Edward Gal Uses Rollkur – Updated

Or if you prefer to call it low, deep and round then go right ahead. I don’t differentiate the two very much, it is mostly political semantics so the FEI can avoid making top riders responsible in training their horses without abuse. I digress.

What you came here wondering about is Edward Gal’s involvement. He is the famed Dressage competitor who rode Moorland’s Totilas to the highest score ever awarded in the Grand Prix Freestyle. Did he use Rollkur with Totilas? That I cannot tell you, what I can offer however is video of him riding other horses though. Enjoy –

Edward Gal aboard Rubin Cortes in France, 2011

Video Commentary

  1. Relaxation at a gallop, the horse is round and deep low attitude, it is very casual, in that attitude back to the maximum amplitude of operation
  2. Edward Gal and then enlarges the wake of reduced gallop, the horse remains flexible at relaxes. Rebound asks the horse to expand or reduce its “framework” without transfer of weight forward or backwards.
  3. Have you seen the small discrete strokes of the left hand? He asked after each movement reward the horse.
  4. Observe the relaxation of the base and legs, the simplicity of hand actions. The hands are “sets” of symmetric arms very flexible.
  5. End of relaxation at a gallop, the pirouette working a large circle provides a gradual stance somewhat higher.
  6. Little by little he tightens his work until obtaining a pirouette.
  7. Changes in the feet closer together like the rest of the key points are control of the speed and relaxation.
  8. Lateral work at a gallop, the horse is very curved and does not lose the quality of its locomotion.
  9. We clearly see here the preparation of lateral work. He asks the horse to walk straight with a fold inside, he asked the press when the horse relaxes and waits in balance.
  10. Transition in the trot for the passage.
  11. End of meeting, he lets the horse stretch at a gallop and trot off.
  12. Passionate, affordable, smiling, humorous … It would take a book to list the qualities that listeners have found in Edward Gal in the forum for questions.
  13. And the next day with a microphone was even more awesome!

My neck gets sore just watching. It is only during a poorly developed (read spoiled) walk that Edward Gal allows any freedom of the neck to his horse, and during the rest of the ride he keeps him round, round, round. Keep in mind that not only FEI rules but also Classical Dressage Masters have noted that the position of the horse’s face should be anywhere between 45 and 90 degrees depending on the horse’s individual conformation, this horse is well beyond 90 degrees.

Edward Gal’s heavy-handed training of Asther de Jeu

I feel as if his horses miss the basic element of balance, in the previous video his horse came lunging out of a canter pirouette and seemed unsure whether it should come or go through the lateral work. This “training” video is no different but it is more obvious to see how heavy of a rider Edward Gal is in it. Heavy handed, heavy legs.

Edward Gal riding Moorland's Totilas

Naturally, we will probably see Edward Gal continue many years of raging success on the laurels of Moorlands Totilas, who I am still convinced is a fluke. He is, or I should say was the horse for Edward Gal. The two were indeed a matched pair and seemed in unison. I don’t see that in any of the other horses that he is riding, training or competing.


Edward Gal rides Moorlands Totilas in Rollkur Hyperflexion at the walk

Link : Image of Gal riding Totilas, at the halt in rollkur

by Erica Franz

I've been riding since I was 9, and in love with horses from the day I was born. Living in Washington with my husband Jason, 2 horses and our 4 dogs.


  1. Joanne L. Belasco via Facebook says

    I had suspected this for awhile, so thanks for the post. The horses aren’t even moving in a balanced manner. How in the world can people not realize that? Dressage should improve a horse’s natural movement, and the movements in those videos were not natural, nor where they rhythmic or in harmony.

  2. Ann says

    On the flip-side of rollkur, I often see more of the heavy-bottomed necks with noses stuck in the air type of riding around here. The dressage horses with their extra muscle behind the jaw and third vertebrae muscle development and huge dips in front of the withers are a source of discomfort to watch as well. Horses that are not as adept at rollkur who are now “learning” to rear are becoming more prevalent. It is so common as to be normal. People riding who’s main goal is to get immediate obedience despite the wear and tear it produces on the muscles.

    • says


      I know that I was quite shocked to watch the Hong Kong Olympics and the myriad of problems that the riders seemed to have, followed up by many notorious “incidents” at various Internationally recognized shows involving not just Rollkur but also for example the blood in the mouth of Adelinde Cornelissen’s horse.


  3. Joanne L. Belasco via Facebook says

    I first got interested in dressage, back in the 80s when I was in high school. All I heard was that it was “dancing with horses.” This isn’t anything of the sort. I am so glad that I discovered classical dressage about 10 years ago. Otherwise, I think I would have given up on dressage entirely.

  4. kiku says

    Could you elaborate on where do you see Gal being heavy-handed ?
    I see the horse moving with a lot of impulsion , the riders hands are steady , he is really only using his seat and legs , this is an athletic and constant picture.

    • says


      In heavy handed – the horse’s head is being held behind the vertical by Gal, not of it’s own doing. As a result there is considerable stiffness you see through the neck – easier to spot when he rides towards the camera, the neck and head do not move in sync with the body. He may not be moving his hands around uncontrollably but instead applying a considerable pressure during the ride which gives a false impression of a frame and hence collection.

      I would bet money he could not ride this horse in a frame on a loose rein – the horse has to be held into that position which negates the idea of dressage to begin with which is conditioning the horse physically to carry the rider’s weight and as a result collection and the favored “frame” is the ultimate result, without requiring the rider to hold the horse in that position.


    • Chase says

      I think the mare is in a very nice place for where she is in her training. She is stepping to and through the bridle and you can see that she is moving toward self carriage. As self carriage increases so does lightness. The neck muscle is popping out and she is quiet in the bridle. She is coming more and more on the seat. It seems he is sending her into the bridle and then working to rate her back, shifting her balance and encouraging self carriage, but without the forward he’s getting you cannot do that move. I can see the resistance you are talking about, I just look at it as a necessary element to push through until the mare learns to let go, develop strength, and carry herself.


      • says


        I will defer to the Dressage Training Scale or Pyramid here for the order of development in the horse which is most productive and beneficial – of which this mare is not being put through.

        1. Rhythm
        2. Relaxation
        3. Connection
        4. Impulsion
        5. Straightness
        6. Collection

        She lacks relaxation – but the rider is pushing her for collection, skipping right through the logical sequence of development for correct development of the horse not only physically but also mentally and emotionally as well. That she is missing one of the most important base elements is deeply concerning, but from the aspect of competition it is a common sight. The majority of upper level horses show a tremendous amount of tension and resistance but are being asked to perform in collection, and their performance is less than ideal because of the presence of this tension.

        Self carriage is more than just a frame, which is all that this mare demonstrates. Gal however rides every stride holding her in this position, which coupled with her lack of relaxation cannot develop into self-carriage until that issue (relaxation) is dealt with in the proper order.

      • Lucy says

        I agree Chase.
        If you watch the videos The Taming of Totilas (+1 hour each on YouTube) the commentators acknowledge the great rider that Gal is, how he is totally sympathetic with the horse. In the 2nd video they are more critical looking at the various styles of different nationalities (though sadly no French rider) and the 3rd yet to come out will deal with copycat riders and their horrible take on Gals training. The problem is no-one has incorporated the issue of conformation. I have a dutch trained Gelderland, and like the dutch Friesian has a high neck that can be lowered without discomfort to the horse. If you look at the Spanish horse in video 2 you will hear the explanation of how conformation affects their training (short powerful neck) The dutch horses have the hackney breeding and Gal is a huge proponent of the endangered purebred Gelderland. Other breeds like the German horse have a lot of thouroughbred, whose frame is to race with long neck. Their necks cannot take the round frame at all. The Selle Francais too has a lot of thoroughbred. Thank you.

    • Arishia says

      Thank you! Where IS this heavy hand? I sure don’t see it. I see lightness, balance, refined mutual connection; a horse that’s elastic, relaxed, rhythmic, and through, being schooled with exceptional subtlety. Whatever…

      • Dolores says

        The problem most people have is that they don’t realize just how light the hands can be. The question that should be asked is not how obviously hard are they but how much lighter could they be? Great horses will carry on despite the rider. You see this in the Gran Prix jumper world all the time. Great horses carry out-of-balance riders over large fences. And the crowd cheers because the rider makes it look so difficult. It is those rounds that look easy – dancing over 5 ft fences – that are truly glorious but often bore the crowd because it they make it look so easy. Every time I go to a jumper show I look for the round that is boring in it’s grace over fences.

        The same is true in dressage though possibly not so obvious. Using hyperflexion by definition means that the horse can not use his back muscles and hind end properly. He can not come well underneath to balance himself, it is anatomically impossible.

        I watched Totilas in his 2010 WEG Freestyle and saw him move gracefully with lowered croup unlike most pf the horses. But now I wonder, having seen how Gal trains other horses, “how much greater could Totilas have been?”

        My trainer explained that while actions such as hyperflexion may not destroy a horse (in fact they may not even cause lasting pain), they will in fact give the horse reason to be less brilliant than he could be so that the horse never achieves his true greatness.
        As Xenophon puts it “anything forced can not be beautiful”. That is the true crime.

        • says

          Agreed – Dressage was not a sport people watched for entertainment or the “excitement” factor. Those who watched did so for alternative reasons; to learn, to support friends, to learn. :) Now it is being billed as a sport of excitement and entertainment, something which comes from increasing the tension between competitors. The best rides however should be as you described, boring as hell.

