photos circulated on the Internet, appearing to show Swedish competitor Patrik Kittel on Scandic riding in a hyperflexed position. Online forums and the FEI’s Facebook page, among others, were barraged with expressions of outrage and accusations that the FEI was failing to enforce Annex XIII of the Stewards Manual.”

Dr. Heuschmann agrees that, despite the online uproar, there continues to be a troubling acceptance of certain training techniques amongst those who ride, train, and show horses. Heuschmann says this is not only an international issue, but a local one, and not only a dressage issue, but one that is relevant to the show jumping community and those who participate in competitive Western sports, namely reining.

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Heuschmann’s new book BALANCING ACT: THE HORSE IN SPORT–AN IRRECONCILABLE CONFLICT? is his attempt to keep equestrians around the world focused on the problems at hand, while at the same time offering well-researched, fair, and proven techniques for retraining:

-the tense horse,

-the rein-lame horse,

-the horse with gait deviations, and

-the hyperflexed horse, among others.

BALANCING ACT is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is always FREE.


And check out the complete article about the debate involving the 2012 Olympics by Jennifer Bryant on TheHorse.com.


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The disturbing image I accidentally caught while photographing a recent polo match.

It had been almost 20 years since I’d seen the game played when I recently ventured near a polo field. A childhood friend had handled a string of ponies for a local player, and I distinctly remember the challenge of exercising them (rein, seat, and leg aids were a whole new, well, “ballgame”). To be honest, I really hadn’t thought much about the sport since those days, but being a horse lover who generally enjoys any excuse to sit in the sun and gaze at glossy four-leggeds, I eagerly accepted an invitation to attend a match a couple of months ago.

While admittedly the horses were finely bred and in excellent physical shape, I found myself decidedly uncomfortable as the afternoon wore on. I couldn’t help but think of the developments in other horse sports over the past decade, and how we have become far more cognizant of the fact that horses suffer, often needlessly, due to rough or careless riding and ill-fitting or harsh tack and equipment.

I am prepared to state that I am very conscious of the fact that many polo players are excellent riders with a secure seat, and no doubt they spend a lot of money to keep their string in good health and peak condition. However, the need for control of the ponies’ movements in such a fast-played, stop-and-go game, and the use of what appear to be fairly severe bits and strong hands, made it very apparent to me that many of the horses were hurting.

I was spinning through my photos from the day when I got home, and sure enough, I was gutted by one particular image I had captured, quite by accident, that in my mind was equal in horror to many of the images we have seen publicized during the Rollkur/LDR debate. My eyes were truly opened, just as this horse’s eyes were rolled back in his head, the whites showing, as he obviously reacted to extreme pain in his mouth. Now, I can’t help but notice, everywhere I see a photo from a polo match, there is undoubtedly one or two ponies exhibiting similar expressions. It saddens me greatly to know that so many of the activities we pursue with these wonderful animals cause them pain and distress.

Public outcry has helped to change training methods and decrease the use of training devices in many of our horse sports. Perhaps it is time to reconsider what has traditionally been acceptable in the sport of princes and kings?

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