Friday, February 13, 2009

OK-Help Me Here - Rollkur

This is the definition Wikpedia gave me for this training method. I know nothing about it and would like you dressage guys to jump in and fly with this. The fact that it is "most notably used in show jumping"(other than dressage) makes me no longer willing to take it laying down when the hunter/jumper set bashes us westerners for being so abusive.
I'm also aware that this is very similar to what we do to reiners to create the low head sets so popular in the pen. We just keep asking for low and level, but the approach is the same.
So let's hear it, how does it work, why does it work, has anybody tried it and found better ways to get the same result.....Talk to me.

"Rollkur, now officially known as "hyperflexion of the neck," is a highly controversial training technique used by some dressage riders today. It was, and is still, used in other equestrian disciplines, most notably show jumping, before being adopted by some well-known dressage riders. However, it is not an old theory in dressage, either: Francois Baucher trained a similar method, although he did all his severe flexing at the halt, and in addition he connected the posture of the hind legs to the mix.

In dressage training, the rider can choose to make the horse work for periods with its neck lowered and its head behind the vertical, for various beneficial reasons, such as suppling, relaxing, and stretching the horse, yet rollkur takes this flexion to the extreme. In rollkur, the horse is asked to lower his head and round its neck as it works--working "deep"--so that the head is coming inward. In the extreme, the horse's mouth touches the middle of his chest. Rollkur is not a quick movement lasting a few seconds, but is held for a length of time, through work at the walk, trot, and canter, including shortening and extension of the gaits. Rollkur is not just longitudinal flexion (nose to chest or forelegs), but accompanied with repeated bending to the rider's leg.

Some riders who use rollkur accomplish the head position by lowering and fixing the hands until the horse yields its jaw backwards in response to the pressure on the bit. This technique (pulling in) goes against all classical riding. In classical dressage, the horse accepts the bit and the horse decides to come down with its head because it trusts the hands of the rider. In good companionship, it is possible to asks the horse to go a little deeper than the animal would do itself (until, eventually, rollkur is established)."

96 comments:

Original L said...

OK, disclaimer here: I have never ridden dressage but would like to take lessons someday when I can find a good classical trainer, just as I want to take lessons in cutting. I have, however, done a LOT of reading and watching videos on rollkur. My researched opinion is below, but feel free to disagree and clarify.

The action involved in rollkur is as they described. Basically, the horse is forced (usually using the curb, not the snaffle in the double bridle) to hold its head very near its chest for long periods of time. Not only does this make the horse unable to see where it is going (several wrecks have been reported due to this in warmup rings) but it compresses, stretches, and inflames the nuchal ligament in the neck. Horses who are "trained" with rollkur tend to have hypersensitive, sometimes spasming muscles around the poll and often scars at the lips because of the harshness of the bit. The effect of rollkur is articially shortening some muscles and lengthening others in the front of the horse so as to achieve the modern "flashy" but disconnected front legs which exaggerately snap up with each stride. In true dressage the hind legs are much more the focus of all training efforts. Get the hind end correct and the front legs and neck and head will gradually fall into a good and natural position as muscle develops. This method of "modern" dressage creates a similar look in a fraction of the time. It also creates world champion horses who run away with their owners into crowds of people and horses who are seriously damaged in mind and body. Baucher's method of doing it in halt might have been OK, but doing it for half an hour or more at a time while going at trot and lope and never giving a break is sheer cruelty.

I don't like rollkur, obviously. It has been a topic that has been rehashed over and over all over the web and always gets lots of very strong opinions.

Heila said...

Hiya Mugs! (I'm practicing my American.)

Look here: http://www.sustainabledressage.com/rollkur/index.php

This is a fantastic website to find in depth information about all aspects of dressage. Personally I feel rollkur is barbaric but some of the top dressage riders in the world use it so there are always people who feels if it works it must be ok. Nonsense.

mugwump said...

>>The effect of rollkur is articially shortening some muscles and lengthening others in the front of the horse so as to achieve the modern "flashy" but disconnected front legs which exaggerately snap up with each stride.<<

What muscles? I'm truly curious here.

mugwump said...

Heila-I'm buried in this site....thanks a bunch, this is great.

autumnblaze said...

To me, it looks like a major over use of artifical aids as a training shortcut. When is that ever good?

However, looking for an education on this too!

June Evers said...

Hay-

A Grand Prix Dressage rider told me once that not only does it do whatever to the muscles and it is also a barbaric short cut, but it also makes the horse surrender and give up quicker. I'm not really sure exactly the term she used but that was part of it. The "uber" obedience.

I was the one that posted the roll kur comment yesterday in regards to Dressage Today and Anky.

LuvMyTBs said...

"Rollkur" is forced,it is cruel,it is not what classical dressage is about or should be.Unfortunately as in so many other disciplines it gets results and is a quick fix to achieve what should be done with training and cooperation from any horse.

It should be an embarrassment to the Olympic level riders and judges that this continues to be allowed.Anky is not in any way a role model or example of what any dressage hopeful would want to be.

Accendora said...

From the FEI website,

"“The FEI held a successful seminar on Hyperflexion in 2006. There has been no change in the scientific evidence since that review. There are no known clinical side effects specifically arising from the use of Hyperflexion. However, there are concerns for the horses’ well-being if the technique is not practised correctly. The FEI does not permit excessive or prolonged Hyperflexion in any equestrian sport, and has a strict stewarding program to protect the performance horse in all disciplines.”

David Holmes

Executive Sports Director"

http://www.fei.org/Disciplines/Dressage/News/Info_Dressage/Pages/infodressagenov08.aspx

mlks said...

I used to ride primarily dressage, and was brought up on draw reins and over-flexion at all gaits, but I've run screaming in the other direction over the last 10 years (I'm in my late 20s).

I agree with Original L's explanation of what physical effects rollkur creates, and I agree with autumnblaze and June Evers that it is a training shortcut.

As far as I understand classical dressage, a headset behind the vertical is never desired. Moreover, you should ride the horse "back to front"; the head and neck set is something that comes organically from moving up gradually through the training scale. If you ever start riding the head, you will lose impulsion, expression, and overall "through-ness".

