Wait, what?! Because they’re so popular, many people assume that the abusive training method of Rollkur began with Anky van Grunsven and her coach-turned-husband Sjef Janssen. Nope, not true. Before Sjef & Anky, there was Nicole & Isabell. At Aachen in 1995, both Isabell Werth and Nicole Uphoff were seen using hyperflexion with their horses.…
anky van grunsven
Just a few days ago, the FEI suspended Danish 5-star judge Leif Törnblad on the basis of a complaint made by the Dutch Equestrian Federation. Members of the Dutch Equestrian Federation include Sjef Janssen and Anky van Grunsven, who openly use and promote the abusive training method of Rollkur, aka LDR. Why is this important?…
Dressage is dead. There, I said it. Somebody had to. Okay, not dead in the literal sense. Dressage is still alive and kicking. But, the idea of Dressage as some kind of harmonious, artistic venture is dead in the competitive scene. We’ve spent years trying to keep a diseased version of Dressage alive but it’s…
Since Sjef and Anky, Rollkur has woven its way down the levels of Dressage and crept past the discipline to find common ground with reining. And in all the time we’ve watched the Rollkur/hyperflexion/LDR debate unfold I’ve been writing about how detrimental it is. With that being said, I’M NOW READY TO ADMIT THAT I WAS WRONG. All my criticisms were actually evidence of my jealousy and it’s time I come clean.
Once upon a time ago, the difference between Classical and Competitive Dressage seemed synonymous with the distance between the walls of the Grand Canyon (which happens to be up to 18 miles wide!). Whether it is merely my perception, or the reality, which has changed I have yet to determine. Nonetheless there is still a measure of awe inspired in people when they hear that “so and so” does Classical Dressage. It has a note of magic attached to it, even if it is a tradition based on a bunch of dead guys; or maybe it is because of those dead guys.
They do not seem to care that they are yanking on the horse’s most sensitive mouth with a leverage bit. They do not seem to care that they are spurring the horse carelessly and excessively. They do not seem to care that the horse is willing to accept these abuses without striking out violently.
Despite the FEI’s ruling that Rollkur is a banned practice, and instead has favored the use of LDR (Low, Deep, Round), there is plenty of evidence to the contrary that hyperflexion is a norm for competitors. The World Equestrian Games, hosted in Kentucky this year is already proving the perfect grounds to spot the practice in person.
You can find it in jumpers, hunters, western riders, english riders, saddleseat, hunt, etc. While it is more prevalent in some disciplines over others the truth of the matter is that the majority of equestrians believe that control of the horse is gained largely by manipulating the neck. Yes, control can be had in this way but it is also mistakenly referred to as building a relationship, communication, a partnership, etc. Plain and simple it is a physical way to control the horse and avoiding communication and removing choice from the horse’s options.
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…
If you are unaware of what is termed “Rollkur” or hyperflexion of the neck, it is time you knew what has been plaguing much of Dressage and has been the subject of controversy since its inception.
Horse Talk.co.nz published a new story which talks about a new study that was performed showing that horses not only choose normal poll flexion when given a choice while maneuvering, their physiological reaction to stressful stimulation is comparatively lower when compared to their reaction while in hyperflexion.
Hyperflexion has found it’s way into almost every barn and stable, through the simple lack of awareness to it’s presence. From english to western, and even the ‘classicists’ of dressage. It is a loss of the horse’s posture. Why is that?