German Judges' Association Responds to FEI Rollkur Workshop

Wed, 02/15/2006 - 00:00
FEI Dressage News

On January 31, 2006 the FEI organized a first workshop to discuss the notorious Rollkur training method that caused a big commotion in the dressage world following an article in St Georg magazine August 2005. Sixty experts (veterinarians, judges, and a few journalists) were invited to this workshop.

Two major conclusions were reached at this meeting, which the FEI formulated as following: "There was clearly no evidence that structural damage is created by this training exercise, when used in the right way by expert riders. However, the use of that technique by inexperienced people was a possible threat to the welfare of the horse. The role of top dressage riders as role models in the sport was underlined. Most of the participants agreed that the terminology “Rollkur” was not comprehensible and decided it would be better to use a term which could be understood by riders, trainers and the general public. After an extensive discussion, it was proposed that the draft wording might be “hyperflexion of the neck”."

In the latest bulletin of the German Equestrian Federation (FN), the German Judges' Association has responded strongly against the conclusions formulated at the workshop. They published the following statement in the FN bulletin:

It is with criticism that the German Judges' Association (Deutsche Richtervereinigung für Pferdeleistungsprüfungen, DRV) reacts to the FEI workshop about the so-called “Rollkur”. The hearing of various veterinarians, trainers and officials has brought no results. No proof was delivered that the extreme, deep overbending of the neck is an appropriate method of gymnasticizing a horse. The members of the FEI Veterinarian and Technical Dressage Committees could not document that this training method is of any use, but they also couldn't provide evidence that it leads to physical or mental damage in a horse.

DRV-Chairman Eckhard Wemhöner states that “The FEI has wasted a great chance to deal critically with this training method, which has been a controversial subject for years. Lack of preparation on the part of both FEI committees at this workshop allowed the defenders of the 'Rollkur' to demonstrate the virtues of their method through statements of their personal veterinarians as well as videos and thus to turn this seminar into a success for themselves. The FEI should have countered this impression. After all, the FEI 'Handbuch Dressur', which is currently being compiled, is based on the classical priciples.”

The DRV seconds the German Equestrian Federation's demand for a scientific evaluation of the impact and the consequences of the “Rollkur”. No matter what the results of this evaluation will be, though, the judges abide exclusively by the national show regulations (LPO) and the Guidelines for Riding and Driving respectively the principles of the Training Scale (Skala der Ausbildung). These are the pillars all judgment of rider and horse must rest upon – no matter on which level and in which discipline. These guidelines are just as valid for the conduct of a rider in the preparation arena. Any differing opinions are not consistent with the valid guidelines and thus with the convictions of the German Judges' Association."

It is very obvious that the debate about the Rollkur/hyperflexion has not yet come to an end. Eurodressage will continue to report on the development in the debate.

Translation DRV statement by Barbara Schnell

Photo copyrighted: Dirk Caremans

Related Link
FEI Workshop on Rollkur in Lausanne Leads to Redefinition