          The thing about Rollkur is this; it CAN and DOES work. However, the failure rate is exceedingly high. Totilas is one such example, in that it worked for him. Was it the BEST choice in training him? We can never know that, Classically training him may have been even more impressive however not to those seeking the excitement/entertainment factor. Classical training does not create leg movers like Rollkur does and that was in part what made Totilas so show stopping. He was on point in every regard, presented in a manner of collection and was very flashy all at the same time. His collection could have been better, but likely at the expense of his being a leg mover. Those in the competition vein might argue that it would have produced an inferiorly trained horse to loose that flash in order to improve one of the basic tenents of dressage – collection. *shrug*

          As for physical problems resulting from Rollkur, the studies have shown bone changes in the neck including bone spurs – a problem long associated with physical pain. Can a horse have bone spurs without pain? Yes. But, bone spurs also lead to arthritis as the very development of bone spurs creates an inflammatory environment where the tendons/ligaments attach to bone. Also, any training method which stresses these high performance animals to move on the forehand and move in false collection have long shown to create hind limb problems requiring joint injections from an early age. I’ve seen Dressage barns use cortisone shots from age 2 onwards as a normal protocol for competition horses to keep them going. FYI, cortisone eats away at the cartilage inside the joints so eventually they will be moving bone on bone without any cushion, and the only fix for that is to replace the joint. How many horses do you see getting new hock joints? Precisely. There is always a cost where there is a shortcut being applied, unfortunately it is usually the horse who has to pay while we humans move onto our next project…

      • says

        What can a person see who has not been educated enough to understand the differences between a heavy and light hand? A beginner will not understand why there is any point in differentiating, or developing, light hands over heavy ones. To them it is abstract and unimportant. To the educated however the overwhelming importance of light hands (i.e. 5 GRAMS – the weight of a nickel) cannot be ignored. Keep looking, keep observing, keep pushing yourself to become more educated and more aware of what your senses are taking in.

        • Alexandria says

          And exactly how much “education” do you have? What are your credidentals? Who exactly did you train under that could have taught you enough that you can judge, by a VIDEO, how this horse needs to be ridden and that you somehow know this horse better than the world- famous, record- breaking dressage rider who has ridden this horse many times before and obviously knows this horse better then you ever have, and most likely, ever will? I will be happy to actually be able to take your comments to heart on Gal’s “heavy- hands” once you have actually ridden this horse multiple time and if you manage (this is highly unlikely) to get better results then Gal.

  5. Anne says

    This is so interesting to me. I come from a reining background so I would feel pretty comfortable critiquing that. Suddenly it’s the “in thing” in the Western world so there’s lots of money involved. It seemed like it was good for a while. They went from pulling on the horse’s mouth for that sliding stop to doing it on a loose rein. That’s still true, but horses have become a commodity and trainers seem to be willing to do whatever it takes to make the big time. I took my horse out of reining because it’s not worth the price (to the horse) to get there.

    Now, I’m reading kind of the same thing about dressage. I actually am just starting to learn about it and that’s what I am going to start attempting with my reining horse! I will never be at a competitive level and all I wanted was to become a better rider and have fun with my talented little reining horse. I don’t recall where I first heard of Edward Gal and Totilas but I have to admit I was impressed. However, I see the same things in reining. People who know nothing about how the horses are trained think it’s the most wonderful, exciting thing they’ve ever seen.

    Dammit, I just want to enjoy my horse, have fun and give him a good life!

    • says

      Don’t be discouraged Anne, every discipline has draw backs in the motivations and training methods when money is at stake. To ride dressage you do not have to use hyperflexion/rollkur/LDR, even to ride Grand Prix. To compete against riders who do you likely do simply because that is what the judges are rewarding. But if your motivations are to better yourself as a rider and your horse then that is all the great motivation a person needs in life! :)

      Look into riders like Philippe Karl, Anja Beran, Bent Branderup, Nuno Olivera (now deceased) for great examples of riders who have gone BEYOND Grand Prix dressage and do it with the best interest of the horse.

      Riding horses is not like other sports where many times if you do not compete you are not even involved in the sport. For many non-equestrian sports if you want to be the best you do it through competition. In riding horses competition does not make you a better rider necessarily, and often can skew your actions and progress with the horse creating the opposite. A great many riders who do not compete are more skilled with horses than those who are competing at the top levels of their discipline. Don’t let what happens in the competition ring be what you base your ability, skill and talent off of – let your horse tell you how good you are or what areas need to be improved. :)


      • Anne says

        I just had to add that one of the books I’ve gotten is called “Lessons in Lightness” by Mark Russell. I haven’t seen the author ride, but what he says in his book makes a lot of sense. It just happens that he rode with Nuno Olivera. Gradually, I’m putting some things together!

  6. S says

    It’s unfortunate that people like you exist in the horse industry. All the horses I see that are trained by your “so called” philosophies, are horses that do not use there backs as they have not been trained to strengthen there backs. You are all talk but absolutely no proof that you can master the true art and athletisism that is dressage. You have complete disregard for the fact that you are trying to prove that what these top top athletes have accomplished on the world stage is false…. All because you simply don’t have the knowledge, dedication and true devotion to the sport that these riders have.

    to say that Edward does not know what he is doing and to even elude to the fact that he is abusing his animals is ludicrous. He has proven himself to be a world champion rider on several different horses in several rings against hundreds of riders.

    Who the hell are you? What have you done on a horse? Taught a horse to invert while performing Piaffe/passage? Cause that’s what I see from folk such as yourself…. how bout the infamous hoping and hollow back tempis I see all too often from miseducated riders such as yourself….
    Maybe once you prove your model on the world stage and in the FEI ring competing AGAINST these athletes, the ones you literally SLANDER (which is illegal by the way) maybe once you actually PROVE YOUR MODEL is CORRECT by WINNING MULTIPLE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS against them… then maybe you can have an opinion, but until then, perhaps you should start seeking legal counsel regarding the type of misappropriation and slander you have publicly cited on your website.

