Following constructive debate at the FEI round-table conference at the IOC Headquarters in Lausanne February 9, 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 emphasized that the main responsibility for the welfare of the horse rests with the rider.
The FEI President HRH Princess Haya accepted a petition of 41,000 signatories against Rollkur presented by Dr Gerd Heuschman.
SCROLL DOWN for reaction from Dr. Robert Cook, creator of Bitless Bridle
The participants in the FEI round-table conference were:
HRH Princess Haya, FEI President
Alex McLin, FEI Secretary General
Margit Otto-Crépin, International Dressage Riders Club Representative
Linda Keenan, International Dressage Trainers Club Representative
Sjef Janssen, Dressage Representative
Frank Kemperman, Chairman, FEI Dressage Committee (by conference call)
François Mathy, International Jumping Riders Club Representative
David Broome, Jumping Representative
Jonathan Chapman, Eventing Representative
Roly Owers, World Horse Welfare Representative
Tony Tyler, World Horse Welfare Representative
Ulf Helgstrand, President, Danish Equestrian Federation
John McEwen, Chairman, FEI Veterinary Committee
Dr Sue Dyson, Veterinary Representative
Dr Gerd Heuschman, Veterinary Representative
Prof. René van Weeren, Veterinary Representative
Jacques van Daele, FEI Honorary Steward General Dressage
Graeme Cooke, FEI Veterinary Director
Trond Asmyr, FEI Director Dressage and Para-Equestrian Dressage
John Roche, FEI Director Jumping and Stewarding
Catrin Norinder, FEI Director Eventing
Carsten Couchouron, FEI Executive Director Commercial
Richard Johnson, FEI Communications Director
The Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), founded in 1921, is the international body governing equestrian sport recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and includes 133 National Federations. Equestrian sport has been on the Olympic program since 1912 with three disciplines - Jumping, Dressage and Eventing. It is one of the very few sports in which men and women compete on equal terms. It is also the only sport which involves two athletes - horse and rider. The FEI has relentlessly concerned itself with the welfare of the horse, which is paramount and must never be subordinated to competitive or commercial influences.
'Low, Deep and Round' or a blow, deep and unkind?
Dr Robert Cook FRCVS, PhD (email@example.com)
Once again, the FEI has rejected the evidence and another opportunity for reform has been lost. Over bending may be acceptable to the FEI but it is not acceptable to the horse. The FEI is just dodging the issue by changing the name of the shame. 'Low, Deep and Round' is simply a synonym for 'Rollkur,' hyperflexion and over bending. 'Rollkur' by any other name smells just as rotten. A semantic sleight of hand will not stop this regrettable practice.
Yet there is a way to establish a humane requirement for the degree of poll flexion to be permitted. Such a guideline already exists in the FEI rule book and it is one easily monitored by stewards in the warm-up ring. The rule book requires a horse to be 'on the bit.' Part of the FEI's own definition of this phrase reads: "...the head should remain in a steady position, as a rule slightly in front of the vertical..." So I agree that, in this respect at least, there is no need to change the rule book. All that the FEI has to do is to abide by it. 'Low, deep and round' transgresses the rule book. It also transgresses the injunction that a horse be "calm, supple, loose, and flexible..." and "must not be subjected to any training methods which are abusive or cause fear."
The FEI's assertion that the practice of 'low deep and round' achieves flexion without undue force is refutable. Apart from the FEI's unfortunate endorsement of the concept that force of any sort is an acceptable part of training, how would they define 'undue' or 'aggressive'? Such words merely provide loopholes through which any lawyer could drive a double-decker bus. Furthermore, it is noted that in commending 'low, deep and round' (LDR) they are quietly substituting the word 'flexion' for 'hyperflexion.' Yet LDR involves hyperflexion and this is not a physiological position for a horse's head to be in during forward motion. Even at the walk, no horse at liberty would choose to place its head in such a position.
The statement, "...the main responsibility for the welfare of the horse rests with the rider" is an abrogation of the FEI's responsibility. Are they washing their hands of any requirement on their part to promote equine welfare? If so, they renounce the primary justification for their very existence.
The question should have been determined on the basis of the scientific evidence, not by consensus. By all means let's have a debate, preferably an open debate. And after the debate, let the decision be based on the evidence of equine anatomy and physiology. Scientific truths are not determined by majority vote.
If we do not protest the FEI's current non-compliance with nine of the ten items in their own code of conduct, we must all bow our heads in shame that human beings have once again failed to show humanity.[i]
Robert Cook, FRCVS, PhD
Professor of Surgery Emeritus, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine
[i] No. 5 is the only one in which the FEI may be in compliance. "Adequate provision must be made for ventilation, watering and maintaining a healthy environment during transportation."
Cook, W.R. (2007): "Why is Rollkur Wrong?" Available online at www.bitlessbridle.com