Anti-rol­lkur cam­paign takes a step for­ward

A pe­ti­tion call­ing for an end to hy­per­flex­ion is to be submitted to the FEI within weeks, while top judges and train­ers are among those join­ing the call for ac­tion

Horse & Hound - - Contents - By RACHAEL TURNER PAMMY HUT­TON

A CAM­PAIGN against rol­lkur, also known as hy­per­flex­ion, is gath­er­ing mo­men­tum, with sup­port from top judges and the Bri­tish Horse So­ci­ety (BHS).

A group of BHS Fel­lows and dres­sage train­ers have cre­ated a pe­ti­tion call­ing for an end to the use of rol­lkur. The pe­ti­tion, which will be submitted to the FEI in the com­ing weeks, also calls for the fed­er­a­tion to de­fine the dif­fer­ence be­tween “forced hy­per­flex­ion” and “clas­si­cal train­ing sys­tems” and their dif­fer­ent in­flu­ences on horse well­be­ing and per­for­mance.

“I think we’re re­ally start­ing to make tracks,” said clas­si­cal dres­sage trainer Heather Mof­fett, who helped launch the cam­paign. “We have List One judges on board and quite a lot of grand prix riders. I think the FEI will find it quite dif­fi­cult to ig­nore us.

“We have to be care­ful that we don’t lose Olympic dres­sage through pub­lic out­cry over rol­lkur. Many horses in stages of train­ing get over­bent, but when you see them with their chins welded to their chests, that has come from en­forced train­ing.”

Four-star judge Christoph Hess is sup­port­ing the pe­ti­tion.

He said it is im­por­tant to

un­der­stand the dif­fer­ent rea­sons why horses can be be­hind the ver­ti­cal, and that this is not al­ways dam­ag­ing to the horse.

“A horse that’s shorter in the neck isn’t nec­es­sar­ily go­ing the wrong way,” he said.

“What’s im­por­tant is that the horse is in front of the rider, seek­ing the bit and mov­ing for­wards. When this hap­pens it’s noth­ing to do with rol­lkur.

“It’s im­por­tant judges, train­ers and riders ex­plain the right way of school­ing horses. I think we also have to ed­u­cate stew­ards as much as pos­si­ble so they can see how har­mo­nious the horse and rider are. If there are a cou­ple of mo­ments of dishar­mony, that hap­pens. If it al­ways has a pos­i­tive for­wards ten­dency then it’s fine.”

Mr Hess said rol­lkur is an on­go­ing is­sue, but one that has im­proved in re­cent years.

“Bri­tish dres­sage riders have had an amaz­ing in­flu­ence on good rid­ing,” he said. “You have Carl Hester and Char­lotte Du­jardin, who give a re­ally good ex­am­ple.”

The BHS is in sup­port and plans to spread the word about the pe­ti­tion.

Dres­sage rider, trainer and H&H colum­nist Pammy Hut­ton, who has been in­stru­men­tal in the cam­paign, said this is an im­por­tant de­vel­op­ment.

“We’re ex­cited the

BHS is join­ing the cam­paign,” she told H&H. “They’re go­ing to make more noise about us at their con­ven­tions. I also want to thank Horse & Hound for run­ning with this. As a wel­fare is­sue I think it’s re­ally im­por­tant — any­thing to make horses’ lives more com­fort­able.

“We are weeks away from send­ing the pe­ti­tion to the FEI.”

BHS BACK­ING

BHS di­rec­tor of ed­u­ca­tion Alex Copeland said the char­ity is “fully be­hind the cam­paign”.

“We’re work­ing with Pammy, Heather and Tim [Downes] to pro­mote what they’re do­ing,” he told H&H. “The right peo­ple are talk­ing, like Christoph Hess. We’ve up­dated our ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing and made sure we are rec­om­mend­ing best prac­tice, and hope the FEI fol­lows.”

The BHS has of­fered the cam­paign­ers stands at its coach­ing con­ven­tions at Hart­pury (26-28 March) and My­er­scough (16-18 April).

“It is a chance for us to show best prac­tice around coach­ing, but also to make sure peo­ple are aware of the big is­sues,” added Mr Copeland.

Trainer and BHS Fel­low Mr Downes, who has been as­sist­ing the cam­paign, told H&H it is im­por­tant not to point fin­gers at in­di­vid­ual riders. He said pos­i­tively in­flu­enc­ing top-level riders would feed down cor­rect train­ing meth­ods to the less ex­pe­ri­enced.

“If we want to im­prove the im­age of the sport and keep it in the Olympics we shouldn’t be point­ing out its short­com­ings — none of that is good for its im­age,” he said.

“We need to ed­u­cate peo­ple bet­ter — some are only look­ing at the horse’s head and neck and they don’t have the ed­u­ca­tion and un­der­stand­ing [to see the whole pic­ture].

“The ed­u­ca­tion of these peo­ple is just as im­por­tant [as those that are rid­ing in­cor­rectly].”

Bri­tish Dres­sage (BD) re­it­er­ated its state­ment pro­vided to H&H af­ter a let­ter writ­ten by BHS Fel­lows about rol­lkur (news, 28 De­cem­ber).

“Dres­sage is all about the har­mony that can be achieved be­tween horse and rider,” said BD chief ex­ec­u­tive Ja­son Brautigam. “Hy­per­flex­ion has no place in our sport. We are proud to be at the fore­front of de­vel­op­ing sen­si­tive train­ing meth­ods in the UK and will con­tinue to pro­mote a more con­sid­er­ate ap­proach to rid­ing.”

A spokesman for the FEI told H&H it is in “con­stant con­sul­ta­tion” with the eques­trian com­mu­nity and “re­spects all views on the sport”.

She added that the fed­er­a­tion will “care­fully con­sider” any ap­proaches on the sub­ject.

‘Any­thing to make horses’ lives more com­fort­able’

To read the "time to act" let­ter, visit tinyurl.com/y9f­p4e2z and to sign the pe­ti­tion, visit sur­vey­mon­key.co.uk/r/ RLNGCQV

Judges and train­ers should ‘ex­plain the right way of school­ing horses’

Li­brary im­age

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