    You stupid un-educated “all talk and no ride” gossip queen… you don’t even deserve the word equestrian, because you have clearly demonstrated the complete lack of knowledge to be a true equestrian and to completely 100% understand what it means to be at the top and to stay at the top…

    It’s people like you that make me ashamed of the horse industry… so go back and play with your parelli shit and who knows maybe your horse will smarten up one day and learn how to smack you around with the stick one day…. One can only hope!

    Put your money where your mouth is or shut the F#@^ up cause you don’t know what you are talking about!

  7. Kat says

    The issue with hyperflexion/rollkur/LDR has been around for some time. If you search the key words “documentation hyperflexion” on youtube you will find eye-opening videos from 2006, part of a documentation done about hyperflexion. Edward Gal is one of the riders featured in the videos so it seems he has been using this training technique for quite some time! I think it’s interesting that 6 years ago the discussed methodology was alternatively termed LDR (by Sjef Janssen himself I wonder?!?) which is now being sold as the “new and improved” version of hyperflexion – see FEI round table conference from 2010.

    In my humble opinion the fact that training and riding your horse using hyperflecion/LDR enables you to win championships and break high scoring records is the real issue here! Nose behind the vertical, stiff backs and lack of true collection should not be awarded with full points.

    @S: I don’t see any reasoning in your comment as to why hyperflexion/LDR is a beneficial training method. I would love to hear what the actual benefits are! I have a feeling though that you are not interested in a constructive discussion, which is quite unfortunate…

    @Erika: great blog, I really enjoy reading it! You should check out David Dewispelaere, he rides just beautifully!!!

    • says


      Yes, there is a long history of Rollkur, actually going back much further than Anky’s use of it – Isabell Werth was also outed some years before that as employing it at the encouragement of her trainer. At the time however it seemed that it was not quite to the same extreme as is common now. If you look at her rides now though you can see she no longer hesitates to take her horses to extreme forms of flexion just like so many at the top competition levels.

      Wonderful to have you on the blog Kat! I will check out David, always love to learn about skilled riders. :)

  8. Anne says

    Boy, you really ticked somebody off Erica!!! It’s okay not to agree, but when someone gets that angry it makes me wonder about everything else. Of course, it’s easy to spout off when you can do it anonomously. Why “S,” do you feel the need to get so worked up but reveal nothing about yourself. There must be a lot more to this than what one person has to say. Instead of reacting out of anger, explain your side of it. I thought this was about learning. I’m always amazed at how defensive and touchy people are when it comes to horses. What’s with that?

  9. Tammy Fifer says

    Erica, wonderful blog …I have seen Dressage falling into the holes of abyss for over 20 years (having had the pleasure of being a Nuno student, second generation) it is heartbreaking, more-so every single year. Riding grand-prix with no bridle is how I play around with my horses now. I left the competition ring years ago out of disgust of the massive, obvious, abuse and patronage of RK. I still teach, as there are people who do actually want to learn the traditional and classical methods of correct dressage and want to have happy and sound horses. Many of my horses are in their thirties and still very sound with correct muscling and very ridable…. and happy. To me, that is the reason of dressage. Rock on, soul mate! Tammy

    • says


      You lit up my day! Always wonderful to connect with someone who is working towards the same direction..
      I am inspired as well being able to see that the desire to learn methods which stray from the Competitive “standards” has not vanished altogether. It was once a selling point as to the reason you even practice Dressage – that is produces a horse which is sound, happy and active late in life. Relevent with the idea that if you exercise properly and eat healthy you will also live a life which is more fulfilling later on. That is no longer part of the PR package in dressage competition.

      Much love to a fellow equestrian!

    • Anne says

      I love reading this. I had my second dressage lesson with a wonderful woman who took a quarter horse to Prix St George (I’m still not sure what that is). She is now riding a warmblood that is Grand Prix level and she loves my little guy. The last time I rode with her she talked to me about balance and keeping my horse strong and fit so be lasts a long time. Music to my ears!

      Sorry my posts are so awkward at this point, but I’m following you and really appreciating your true love for horses!


      • says

        When I first started out in Dressage I knew an instructor around here who had taken her foundation Quarter Horse mare to Grand Prix, and at the time was beating out the Warmblood competition. Something you don’t see much of anymore with the judges picking flashy movement over correctness. :)

        • Anne says

          What Shelly told me was she could beat the “big guys” by not making a mistake. If they did everything right, then it was hard for her to beat them. So, correctness must have been in style back then. I’ll take correctness and the health of the horse over flash anytime.

          • says

            Yes, that used to be the case. There are always exceptions of course, but it is no longer the rule that correct work will outperform incorrect but flashy work.