While in the right hands rollkur might not ruin a horse (mind or body), it's the kind of training shortcut that can cause serious physical and mental damage when amateurs start to mimic it in their riding.

Obviously I'm not a fan. Training a horse up through the levels might take a long time if you follow the training scale, but you'll be left with a much saner, happier, and expressive horse.

June Evers said...

luvmytbs said: "...Anky is not in any way a role model or example of what any dressage hopeful would want to be."

But she won the silver medal at the Olympics. Any little girl or up and coming dressage student reading DT and seeing her on the cover would think she IS an example...that is what is so unfortunate.

HorseOfCourse said...

Ohoh. Now we are moving from worm can to snake can. *Chuckles*
This is a topic which almost has created war between Germany and Netherlands in modern time. Must eat dinner with family. Will come back.

twhlady said...

Hey Mugs,
I found Fugly's post on Rollkur and I think it might be helpful.
Title: Do you have to wind them up with their tail to get them to do that?
from November 24 2007

this is the link there has been much debate for quite awhile on this subject

http://fuglyhorseoftheday.blogspot.com/2007/11/do-you-have-to-wind-them-up-with-their.html

kuvaszfan said...

Watch out, Anky is moving into "Western" territory.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like rollkur causes learned helplessness-aka breaking their spirit- just as well beating them with logging chains.

The cruelty of people still astonishes me-and the excuses for it just blow my mind.

rheather

Rachel said...

In defence of us hunter/jumpers... I have never seen a h/j practicing rollkur, nor heard of any backlash from big names using rollkur (as, undoubtedly there would be - look at Anky).

Additionally, doing a youtube search for "hunter jumper rollkur" brings up no videos featuring rollkur, only hunter/jumpers. Doing the similar search for "dressage rollkur" brings up two full pages of videos featuring rollkur.

I'm not saying that there aren't people who do it (just as in dressage there are sooo many people who don't do it), just saying it's much more... prevalent in dressage.

June Evers said...

Rachel:

Yes, you will see a form of roll kur done in the jumper rings at some of the big jumper shows. Look in the warm up rings, that's where you'll see it. Recently saw it at HITS in Saugerties.

mugwump said...

>>kuvaszfan said... Watch out, Anky is moving into "Western" territory.<<

It's already here. I'm reading the website suggested by Heila and the basic premise is identical to the methods used to teach reiners, pleasure horses and HUS to carry themselves correctly in the show pen.
How do I know? Been taught to use them.
twhlady- I love Fugly, so don't get me wrong. But I'm not interested in flaming anybody, just interested. I don't know enough about this method to have an opinion yet.
rheather- ready for a little more jaw-dropping? Seems the practice of "flexing" the horse back and forth to the knee to teach them to give and the resulting compliance is the basis of a lot of this Rollkur stuff.
Pretty funny since this would be a training procedure embraced and claimed by many NHers.
Once again, not judging, just thinking out loud.

mugwump said...

Rachel- I'm not blaming HJ for Rollkur, just happy to be able to point a finger back once in a while.

Austen said...

Ugh! Rollkur! When I was in college, I saw so many "dressage wannabees" just cranking down their horses head then thinking he was "collected"! Outrageous!

I think the problem stems from rewarding what is considered "classically beautiful" (ie: a horse with a hugely arched neck). Look at all the statues of horses you see around, and you will mostly see overextended necks.

Neck flexion isn't bad in the least. And it is IS highly desirable in dressage ... and USEFUL. However, the thing I think riders who practice this method forget is why flexion is important, and why it comes about.

When your horse is working up through his back, pushing off his hind legs, and collected properly his poll will come up to be his highest point naturally. That's how your horse operates when he is carrying himself. Cranking down your horses head (rollkur) just creates a horse that is weak in the back, and puts his head into frame without the rest of his body following.

In my experience, this creates horses unable to hold contact. It makes me think of driving a car without a steering wheel. You look down and the head is there, but you can't get a feeling on it. Meanwhile, the horse is disconnected everywhere else and mostly ignoring other aids. It makes me mad to see animals trained this way and takes MUCH too long to correct. How many times do I have to spend weeks and weeks of riding without contact to fix a horse someone cranked down?! I just hope riders will do their work and stop taking a "shortcut".

Deered said...

Sadly I think it is a case of big $$ speaking - I never made it high enough to train that sort of shit - but to me it's wrong.
I think the full effects are shown with such things as the incident when Anky was unable to halt her horse when it spooked and ran.... If you Google Reiner Klimke, esp his 1984 gold mealdal olympic performance, you will see the difference between now and then. The horses now have flashier front leg action, however they are not bringing thier back legs through as well as thy should - I guess I feel about the this the same as you feel about people thowing the horse back in the box with the head tied up/down to get a head position.

Anonymous said...

I could see teaching a horse to give(occasionally!)to the side- your comment about 'noodle neck' has made me go hmmmmm- but there's a difference between giving and taking-like-sadistic-bully.

At least with my horse I know he's plenty flexible-he will almost touch his nose to his hip just to see what I'm doing back there. I'll see how interesting that is to ride someday soon....

rheather

gillian said...

"Seems the practice of "flexing" the horse back and forth to the knee to teach them to give and the resulting compliance is the basis of a lot of this Rollkur stuff."

Tell me if I'm wrong, please, but it seems like all silly and/or cruel training practices, particularly "quick fix" stuff, is just taking a reasonable idea out of its context and using it without moderation or variation.

Accendora said...

"I think the full effects are shown with such things as the incident when Anky was unable to halt her horse when it spooked and ran...."

While I think Rolkur is bad training, I do not agree with this. Klimke (according to my dressage trainer) rode a young horse who spent his first year undersaddle spooking at the area door. Over and over. He furthermore said that every time he rode the horse in competition, he was concerned (or aware?) that it might explode when pushed. The temperament of exceptional dressage horses reminds me of how Mugwump describes good cowhorses: they react to everything. Thus, the slightest shift of the rider's weight is important to them.

