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
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 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’