  10. Anne says

    To be honest, competing has never been my thing, especially when it’s all about bells and whistles. I’m looking for a good, healthy connection with my horse. I care about his positive attitude and ability to perform for years to come. Too many people are way too concerned with winning than the journey. I got my horse as a yearling and he just turned nine, and he’s only gotten better. So, if he can’t win against those big, flashy horses, that’s fine. He tries hard, is a beautiful mover, I can ride Western, bareback and my dressage trainer loves him (as did the woman who trained and showed him in reining). He is a truly happy and outgoing horse, so keep the ribbons and medals, all of mine are standing out in the pasture enjoying the spring weather!

  11. Germaine says

    Hi Erica,

    Firstly, I absolutely respect you as a rider and what you have done. I have visited and read your blog and posts for about 3 years now and find them enjoyable and informative. But I just can’t agree on this one. I understand that Gal was a student of Anky’s but I simply think he has come a long way from that. I can find nothing particularly damning in the video of Rubin Cortes. I beg to differ on the point of the walk being spoiled-I see a clear 4 beat rhythm, an impulsive, swinging walk. The horse is relaxed and reaching forward to the bridle. Gal gives and takes often, at one point just before the walk sequence he rides the horse quite short and deep for about 2-3 seconds then releases with the inside rein and lets the horse take the rein out. Around the 4.18 minute mark he rides him shorter and deeper than I would consider seemly but it is very brief. Perhaps that does not excuse it-probably it doesn’t, but the curb rein is loose at the time and again, after wards, the horse is allowed to take the rein forward and down a bit more, he rides him lower through a working pirouette. There are two shown walk sequences, the video is only 11 minutes long and clearly edited from 2 different training/warm up sessions so we cannot assume how long the horse is ridden in the shorter, deeper frame for before being let to walk on the long rein. We can only see what we see here, which obviously isn’t everything. He is shown at the end riding the horse much longer and lower-no, not long and low as it would be considered classically but the nose is mostly on the vertical if not a little deeper. He rides very softly with his legs, as observed in the aforementioned video The Taming of Totilas (I think it was this, it was several weeks ago I watched it now so I apologise if it is not correct) his legs are mostly off the horse and although they move a little more than perhaps one would like they are quite deliberately away from the horse. In the various Totilas videos where he rides towards the camera you can see he uses the spur very little, in fact he appears not to use his lower leg for aids much at all. Compare this Anky…despite the fact he trained beneath her, they are worlds apart.

    As for Asther de Jue, although he appears much more “handsy” here, the curb rein is still mostly very soft if not loose, the horse looks to be working energetically up into the bridle. I do wonder why he is only wearing a spur on his right side? This mare appears to be a bit hotter than Rubin Cortes, perhaps that’s why he seems to be riding a little heavier with the hands, I don’t know. She is tighter at times than I would like, I won’t excuse that. Again, the leg is mostly off the horse except for a distinct moment at 0.43 onwards where he uses quite sharp leg aids. Although they aren’t as still as rocks, they are mostly well off the horses side and not giving unnecessary aids. But I see nothing horrible, awful or damning here. I also see no Rollkur (not what I would term that, anyway, but then often it seems to come down to a matter of opinion as the FEI won’t define it!)

    When Gal first became known to the world and pictures and videos sprang of up of him training Lingh and Gribaldi in Rollkur, I despised him as much as I despised Anky. This video compilation of shots of him riding Gribaldi show it quite clearly; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZdGBf_9IT4, also this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voAOab26FYQ. Perhaps you won’t see a lot of difference between that and the above and maybe it seems like I’m splitting hairs, but he rides this horse more explosively forward (as Anky is known for riding her horses). He rides with his hands much higher and back and with much more leg. The horse, although at times approaching the head/neck position mostly used with Rubin Cortes, is more often much deeper and rounder, often almost “biting” his chest. His displeasure and discomfort is apparent. He also utilises extreme flexion to the side, very shortly and very sharply. Although I don’t see anything of the sort in the two above videos, or any of the videos I have seen of Gal since, no-there is nothing to say he doesn’t still often do this kind of thing. Perhaps he is a quick learner and just doesn’t show it off in public any more. The two videos you have provided on this blog pale in comparison to this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uz9r9zqGKhE&feature=related and this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uz9r9zqGKhE&feature=related. Again, maybe you see not a lot of difference, I respect that. It’s simply my opinion. And no, one other being worse doesn’t make the other better, but from what I can see now, there’s not a lot to despise about Gal anyway. I think he has taken what he learnt from Anky and has developed a much softer (if that is the right way to describe it?) system. Yes, still working the horses round and deep, but nothing like he used to. And no, I can’t say that for certain, I can only judge from what I see of his training, warm up and competition videos. But there are many of them and that’s the impression I get from watching recent ones.

    Carl Hester also rides his horses in a deeper, rounder frame. He doesn’t adhere entirely to classical principles. In fact he has drawn quite a bit of criticism for it and some zealots have even labelled his methods as Rollkur. You can see in this video there is obviously some form of deeper, rounder work he employs http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JcrEKP3ysU. It shows snippets really, which isn’t helpful but it’s quite clear. I also like Carl a lot and enjoy watching his horses going.