I'll also add the caveat that an exceptional dressage horse -wants to go forward-. A lot. That way, when all that energy is collected, when the horse is collected, it looks spectacular. A collected canter should have so much power that it looks as though the horse could take off flying.

This is all just to say that if you have a hot-headed, sensitive horse, that horse might well have the propensity to GO on occasion, especially a high stress situation like a show.

Now, someone holding such a horse in and constantly hammering on its responsive sides will make that much more likely, but I don't think it's fair to say that because a rider had one accident in public, her training methods are bad.

Shanster said...

Rollkur - I've heard of it. I've seen pictures. I know it's overbending the horse. I haven't personally seen it in action nor have I ever used it.

Dressage Today posted minutes from a USDF meeting where a veterinarian and German rider wrote a book about Rollkur -

It is not part of the traditional or classical style of Dressage riding but a modern quick fix.

I keep meaning to buy the book but haven't. It's called "Tug of War: Classical vs Modern Dressage Why Classical Training Works and How Incorrect Modern Riding Negatively Affects Horses' Health" by Dr. Gerd Heuschmann

Think there are a lot of people out there that will use a quick fix in ANY of the disciplines.

Don't know why it's suprising that Dressage does it as well as others - saddleseat, jumpers, reining - whatever it may be.

Happens any time humans want to win and they lose sight of why they enjoyed a sport in the first place? Winning becomes everything and shortcuts are taken without regard to who or what is affected. Heck - look at pro-sports or anything else humans put value in... Michael Vick and his dog fighting... anything can be sullied or degraded.

This is a hot topic in Dressage - not exactly where I am tho. I am a small fish, showing locally and enjoying myself. I have no plans on becoming any type of international or professional contender.

I ride dressage to understand my horse's movement and mind. I do it for my own peace of mind and because it simply gives me joy.

horseys4me said...

Heres another website Ive read...www.classicalriding.co.uk Most of her teachings are much more classical and steer away from Rollkur. Silvia Locke might not be a super top level rider but she knows what shes doing and the horses are HAPPY to do their job with her, isnt that what counts? My personal opinion (I ride lower level dressage but definately classical) is that its unnecessary. Ive heard people use it on horses that are too hot to stretch them and calm them down? That doesn't make sense to me, especially for long periods of time. Dressage horses are hot bc they are in the best shape of their lives! Ive just recently started in the HJ world and I havent seen that yet but then again I havent been to any BIG shows, but I will keep my eye out for it. I just cant imagine my gelding putting up with that even! and hes a very "willing to please" type a guy but theres no way, nor would i ever want that look even, the thing i love about dressage is that it takes moves from what horses naturally do in the wild..no horse in the wild is gonna walk around with his nose to his chest, i guarantee it! Im totally willing to admit that every disipline of riding has its faults and dressage is no exception, luckily there IS controversy over it therefore it is not accepted by everyone who "wants to win"nor is it necessary to win..yet anyway. Ok done with my mini rant :)

mugwump said...

gillian- you sly fox. You've picked up on where I'm heading....

Olesja said...

I've only skimmed the comments, so forgive me if this has been posted, but I've always liked this website explaining rollkur:
http://www.sustainabledressage.com/rollkur/how.php

Enjoy, let us know what you think about it.

Grey Horse Matters said...

In my opinion 'Rollkur' is one of the most harmful things you can do to a horse mentally and physically. I did a review of a book on my blog concerning this subject, for more information check out the review on this book: Tug Of War: Classical Versus " Modern " Dressage

http://greyhorsematters.blogspot.com/2008/01/tug-of-war-classical-versu-modern.html

Hope this will help to answer some questions.

HorseOfCourse said...

I believe that the initial description in your post is good, Janet.
Let me state one thing first: rollkur is NOT an accepted method by dressage riders in general. Many of the most acclaimed riders, trainers and veterinarians has gone out and pressed hard on FEI to make a statement against this training method.
Dr. Gerd Heuschmann and Klaus Balkenhol has been touring around Europe to describe what’s happening biomechanically in the horse, and why it is wrong. I have been to two of those seminars. The sustainable dressage site has a very good in depth description for those interested, I recommend it, it is interesting reading for all disciplines IMHO.
And yes, the show jumpers use it – I would say in a much larger extent than the dressage riders. And draw reins. They just don’t speak so loud about it.
The problem is that Anki van Grunsveen has used it, and Anki wins it all. Olympic Gold, World championships, WC.
And when someone wins it all, people start to look what kind of training methods that are used.
So why is it used?
In the last 20 years the WB has been specialised to be athletes to an extent that we have never seen before in the riding horses.
We have got horses that move extraordinary. When you compare them to dressage horses from the 70ies, there is a huge difference. But the horses are also spirited, high strung.
Which makes them not always that easy to ride in the first place. Large gaits, hot head.
And when you in addition train that horse to get fit, strong and very responsive on the aids you are often bordering to explosiveness.
Not all riders can handle a horse like this, and as someone said, rollkur is a shortcut to submission.
Cheating. Unfortunately at the expense of the horse.
But the dressage world is in an uproar because it goes against the bearing principles in the sport.
But it is not hushed up.
It is violently discussed.

Grey Horse Matters said...

P.S. Sorry, I was having a little trouble with the hyperlink. If you go to my blog and click on Book Review the post will come up. I do recommend this book to anyone who wants to know how this practice affects their horses.

badges blues N jazz said...

Havent read all the comments yet, so excuse me if this was already suggested. Mugs, go to YOUTUBE and do a search for vids of Rollkur. They are pretty extreme. I dont think it is quite the same as us western riders teaching our horses to collect in a snaffle bit, from what I've seen, the Rollkur does not give ANY relief? I could be TOTALLY wrong though, and am just seeing extreme examples....

jme said...

though it is not as common with hunters, i've seen it practiced by jumpers, dressage riders, and western riders alike, so i don't think any discipline can claim total innocence in this matter, though luckily it is not a universal practice. i posted extensively on it a while ago if anyone is interested:

http://glenshee.blogspot.com/2007/11/rollkur-training-or-torture.html

badges blues N jazz said...

theres tons on youtube, but I thought this was a fairly good one
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqLZCG-ctuw

KidsHorsinAround said...

