February 9, 2010

Barbara Fogler

Following the FEI announcement on Rollkur today, I spoke with Akaash Maharaj, Chief Executive Officer of Equine Canada, and asked him about the implications for dressage in Canada now that the FEI roundtable group has redefined hyperflexion/Rollkur as “flexion of the horse’s neck achieved
through aggressive force, which is therefore unacceptable.”

Mr. Maharaj informed me that he has already written to the FEI requesting clarification and written guidelines, as there is currently no precise definition of what Rollkur is. 

He noted that: “Until this afternoon Rollkur was not banned as a practice, but now the stewards will be required to act and I believe it will be in the best interest of the FEI and the sport itself to come out with a precise definition of Rollkur.”

“Assuming there were a precise definition and it was observed by our stewards, they would be required to immediately intervene. We will of course enforce this ruling vigorously and the more objective the guidelines and criteria, the better for everyone involved.”

“The FEI has acted correctly to protect the image of equestrian sport and to respond to the public condemnation. It would have been better had they also provided veterinary studies of the impact of Rollkur so that stewards would know better exactly what it is they are to be stopping.”

Mr. Maharaj added a personal observation that, while Dressage Canada itself had chosen not to take a position because they felt there was not enough veterinary information available to them, “my own personal opinion is that Rollkur is and always has been wholly unacceptable and I welcome this ruling.”

“I think it is telling that the FEI chose to hold the meeting in the IOC offices rather than the FEI offices. This was meant to emphasize to the panelists that this was no longer an internal matter for the FEI, but to say that whole world was watching and would judge them according to their decision.”

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Replies to This Discussion

I believe that Dr. Gerd Heuschmann's DVD and Book "Tug of War" very aptly describes the difference that training methods make. He is a vet and a Dressage rider. The images are brutal, and as a bodyworker on horses for some 25 years, I have seen and felt the spinal twists, muscles spasms and extreme pain and lameness many horses experience being ridden this way. The Rolkur forces the horses neck and hind end to freeze, disabling them from being able to bring their haunches under, as the long back muscle is frozen and unable to move. Anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of horse anatomy would understand this. Many of the top riders today are winning with movements that can only be described as torturous to the horse, as the big flying trot that brings in the crowds - is actually only possible when the horse's entire back is frozen by locked hands on the bit. This method of riding is not only incorrect, but detrimental to the horse's health and soundness, and this is shown by the fact that so many brilliant horses have very short careers. Again the horseworld has seccumbed to the greed of man, instead of being interested in the relationship we once had with our horses, where their wellbeing came first and horse lovers still came to shows. Beautiful horsemanship still draws the crowds, you only have to watch Lorenzo the flying Frenchman to see that! As, Always, the Horslady.


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