Some time ago this youtube video of a horse being ridden aggressively using hyperflexion or "rollkur" was viewed by many, including myself. I think it would be wonderful if the national Tennessee Walking Association (TWHBEA) who is the recoginzed organization which registers the Walking Horses, would be brave enough to do this same thing: show a big lick horse that had been sored on YouTube to get the practice to stop. Of course they wouldn't. Two of the stores in Shelbyville which sell Walking Horse supplies won't even carry my book: The Horse That Wouldn't Trot. (my youtube book trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tygLsb9qHaE I discuss soring in this book, as well as sharing touching horse and horse/human relationship stories, and some history of the Walking Horse breed. I didn't bother to ask the third supply company in Shelbyville. My goal was to tell the story about soring these magnificient horses as well as entertain. The industry says it wants to clean up, but still hasn't. It still takes the government inspectors to appear on the show grounds to have "cleaner" horses, others pack up and leave.
anyway, here is what FEI has done about this abuse. Why cannot we do the same for the Walking Horses?
Welcome to this month's HorseConscious Newsletter. http://www.horseconscious.com/guest/newsletter-xii (please see the whole newsletter if you wish, and you can subscribe to it. It is based in Europe)
Well, the big news story of the month has been the meeting of the FEI and their subsequent announcement on the subject of rollkur/hyperflexion.
If you've not heard the news, here is the official statement:
Following constructive debate at the FEI round-table conference at the IOC Headquarters in Lausanne today (9 February), the consensus of the group was that any head and neck position achieved through aggressive force is not acceptable. The group redefined hyperflexion/Rollkur as flexion of the horse's neck achieved through aggressive force, which is therefore unacceptable. The technique known as Low, Deep and Round (LDR), which achieves flexion without undue force, is acceptable.
The group unanimously agreed that any form of aggressive riding must be sanctioned. The FEI will establish a working group, headed by Dressage Committee Chair Frank Kemperman, to expand the current guidelines for stewards to facilitate the implementation of this policy. The group agreed that no changes are required to the current FEI Rules.
The FEI Management is currently studying a range of additional measures, including the use of closed circuit television for warm-up arenas at selected shows
The group also emphasised that the main responsibility for the welfare of the horse rests with the rider. ABSOLUTELY! INCLUDING TENNESSEE WALKING HORSE RIDERS AND OWNERS
The FEI President HRH Princess Haya accepted a petition of 41,000 signatories against Rollkur presented by Dr Gerd Heuschman.
Let me paraphrase a section of that again: hyperflexion/Rollkur has been defined as flexion of the horse's neck achieved through aggressive force and is unacceptable.
It remains to be seen what guidelines they will give to the stewards and how exactly they intend to fully police this although the use of video cameras will certainly help.
I think the real policing (and power) does not lie with officialdom at all but the people who love horses and follow the sport. It is their presence in the warm-up arena and elsewhere that will safeguard the health and safety of the horses in the future. Bold print mine! this is what the Walking Horse Industry needs also. It IS the people who can and will change/stop the soring problem also!!
The people have spoken and now know that they have a platform and a voice that perhaps they have never had before. I was actually interviewed earlier in the week for a forthcoming documentary on the subject and made the comment that with the internet and the power of social media, we are now seeing democracy in action. No longer can public figures, such as the riders, and those in authority, the FEI in this instance, consider themselves untouchable and beyond reproach.
Did you notice the number of signatories? 41,000!! Here are some other numbers to underline the public support for this campaign:
The original Blue Tongue video on YouTube (and wherever else it has been posted) has been seen nearly 200,000 times
The site I set up http://www.dressagedisgrace.com/ had over 23,000 visits and 500 comments in the 2 months following it's launch
So you do have a voice and through you, the horses now have too. If we can bring about this change, what else can we achieve? This month's newsletter features a couple of articles giving you the chance to show your support for the other issue that needs it - saving America's wild horses.
Before we leave the Rollkur debate for this issue, if you are interested in taking the measure even further, Nevzorov Haute Ecole have started a petition to ban equestrian sport altogether. Their statement said the following:
"Whether or not to take part is only up to you to decide. Some will simply not be able to close the window, others will look through and quickly forget it, meanwhile others still, terrified, will watch the development of affairs. We do not call for anyone. We just give you an opportunity, here and now, to become a part of history. But - it is up to you to decide."
You can read more and sign the petition at: