Rollkur has been an issue written about on this blog fairly regularly, but until now there hasn’t been a clearly demonstrating video available to show a ‘professional’ using Rollkur in a competition setting for more than a brief period of time. Until now.
No, I haven’t been kicked in the face – thankfully and knock on wood!
But I want to pay tribute to the opportunities that may exist in the seemingly terrible, unfortunate, miserable or frustrating moments that we can all get stuck staring at and shaking our heads over.
We get the opportunity to enjoy being in the moment if we are present enough to realize it and take hold of it, but often we get caught up in thoughts that do not help us in the here and now but pull us into superficial goals and actions. We fight and fuss over the horse, struggle with the basics and yearn for the complex achievements.
The term “on the bit” doesn’t have an origin in the long-time history of Dressage, but according to Bettina Drummond it is an orphan that is only causing chaos, confusion and much of the demise of Dressage.
I know that my own thoughts on the issue have been very… bland? I would like to believe that this was solely because of the amount of conflicting information being presented on all sides, mixed in a bit with my ability to reason an understanding (though not necessarily agreement) of all parties involved.
What are your thoughts? Do you believe that Rollkur’s continued use is driven by success, fame, money? Are there elite equestrians you believe are using Rollkur to train but have not gained as much publicity as Anky Van Grunsven and Isabell Werth? What about Rollkur do you find appealing or repulsive?
The answer to this question may be more tricky. The individual motivations I cannot say, but I would be willing to guess that the amount of money involved in high level equestrian sports is enough to motivate a large number of individuals to using whatever legal tactics necessary to win. For example…
You may be surprised to learn that Aspartame isn’t just a low-calorie alternative to sugar, and it isn’t *just* a potential link to cancer.
No matter the driving force behind it, I see this trait show up in our treatment of animals in general. How many cats are forced to endure our attention while they display obvious annoyance, anger, fear?
Horsemanship on the other hand is as confusing about where to start and where to end, let alone the order in which to proceed, to students and teachers alike. To be brutally honest most teachers are just guessing their way through, while students wander through frustrations, injuries and brick walls they cannot overcome.
To me it seems obvious enough why the average age is 2 years for horses entering under saddle training, why many riders and trainers balk at the thought of waiting until the horse has grown to 4 or 5 years (or later) before saddling them and sitting on their back for the first time. I can see the reason why, but I don’t see it as a justifiable excuse.
In a perfect world the horse is connected to us through the reins, meaning that the contact we’ve established on the reins serves as the ultimate communication tool. There is no tension, simply touch and with it the power to execute energy through the horse at a moments notice.
When training the horse relaxation must come first. Anything we gain in ‘training’ without the horse being relaxed is compromised. Any measure of tension prevents him from fully committing to your request.
Now, the rub is that most training methods are built upon manipulating and maintaining some measure of tension in the horse.
The posting trot is a highly effective tool, when used properly. It lightens the load on a young horse’s back while they’re building strength and coordination, it saves the rider’s seat on long distance rides, is a necessary step in developing your position for jumping, and much more.
We might experience the same problem with different horses. Or when traveling to new places experience new problems that arise because we’re out of our element and that impacts the way we behave and interact with the horse.
What do you do with a horse who seems to be snoozing, relaxing, even napping… and then suddenly spooks!? Not only is it dangerous, but it catches us all the more off guard than spooking from an otherwise hyped up or highly sensitive horse.
I swear it’s hard-coded in our genes to respond to any hints we may be pulling or leaning on the reins with the shrill reply, “I’m NOT pulling!” In 20 years of riding I’ve shrieked that response more than once. It’s okay to admit making mistakes, it’s what we do with those difficult lessons that defines us, and please please please… learn to stop pulling on your horse’s mouth sooner than later!