Anybody who wants to know about "rollkur" and other "short cuts" (there are none!!)to training a dressage horse must read "Tug of War:Calssical Versus "Modern" Dressage" by Dr. Gerd Heuschmann. Rollkur is just plain wrong! This is a great book and goes a long way to promoting true, classical dressage training and explains why it works (and quick, short cuts don't) based on the horse's basic anatomy and physiology.

Pipkin said...

I have done a lot of research on rollkur, and that sustainable dressage site is probably the best I've found so far.
the thing that gets me is the unrelenting nature and the blanket application of this method.
All horses are different, and even if all of them are sensitive, they are in different ways, and as I'm sure everyone here knows, each horse needs their own personalized training. Just as people do. Overuse of any method is cruel, or ineffectual.

Just because someone wins subjective judging, doesn't mean their training techniques are ethical, it just means they get results. the very definition of Machiavellian.

The problem I have with rollkur is when it's used extensively it damages the horses. Dressage horses should not become lame at young ages, but that's what this produces; back, neck and hock problems. Of course use creates wear and tear, but not injury. I'm all for flexing, but there's a limit.

And I'm sorry, if your horse can be out of control, and you still win silver at a show, the judging is messed up.

Again, this is a case of judges being at fault. They should be well enough trained to see the difference between a rollkur trained horse and a classically trained horse. If they can't they shouldn't be judging.

There's a blog on the net that is written by some guy, he's a total pig, but he has a point: rollkur is primarily used by small people (women he meant) to control huge, powerful horses. And now it's just popular.

Cassandra said...

It reminds me of Arabian HUS and WP.

mugwump said...

is there anybody out there who has trained using rollkur? Somebody must believe in it. I'd love to hear a defense of the method from someone who uses it. I don't care if you used to and quit or still do, I won't judge, I just want to understand why this is a good thing.....just come in as anonymous, plenty of other people do!

Cassandra said...

HP, that is. :)

Pipkin said...

Mugs, there a a number of reasons to support Rollkur, more than just for suppleness. These are the reasons my trainers cited for using it. It was not called anything when I was riding, it was just what was done. I did H/J and some dressage, and since I am now training my own horse, I've been trying to learn more about what I was taught!

Here's some reasons I was given for what we did.

The horse's shortened neck and forearm muscles from long term use of rollkur mean that when ridden with a normal neck posture, the forearm lifts much higher, resulting in more dramatic movement in dressage, and a tidier front end for jumping. This is especially useful when one is riding "daisy-cutters" as they need help with lifting their forearms.

It lifts the abdominal muscles and rounds the horse's back, which is a goal in dressage. Basically helping the horse create the "frame" that wins.

Also, since I am short (5'4", 30" inseam) and rode large, deep girthed horses (17+hh TBs and WBs) engaging their necks and backs with my hands was necessary, as my legs did not go around their barrels. I was letting the horse create his own frame, sort of pushing him into my hands, piling up that energy, which created collection.

They look awfully pretty with the neck curled like that, just like all those statues.

jme said...

well, i don't have a defense of the technique, but i can tell you i was instructed to use this method myself, and i tried it briefly (even jumping a horse in running reins, i am ashamed to say) but i soon found i didn't like the way the horses responded and went back to my usual light, in front of the vertical style. i found it worked short term for submission only, but ultimately made the horses more resistant long-term, and their movement/jumping style began to deteriorate. i tried it for a month or two at the direction of my trainer, but haven't used it in any form for well over 10 years.

in the beginning, it was mostly my jumper trainers who used and advocated rollkur, but never called it by that name. what they did was put horses in draw reins (ever wonder why so many english girths come with a ring at the front? -it's to attach snap-on draw reins nearly everyone uses) or 'elevator' bits with the aim of 'getting the head down' because they were unable to with ordinary methods (i.e. they couldn't get the horse to accept the hand.) then they'd pull the nose into the chest or crank the neck side to side, claiming to be 'softening up' the stiff and resistant horse. the purpose, i was told was to get 'resistant,' 'stiff' or 'difficult' horses 'on the bit', which they equated with the horse having the head down, the neck curled and the nose in. and they acknowledged that this more extreme version would tire the horses out so they'd give up faster.

of course they were wrong - that is nowhere near the definition of 'on the bit' or collection or anything else. but any horse who didn't put his head down or who put up any kind of protest at his training got this treatment. it was also popular among equitation kids whose horses were expected to be 'on the bit' but who hadn't the skill to accomplish this correctly - this created the look (to the untrained judge's eye) of a round horse. h/j judges tend to be oblivious of the particular muscle development of these horses - most noticeably overdeveloped crests and a hollow in front of the withers indicating undeveloped trapezius muscles among other things; the back and hind end development issues they miss entirely.

but the stated primary purpose, for these h/j trainers at least, was to to get the resistant horse under control as quickly as possible by breaking up that resistance. and, for that purpose alone, it works, but at what cost? it does not address the cause of the resistance, which is usually the rider, it only produces submission, which alone means nothing. and it is not voluntary, so can only take you so far.

but at least they're honest about their reasons. my suspicion is the purpose is the same for the dressage people, only they refuse to admit it, claiming there is some kind of beneficial stretching at the root of it. when their forceful and unyielding style of riding causes the horse to protest, they simply remove any hope of resistance from the equation by physically and mentally breaking the horse down...

how this works is much too complicated to get into here. 'tug of war' is great for anatomical info on all of this, and another excellent book which addresses all of these issues is Twisted Truths of Modern Dressage: A Search for a Classical Alternative by Philippe Karl

jalin33 said...

Okay, I watched the videos, I tried to have an open mind. What is the difference between that and what happens to the poor peanut rollers? and every other extreme training practice? Sorry I didn't see anything that I could watch through to the end, and I tried to watch a number of them. As for Anky, I don't care what she won, she is abusive and worse. But like we were saying last night, these things become the "norm" and people are rewarded for it. Disgusting. Also, I haven't heard an explanation for this yet that justifies this crap either. Sigh, just more of the same EXTREME, in a different discipline.