    I hope you understand in no way do I believe what you are saying is wrong because I have a bit of a philosophy now regarding the fact the everyone has opinions-that’s obviously your stand on Gal and you are probably far more qualified than myself and with a much better eye for it. But it’s simply my opinion on the matter that Gal is not a terrible, awful, Rollkurist destroyer of horses as it seems your post here makes him out to be.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_D1j-TJG-PU&list=UUCH4T0lNhPJnNYof6iGAdwA&index=4&feature=plcp There is 4 of those videos by that person from that show (Munich 2010) all in extremely good quality. Although there are a few moments of tension to me is mostly appears very soft, he lightly corrects the horse every now and again. He’s a little tight at times too but for the most part it’s stunningly gorgeous work. But that’s just my opinion. Probably, yours will differ from my own 😉

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sK3TzBuGN0w Finally, the aforementioned “Taming of Totilas” video. I am not sure if you have seen it before but there’s a lot of wonderful information and insight in there.



    • Kat says

      What an interesting discussion! So here are my thoughts on Germaine’s comment which is very well written I might add :)
      When I watch Edward Gal’s horses move in the videos posted here, my first thought is how tight the head-neck position is. Even in ‘competition frame’, not just deep and round. And I guess I’m too much of a stickler for the rules but I thought the horse’s nose should be at the vertical or slightly in front! Because with true self carriage and true collection that’s where the horse should end up. So why always slightly behind the vertical?? On the same note I still don’t understand the benefits of riding deep and low as you can see Edward do in the video with Rubin Cortes for example. How is that helping the horse to step under and properly collect with a relaxed back? Biomechanically it doesn’t seem to make sense to me as the tightness created in the front translates to a tight back in which case the back legs can’t properly step under and become engaged.
      I think the walk in the mentioned videos where Rubin Cortes is ridden deep and round (or whatever you wanna call it) is spoiled. Just look for the ‘V’ (front and back legs during walk) which should be part of a good walk. To me it seems that ‘V’ isn’t really there anymore, when the back leg hits the ground the corresponding front leg is already way off the ground (I’m sorry, not doing a good job explaining here).
      Another indication for me whether a horse is properly ridden with a swinging back is the extended trot. Just look at the above picture of Totilas! The frontlegs are actually above the horizontal line but the hindleg isn’t bend at all. Thought the cannon bones of front and hind leg should be parallel.
      To sum it up, even though Edward Gal might not seem like he is pulling and being harsh, the horse is still not ridden properly according to dressage principles which have been the foundation of the modern dressage rules. On that ground I’m not a big fan of his style. Why re-invent the wheel when the dressage masters of times past had it already pretty well figured out!
      And finally my other issue is that so many riders now just think riding in that way is normal. A horse with a nose pulled behind the vertical is considered a horse that is properly going on the bit…so big thanks to Erica for putting time and effort into this blog to educate!


      p.s.: if y’all google images from Egon von Neindorff or Otto Loerke you can see beautiful riding and it gives a good contrast to what you might see these days in the dressage ring

  12. Natalie says

    On the comments about Rubin Cortes’ gaits — this is just my eye — but around 1:49 the canter has this look like the horse is almost about to lose it, like the energy just stops, which I think when the frame is held that short for that extended period of time that completely makes sense. Then, in the walk, the horse is energetic but the walk is very lateral. (the right legs move at once, and then the left, kind of like Morgans and Spanish horses tend to). In other words, it’s one-two rather than a clear one-two-three-four. I don’t think either of these horses look particularly miserable as do some videos I have seen that are just really vomit inducing, but I do think that both of those horses have incredible potential that is being altered by the way they are being ridden. In the video of Asther de Jeu I noticed it first in the shoulder in when the horse collapses into the inside rein and loses a bit of rhythm there. It has flamboyant reach through the shoulder but because it isn’t yet really fully sitting on the hind the shoulder pops out and the hind doesn’t keep up, which is way less obvious on these horses with naturally fantastic, forward gaits. It looks better to the left.

    To me, I have decided that it is so easy for these riders to “get away” with this kind of riding, because the horses they ride are just so fancy that even if you really tried to trash them it would be tricky. If you are an attentive spectator you’ll notice, but the ooh-aah factor is such a big deal right now, as some of you have mentioned. Now, if you did this to any of the horses I have ridden, they would literally break. My horse would have zero clarity in his gaits and would constantly run quick and on the forehand with no concept of thrust or impulsion (which he already tends towards and through teaching him correct shoulder-in and the beginnings of half-steps toward piaffe we are working out of it). But these horses, while they may lose some of the rhythm and balance as seen in these videos and with Totilas himself in my opinion (although he concerns me most in the extended trot than any other movement), can often compensate because they just run on through it. I think the true test would be to put Gal on an already lateral Morgan, or a Welsh Cob without natural suspension, or a Cleveland Bay with huge shoulders that normally never come out of the dirt (without attentive riding) and see if he could improve the gaits on those horses that already have some flaws just the way they are. Based on the way he rides here, I would guess that he would be unable to work with that kind of mount and score high. Who knows? Maybe he would surprise me. Maybe any of them would. But I will say that the reason that the people who wrote “Ride Horses with Awareness and Feel” (which details a lot of the methodology of the Dutch riders) did say at some point that LDR should be used to a certain degree by professionals. I believe the reason for that is only the professionals have the kind of horses that can handle this kind of riding and still compete at top level. Most horses (that I can think of that I have ridden and known personally) would break.