DCDressage said...

Wow, brave post. Can you do gypsy vanners next ;-).
As several people have stated, rollkur is practiced by a number of winning GP dressage riders. It's a cheat. My trainer says over and over: you don't ride the head. Rollkur puts all the focus on where the horse's head is, which DOES NOT lead to engagement of the hindquarters, the be-all, end-all of dressage. Getting the head down doesn't get you into the hindquarters. It may LOOK as if the horse is round, but it's a fake.
You can see this most clearly in the piaffe. Here is a piaffe photo that represents the piaffe you get from rollkur. Note especially how far back the foreleg has to come to support the horse, since the hind is not doing that. http://www.art2ride.com/images/piaffe%202.jpg. The line of the horse's face is behind the vertical (drop a line from his forelock to his nose ... at most, it should be vertical, never behind). His hind end is not underneath him.
Look at the difference here - http://www.oldenburghorse.com/images-success/starlight_piaffe_web.jpg.
The horse's head is NOT behind the vertical; if anything, it is slightly above the vertical. Hind end is clearly engaged. There is almost a loop in the rein. Clearly, the horse is not being muscled into a frame, but is being RIDDEN into a frame.
I'm not sure about all the (many, many) arguments out there about physical damage to the horse, emotional damage, etc., but the end result is ugly, not harmonious. Which is enough for me to run screaming from training methods like rollkur.

Vaquerogirl said...

Well, I've seen a lot of Western trainers do the same abusive thing - so give it some funky fancy name~ it still equals abuse and a lack of trainer knowledge as far as I'm concerned. If I was forced to roll my neck to my chest all day, I'm sure my neck would be stretchy and tired and hard to hold up. I believe in consistent training methods. Just because some big Name trainer does this doesn't make it right. Some of the things I've seen the BNT's do is SICK.

jalin33 said...

Okay Folks, I finally found one that I could watch....No Bridle, No Spurs, and a nice ride, even outside the arena...imagine that!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOOHWAJ3iMI&feature=related

jalin33 said...

Sorry, Posted the wrong link...It is Called "The Last Stand" on u tube....A lovely dressage ride.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOOHWAJ3iMI

LuvMyTBs said...

I raise my glass to DCDressage...very well stated indeed! Correctly executed dressage has always been about engagement of the hind end as well as how that impulsion and drive if you will then can enable the expressiveness of the gaits and correct execution of those cadenced/precise movements.It's also about a seemingly effortless partnership of horse and rider...not achieved through force or cruelty.

jalin33 said...

I have a question for all you folks posting with some knowledge about classical dressage. Perhaps you can explain something to me. I watched another Olympic champion who is now a trainer do a number of rides at a horse show. Every horse she rode had it's ears pinned, was wringing it's tail and had it's teeth clenched. She rode every ride (training level) using her spurs at every stride, totally ON those horses mouth, even though these horses were only walking and trotting. It ruined all my prior impressions of dressage.

mugwump said...

Pipkin-thank you. You guys, I'm tired and at the end of my day.
I also have my head just spinning from information.
What I see are two continual themes running through all these disciplines.
The first is engagement of the hindquarters. Using the power and thrust of the hind end to smooth out our ride and balance the movement of the horse.
The second is the misconception that we can control the hindquartters with our hands.
The short cuts are universal.
I'm going to think on this some more.
I'm due to post on www.equestrianink.com tomorrow. I'm going to talk a little about how I learned what I've learned about horses and how it effcts me. This post today really has me going.
I would LOVE to keep exploring this. We can't be combative or crash down on anybody for telling the truth. We have to want to explore these things so we can become better horsemen.It's an exciting thought don't you think? We can learn from riders from all over the world.
Talk to you tomorrow.

jalin33 said...

Oh my questions, sorry, my bad.
She is considered to be a classical rider. Is it necessary or normal to spur a 3-4 yo on every stride? In classical dressage, when you ride a youngster, do you normally crank on his face? Not to the extent of rollkur, but unrelenting? I have ridden dressage for my own enjoyment. I owned a nice warm-blood who was started beautifully with dressage and he was a joy to ride...it was a long time ago before it was "in". I took some lessons and I positively LOVED riding this gelding.....he was a joy. I was never taught to spur incessantly and I never was taught to honk on his face. When I watched her ride (some years later) I thought to myself, well, she won the Olympics...who are you to say.....

jalin33 said...

DC Dressage; You answered my questions, should have followed all your links before I posted. Thanks.

HorseRedux said...

Mugs, since you've bravely ventured into a couple of controversial subjects with your most recent posts, why not go for the gusto and explore why so many horse people are just plain wacked? I'm completely serious -- while it's depressing enough to encounter petty/unbalanced behavior by fellow amateurs, it's really demoralizing to experience it from so-called professionals. Why is the horse industry so prone to attracting nut-jobs that tend to end up in positions of influence?

HorseRedux said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jasmine said...

As some have mentioned above when used in moderation this technique works. When I started riding my OTTB he carried his head so high I could see the star between his eyes from on his back!!! Once we got him calmed down from batshit crazy stage he still liked to carry his head waaaaaay up there.

He had weak back and rear muscles and would much prefer to lift his head, hollow his back, and run through things rather than actually work at anything. This was true at all gaits but when jumping it was even worse.

It took me a long time (we were both green) to realize what the problem. He didn't know how to use his body properly doing the maneuvers I was asking for with a rider. If you watched him free jump he carried his head high but much closer to the vertical and showed a lovely arch and using of the back muscles. I had to figure out how to teach him to use himself properly.

After warming up on a long loose rein we would stop and do bending from side to side. I would pull his nose around to my knee on each side and ask him to bring his nose to his chest. This was mainly for stretching purposes. Absolutely NO abrupt movements, forcing or prolonged holding. Slow and gentle is the name of the game.

Then we start the collection. I needed him to push with the hind end rather than grabbing the bit and running. Always, always, always more leg than hand but lots both! Keep in mind you aren't pulling on the horse at this point either. It's just firm contact. The goal is to have a "feel" of the mouth. We're both putting the same gentle tug on each end of the rein but there is no pulling or LEANING! If the rider is too strong the horse will learn to let you hold his head up and do all the work! The goal is not to teach the horse to lean on your hands and heavy on it's forehand (a result I often see of the cranking in the nose and spurring routine)--you really don't want this if you're aiming for a hunter/jumper. [This same horse used to be very touchy about his face so getting past this point took a while.]

After this is accomplished you add the draw reins. At first I just asked for a release. When he stopped resisting and relaxed into the bridle he got rein a release in the form of less contact and a lighter leg. Still thinking more leg than hand. After a while he learned that if he relaxed his head and pushed with his hind end mom stopped bugging him! After I while I started asking him to hold the new head position for longer periods of time. Gradually you get a longer time and a lower nose until the horse will relax instantly to just behind the vertical and then travel on the vertical with VERY LIGHT mouth and leg contact.

In summary, over-bending of the nose is just like the tools used to achieve it. Long shanked bits, spurs, whips, double bridles, they all have their place and a SKILLED rider can do amazing things with them. The same combo with an unskilled rider is scary if not downright abusive.

Wow that was the never ending post. Sorry guys!

Jasmine said...

HorseRedux:: The horse world does seem to attract more than it's fair share of crazies doesn't it?!?

SkyBar Farm said...

Jasmine,

I was just having this conversation with one of my boarders during her lesson yesterday. She is a first time Horse owner and I steered her to buy a OTTB. I personally love them for first timers that are not afraid of a challenge, because they usually have great groundmanners. Anyway, the one she owns raced for 8 years and he is a doll. We were talking about headset, neckset, etc... She is learning Dressage and her and I use the same trainer. I maintain her with lessons inbetween the dressage ones.

Anyway, think about the OTTB and their purpose prior to coming to their next life. "Run hard, turn left." There necks are typically set a little higher. That they have weak backs once they are put into riding is a common thing, and are typically very stiff on one side. What I have found has worked with a lot of them over the years is to teach them to back from the ground. They never learn to back when they are racing. No need to. We back circles, squares, serpitines, triangles, etc... Then we transfer it to the saddle and do all the same things, in moderation and slowly build. I have found this has helped the most with not only developing the back and hip, but helping them to break over at the poll and not in the middle of the neck. So when the owner gets on and asks for him to engage the hindend she has an easier time. She has short little legs, and is not ready to use spurs by anymeans to help get him to ride from back to front. As far as coming onto the bit, she is slowly getting there, but has made vast improvement correctly.

Just another thought to throw in there to think about.
Your absoulutely right too, always more leg than hand. Sounds like he has turned out great for you.

Oh another thought that has worked for us with the OTTB's is monthly deep tissue massage, right from the start of their new careers. It has relived a lot of that stiffness coming off the track. I wish I had known about that 25 years ago when I was really into H/J and using TB's.

GoLightly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GoLightly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GrouchyBayTB said...

Jasmin and SkyBar - I really agree with your comments. I ride an OTTB, and we're training in dressage. He has a lot of the traits you described - very high head carriage, much stronger to the left, tendency to hollow his back, etc.

While I don't think what my trainer and I use qualifies as rolkur, we sometimes do use draw reins, side reins, a chambon, etc, to help with his headset and carriage. My trainer has explained that the use of these "tools" isn't so much to teach or train him to carry his head a certain way, but more to help the process of building muscles that will support and allow him to round out, carry his head lower, etc. Also, she said it will help him learn that he CAN go forward and carry himself without his head flung up and inverted, and without blowing through his shoulder.

I have frankly been fretting over using these "tools" because they seem somewhat controversial (I'm a re-rider in my 30's and don't recall using these in my past horsey life ... but I've also never ridden horses like the ones I'm on now, either). The thing is -- I trust my trainer - she has decades of experience and is fair and compassionate - firm when she needs to be, but always the first to praise the pony when he "gets it."

We also use lots of other methods in our training (I say "our" bc it's not just about training him - it's me too!!) - stretches, lots of bending at the walk, etc.

Mugs - With all this said, I would absolutely love if you would do a post on the proper use of aids like these (maybe some people think there aren't any??). Things like draw reins, side reins, chambons, martingales - all the things that artificially create the headset and collection. When do you use them? What do others think is appropriate?

GoLightly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
HorseOfCourse said...

GoLightly - I would be happy to answer you, but I'm not sure that I understand the question. I cannot see any problem, but maybe there is something more around the statement? Maybe it refers to keeping the neck and head locked, like in a rollkur position, where the horse would have problems to raise the neck again?

mugwump said...

HorseofCourse-I really want to keep these discussions open.Can I make a suggestion? I'm planning on studiously ignoring, as in simply scrolling past, comments that are meant to be combative, insulting or are simply crazy. Some people who post here have serious issues and I don't intend to feed into their problems anymore.
My suggestion is to do the same.
If you guys get to a point where you want me to block somebody let me know....although I'd prefer not to go there.

mugwump said...

I posted on www.equestrianink.com today, it ties in kinda sorta with what we're doing over here. I'm still thinking, chewing, reading your comments.