    My feeling is, I can’t afford the kind of horse that would function with this kind of training, and if I did, I would want it to work biomechanically to achieve the best feel possible. I don’t want to have to ride in a double all the time (if at all). I weigh 120 lbs and I don’t want to use a single bit of arm strength to get my horse on the bit. Let’s face it, I’m too lazy to lift weights to be able to ride my horse! Really, the best feeling in riding in the world to me is when the horse stretches into proper alignment in some movement, whether it be renvers, shoulder-in, turn on the haunches or a plain old transition from walk to trot or whatever it may be without the uncomfortable feel of pressure in my hands. The process is so much like practicing yoga. You can feel it when the muscles do what they are supposed to do. You come out injury free, with energy flowing through your body, loosening, relaxing, and strengthening muscles. I think dressage should do the same thing for the horse. It’s hard for me to see how crunching muscles such as what Gal is doing can possibly improve the horse’s performance as an athlete. That’s like when people sit over a computer all day with their shoulders hunched. It hurts–maybe not cripplingly so, but it slowly brings things out of alignment until we are aware of a certain level of discomfort that can create tightness that extends to other parts of the body. In my mind, let’s help our horses to be sustainable athletes whose muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints are protected by correct athletic exercise, just like we would tell any human to do.

    Thanks everyone for all the comments and Erika for posting. I think this question of LDR is going to be the question for our generation of dressage and as someone who hopes to be a lifelong enthusiast (I have yet to own my own horse) I look forward to how we can puzzle this through and determine what our responsibilities are to horses, how we can make competition a positive thing (because I’ll admit, I love it to pieces even if there are corrupt or challenging aspects to it), and how we can come to make our sport something that ALL riders can appreciate as a foundation or tool for any discipline.

  13. Dolores says

    How incredibly sad this is!
    I am not a world class rider however I am fortunate enough to have a world class trainer. He has always spoken to me of lightness and forwardness and feel. To achieve Losgelassenheit – Durchlässigkeit – Schwung. My trainer taught me this specifically in regards to jumpers , explaining how classical dressage training can literally take a jumper to new heights.
    I am focused on getting the very basics correct starting with me and my seat and back. Problems at the upper levels are often the direct result of problems with the basics. Most often the basic training of the rider.

    So it is devastating to see what is being done today by top riders and trainers in the dressage world.

    I was watching the Olympic dressage rides and began to question what they were calling a piroutte and a piaffe. This was not what I had been taught, this is not the way my trainer rode. I wondered if my memory was at fault so I searched the internet and found Gal’s freestyle ride on Totilas. That is what I had been taught – a lowered croup, precision in the pirouettes, power freely flowing forward. That is what I saw as I watched my trainer ride.

    I thought Gal would be someone I could watch and maybe learn from. But this nightmare hyperflexion/rollkur is the antithesis of everything I am working towards. It is heavy, there is no lowering of the croup no engagement behind … riding the horse “backwards” demanding a pretty headset while letting the engine stall out. As if they don’t understand that a true classical frame comes first and foremost “from behind”.

    Thank you for posting this for me to find. At the very least I know there are others out there who feel as I do, who are trying to achieve the same thing I am despite the particular discipline.

    I will return my focus to my horses as they have become my best teachers now that my trainer has taught me how to hear and understand them.

  14. Monique says

    Being Dutch I do feel there is a new witch hunt and we are Salem at the moment. I see a lot of discussion which is based on single photographs or research that is one sided and not complete. I have been presented pictures to look at rolling eyes and I cannot see it. Don’t worry, I am not blind. But this is where it is becoming a witch hunt. The first I heard of it was with Nicole Uphoff as she used low round and deep to keep Rembrandt from spooking. This method kept her horse more relaxed as he was a very easily spooked horse. I haven’t researched if this is true, but that is how I always understood it to be.
    The video shown in your blog gives examples, but are those examples of school horses, trail horses, dressage horses? If it shows me the gland of a ’hyperflexion’ horse, what does the gland of a GP dressage horse look like, what does the gland of a GP baroque dressage stallion (one with a thick neck, who always has his nose in front of the vertical, as physically it is not possible to carry it behind the vertical.) I am never presented a reference other than a horse, but they need to be equivalent horses in sport. And a sample of 1 horse on all sides / all camps is not a representative sample. How does differences in physique change the whole anatomy part?
    I cannot be (nor could I ever have been) a gymnast. If someone had made me do stretching exercises that gymnast do, I would have been seriously injured. I cannot make my old fashioned-ly bred jumper with whom I ride dressage do such exercises as he would have seriously injured himself. My young horse could do this easily, he is very flexible. I do not hyperflex, as that is not my style. But I do ride low, round and deep, as that helps him to become supple and durchlassig, whereby you can feel the energy flow from back to front. Preferably on a light contact and just normal snaffle bit, normal nose band at normal tightness.
    In short I have looked at a few pictures of Egon von Neindorff and his style suited baroque horses, very classical and nice. The photographs I saw of him and warmbloods are not my style. So if I were a warmblood one of the top riders to have would be Edward. I would like a rider who could keep ’me’ the horse supple and quick and with active hind legs. Bonfire, Anky’s horse, is now 29 and still enjoying his retirement. Salinero was the oldest horse in the Olympic dressage arena. If we are the witches, I would like to ask the Inquisition for proof. Based on a good sample with relevant other groups represented in the research. Show me the effects of non elastic, stiff hind legs on the backs and general health of horses. Then I will change my mind. Until then if I were a horse, I would definitely prefer Edward as rider.