J. Hatchett said...

Horses can fight the rollkur. They become resentful and in the end learn they learn that they can get away with anything as long as there heads are on there chest or shoulder. And the really resistant...they will still stiffen through the neck, they will still brace aginst the bit. I've seen horses faint, particuarly my own horse.

jme said...

i should know better than to get involved, but i'd like to attempt to clarify a statement made, or at least offer an alternative interpretation for the other readers here who may not be familiar with the method referred to. if you find it combative, feel free to delete:

when philippe karl wrote about a horse not being capable of raising the head while flexing the neck to the side, he was referring to the two muscles running along either side of the neck that work together to raise the head (as in a horse hollowing his topline and bracing against the bit.) a horse may raise his head with the assistance of the nuchal ligament, but the neck muscles play a more important role, particularly when the horse is bracing or above the bit.

by flexing the horse in front of the wither (ie, not just at the poll, which can twist,) one of those muscles raising the head must disengage to allow the neck to flex laterally, and therefore the horse can no longer maintain a high head. he will relax those bracing muscles and lower the head and neck.

also, this exercise is done at the halt, not at speed, and the head is not brought round the the knee, but simply to the side - from the base of the neck - with the arm extended in a wide leading rein on the snaffle.

most of my horses are well-bred warmbloods, TB's etc, most with naturally high, round head and neck conformation, and this holds true for them, so i do not find it to be an issue of selective conformation, but ordinary equine mechanics.

however, my one disclaimer is that, with the george-morrisification of the h/j world, his absurd idea of bending and rein aids has become gospel: that the primary rein for bending and turning is the 'direct rein of opposition': using this rein for lateral flexions causes the horse's neck to back up and twist at the poll (the infamous 'only the corner of the eye' bend) and though incorrect, this can be done with the head raised. no one outside of this school would consider this correct lateral flexion, though it does happen.

Esquared said...

jme, could you explain george morris's aids? I tried reading his book a while ago and couldn't fully figure out the hand aids described. What is the direct rein of opposition? I've always been told he was like the hunter jumper god (hence I tried to absorb some of his book) and would like to know more on this. I have always 'opened' my reins to guide direction unless neck reining, but this breaks the 'line' so I've always had the impression its bad form except in some parts of the western world.

Sorry if this is off topic mugs, just really curious.

mugwump said...

jme and esquared-Actually I'd like to hear more about this. I just want sane conversation guys, that's all.
This sounds very similar to some techniques we use to keep the head low and the neck level.
It also lifts the back and tightens the abdominal muscles, but I also felt like it made them lift in the middle, which to my mind would interfere with drive.....So I'd like to hear more.

jme said...

i'll try to behave ;-) george morris is widely considered a god in h/j, but there are those of us who disagree with his school (if one can call it that...)

i'd be happy to explain, but if you don't mind me shamelessly plugging my blog here ;-) i've already posted extensively on the 5 classical rein aids and compared/contrasted them with those currently promoted by morris and his followers.

on the direct rein of opposition:

http://glenshee.blogspot.com/2008/12/five-rein-aids-direct-rein-of.html

and a general introduction to the rein aids including those from the morris book:

http://glenshee.blogspot.com/2008/08/five-rein-aids-introduction.html

as for the effects of this head-lowering technique, in my experience it serves only to relax the neck/poll/jaw without force (which is why some consider it a classical and humane alternative to rollkur, draw reins, etc.) i should note that the purpose of this is to only lower the head and neck back to their natural relaxed position, not lower, and the nose remains in front of the vertical.

i like to use it to encourage a horse to go 'long and low' provided it is followed by a release and then riding forward a bit - it is never intended to be sustained and, though it can be used at the walk, it should really only be used very subtly in gaits above that - for example, riding wide circles using a direct (i.e. leading) rein.

i find 'long and low' a great way to encourage real, safe and voluntary stretching and roundness in a horse; there is lifting in the middle, but this corresponds with a looseness in the shoulder and back, and the hind legs really reaching under the horse's body, so there is a lot of power there - not the same kind of 'spring' power that comes from loading the hind end in collection, but a more forward propulsive force that lets them cover lots of ground with each stride.

not sure if that helps or answers your questions...?

LuvMyTBs said...

Well Hot Damn jme!! At long last someone who understands and "gets" the basics of the true,classical way to not only train but improve a hunter....and I'm not talking about the George Morris school of why...and certainly not the ridiculous representations of a Hunter as seen in the AQHA,APHA,ApHC....can't comment about Arabs,don't see enough of them.I'm referring to the god damn orignial fox and field hunters that needed to cover the ground and jump and do it effortlessly and fluidly and at a brisk hunting pace.Over these many years the terms that were once used to refer to an ideal working hunter....daisy cutter,low and slow, ground covering step and stride have all been somehow screwed with to the levels that we now see today.How do I know this?
Cause I'm that damn old and I was trained that way by horsemen and women that were passionate about their sport,form,function,and the training was never hurried,quick fixed ,or forced mostly because that would pretty much guarantee a wreck or serious injury to horse and rider.Also those from that distant time valued their horses and wanted them to last.Today it's all about winning at almost any cost and the end always justifies the means.Sadly the horse almost always pays the price.

bhm said...

I've been a fan of jme's for a while. I strongly recommend her blog.

It's great to see more classical riders here. I usually don't comment on Fugly about collection etc. and classical riding because most are modern dressage and strongly defend it. There's no point to having a discussion if you are talking to yourself. Mugwump, there's much more to the classical vs. modern debate that needs to be addressed. You may wish to cover this topic in a future posts.

On the topic of hunters there are two types of hunters. The first, is the field hunter that we are familiar with. This is a TB or TB cross with the daisy cutter stride that is long bodied and heavy on the fore.

The second and older type, is related to the modern draft horse and is square bodied, with a draft hock set, and light on the fore.

http://www.gezimhadaj.com/thumbs4/5050s.jpg
The image should show: 1508 LARGE KNIGHT ON HORSE SLAIN DRAGON Dürer

These horses have natural lightness.
http://www.draftresource.com/EPSM/Draft_EPSM.htm
The image is of the cover the book "Draft Horses: An Owners Manuel"

The second type, because of their natural lightness, were preferred in wooded areas and steep slopes. These are the older type of hunters.

mugwump said...

You guys realize you're making me go blind here, right?
This is the ADD child, a simple little cowgirl......

LuvMyTBs said...

Dearest Mugs,

You may be just "a simple little cowgirl" but you know your stuff for your dicipline and more importantly have always wanted to know more about the whys and how they could help you.Your blog has always been informative and insightful.Hey,...you asked for the help about "Rollkur" and look at the great responses you've gotten.

I for 1 have read bhm's posts on FHoTD and after reading what she says here am applauding her knowledge and understanding as well as DCDressage and jme who I must say blew my doors off.They get it.... you get it....I get it...spread the knowledge.