    • says

      There has actually been a considerable number of sequential photographs as well as video to support the fact that Rollkur is still occurring in competition warm-up arenas. If you sit down and look through the research that has been performed, the ruling body (FEI) ruled against Rollkur and supposedly banned it because they could not deny that it was not causing (likely) permanent physical changes and therefore damage to the horse’s neck structure. They changed the wording to give concession to Rollkur without “force” (LDR) as opposed to Rollkur which was deemed to be hyperflexion with excessive physical force. They have not been enforcing their ruling however.

      Also, it is not JUST the Dutch riders who use this. It did become first publicly acknowledged in use under Nicole Uphoff as you stated. I have heard similar rumor that she used it to control his spooking. My question is how was she training him to begin with that was not following the tenets of Dressage to begin with? “Calm, Forward, Straight”…

      I would argue against your statement that if someone wished you to become a gymnast you would be incapable. Being a gymnast of Olympic competition level, no, very few in the world are capable of that and even then they have a very short window of time as adolescents to even succeed in that regard. However to say that you cannot train your body systematically to improve strength, flexibility and fitness is far from the truth. Dressage is a sport which, when done correctly, does improve every horse trained in it. It is when it is applied incorrectly (which is the majority of what is seen in competition) that you see horses being injured and becoming soured over the experience. Will they be as appealing to the eye as a high-bred horse? No, likely not. But ugly is not an indicator of incorrectness, and neither is attractiveness.

  15. Neni says


  16. Alexandria says

    And exactly how much “education” do you have? What are your credidentals? Who exactly did you train under that could have taught you enough that you can judge, by a VIDEO, how this horse needs to be ridden and that you somehow know this horse better than the world- famous, record- breaking dressage rider who has ridden this horse many times before and obviously knows this horse better then you ever have, and most likely, ever will? I will be happy to actually be able to take your comments to heart on Gal’s “heavy- hands” once you have actually ridden this horse multiple time and if you manage (this is highly unlikely) to get better results then Gal.

    • Coos Willemse says

      THank you !!!!!
      I could not have brought this any better . I am so fed up with all these pony riding experts.

  17. Eke says

    I have been reading alot about Edward Gal and dressage lately. And I have been reading more about him because he’s teaching me for almost a year now. But he never asks me to ride with a heavy hand but with my legs and seat. He’s a great teacher and thinks alot of my horse because she had a leg injury and cant work a full hour so we always train in parts of 15 mintes. Someties when me and my horse can’t work thins out Edward will show me on my horse what he mans but he has never used Rollkur or a heavy hand on her. He is a gentle rider from what I’ve seen and I have seen him train loads of horses because I always arrive early for my own training

  18. Mini mouse says


    Oh my god…Charlotte ALSO USES ROLKUR! Oh my god…look how tense he is, look how she pulls on his mouth when asking for flexion, look how he is obviously so tense that he breaks his rhythm. It must be because she’s so dreadful and a bad person who doesn’t care about horse welfare!

    Seriously guys…this is stupid. You think that’s bad? Take a look at what goes on in show jumping! As someone who has worked with elite human athletes I would apply the same principle to horses: that being when in optimum fitness/suppleness/strength the body can be strong in near enough any position. If a stretch is limited, you do more to improve it. Horses are no different. If they are truly soft and supple they should be able to flex deeply without pain as much as they can move their neck freely or step under or lift their stomachs. Now that’s not to say for a second they should be kept and held there for sustained periods of time, but in the same way as you come in and out paces you come in and out of various stretches when warming up.

    I am not a Grand Prix rider but in my humble opinion I do not see a heavy hand or indeed a heavy leg. I see VERY hot horses being out in and out of stretches, flexed when tense, contact given when relaxed and all ridden sympathetically and responsively.

    I put it to those who have made comments of outrage that perhaps you might be further qualified to comment once you have trained consistently, horse after horse, to this level. I further put it to you that perhaps you may not be such a paragon of moral virtue if you were to ride VERY hot horses. May I ask, quite genuinely, how many of you have ridden not just horses of that calibre but hot, temperamental and tricky horses? I have…it’s a whole different ball game to this ideal that we ALL have of horses that are in utter balance and harmony 199% of the time and we can all be perfect. We all want the same end game or we wouldn’t be in this sport, but EVERY rider, now matter how much of a Puritan, can have a moment or too where is doesn’t all stack up. If you want to find it you can, all you need to do is capture a split second at the right time and BOOM! That’s it…you’re clearly the devil himself.

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