Just remember...Springsteens famous
song line.....Blinded by the light!!! Open some more eyes PLEASE!!

stillearning said...

jme...your blog is a great new source of info...thanks. Can you show mugs how to do that index??
I've gone back and reread this entire blog many times now,looking for a half-remembered post. That is fun but time-consuming because I get distracted before I find the post I was searching for. An index would be wonderful.

jme said...

LMTB – yay! a kindred spirit :-) sadly, i started riding when the ‘old’ way was already mostly out of fashion. my first hunter class was on the last real outside course in my area... it’s all gone downhill from there. but i have hunted a little, and i trained in the uk where they still do their hunters the old way sometimes. today the sport is so commercialized that they need a way to make sure anyone who can pay can win, and so we lower our standards and abandon all of our classical methods to make it easier for people to make $. so sad. i’d love to see these little riders who pose on top of their expensive, made horses and count strides in the lines spend a day hunting in the field and see what they think of their methods after! i’m trying my best to relearn what we seem to have forgotten about real hunters, jumpers, dressage... you’d be a great resource! do you have a blog? i couldn’t find one on your profile :-(

bhm – how on earth have i missed your blog? i’m adding you to my bookmarks right now! i agree about the hunter types. when i have hunted, i’ve preferred a big solid horse as well, though when i’ve tried to show them the judges wouldn’t give them a 2nd look, though they all had beautiful correct movement and athleticism – and they could make the transition back to field hunter! isn’t that what the working hunter division is supposed to be? And I stopped visiting fugly too – no one wanted to hear my pov either...

mugwump – i am new to this blog, but i agree with LMTB - i’m really impressed with your open-mindedness and your interest in hearing all sides of a story– i love this discussion– i’m learning a lot too, so thanks! that’s what i’m here for :-)

stilllearning – all i did was add the ‘labels’ gadget to my sidebar and then i try to label my posts so they index by topics. then if i do a series i add links to related posts at the bottom of each in the series. i also added the ‘search’ gadget which can pick up on keywords. hope that helps :-)

bhm said...

jme said...
bhm – how on earth have i missed your blog? i’m adding you to my bookmarks right now! i agree about the hunter types. when i have hunted, i’ve preferred a big solid horse as well, though when i’ve tried to show them the judges wouldn’t give them a 2nd look, though they all had beautiful correct movement and athleticism – and they could make the transition back to field hunter! isn’t that what the working hunter division is supposed to be? And I stopped visiting fugly too – no one wanted to hear my pov either...

jme,
I don't have a blog, although I've been thinking about it. I've been wanting to write an article on collection and movement illustrated by only examples from purebred drafts. My reason for doing this is to get reader out of the show ring and breedist mindsets. Also, you can tell my Historian/archaeology back ground in my posts. Jme, I love your blog and would support you anytime that you wish to make a comment on Fugly.

Yes, I question the hunter concepts as well. The daisy-cut stride is useful only in a manicure field. What the heavy draft hunters had to jump would set Olympic horse on their faces. If you ever get to watch a logging horse jump while attempting to out run a loose log it's mind blowing.

DCDressage said...

Jasmine made some good points about using more extreme methods for a short time, and that's valid. Horses are different from dogs; if you want to train a dog to sit, you can say 'sit', then physically put the dog in a sit, actually molding the posture you are after. Much harder to do with horses! Harm is limited in using anything for a short time to convey a particular message. Rollkur isn't about fixing a particular problem or conveying a particular message. It's about getting five-year-olds to GP level. It's about winning competitions, not about training horses. If judges would stop handing out high scores to horses that have clearly been trained with this method, it would go away. When the FEI investigated rollkur, I had high hopes, but they caved; their findings were that it was a valid training technique in the hands of a professional. The aims of dressage are supposed to be harmony, lightness, ease, purity of the gaits, obedience. The FEI states "The horse gives the impression of doing the movements on his own accord and shows immediate and even intuitive response to the rider’s commands." Not achieved with rollkur.

LuvMyTBs said...

DCDressage:I raised a glass to you when I posted after reading your comment on Sat.Since it is now Sunday I find the perfect response to your most recent post the most fitting for the day...AMEN!!!

Jami Davenport said...

An incredibly talented instructor that I used to clinic with had trained with Anky, her trainer, and a protege Sjef's who used this technique. Under her close supervision, we did try a variation of it on my old, stiff Morgan/QH to unlock his back and get him to relax. Years of incorrect training combined with my innate stiffness had really messed him up.

After about a half-hour of overbending left and right, it unlocked his back in a way that was mind-blowing. Suddenly, I was riding a horse that felt hands taller, supple, forward, and willing. I couldn't believe it. He relaxed more, moved better, I sat better, and we were both much happier in our work.

People who were watching asked me if he was Swedish or Dutch. I said: No, American Backyard.

But as she said "don't try this on your own at home." I couldn't do it on my own, and I don't think most people can. I don't think they understand it, and they use an aberration of it that borders on cruelty.

She and I talked about this at length and why there is such a controversy over it. She said that it is very difficult to do tactfully and correctly. Only a handful of the most talented riders in the world truly have the coordination and feel required.

Anyway, that’s my two cents. Maybe I'll contact her and ask her to do a guest post over on our blog at Equestrian Ink.

Jami Davenport said...

I forgot to mention that as soon as the horse gave with his body, we rode him in a classical position.

I also forgot that my trainer mentioned that this method works best on a certain type of horse. She would not use it on most horses or on horses with proper basics.

Jasmine said...

Late to the party... as usual XD!

bhm and jme I LOVE what you guys are saying and totally agree. My TB was a 17hh monster but other than him for field hunting I would prefer the draft-cross type.

Honestly I got really lucky with my guy. He had the will and athleticism to jump anything. I knew if we ended up in a bad way that all I had to do was close my eyes, grab mane, and hang on!

Later of course I learned that this was probably not the best habit. *memories of future trainers screeching "what are you doing! open your eyes!!!!"* He taught me to stick on just about anything though. I also learned to ask for the BIG spot. If it was going to be a chip, simple, take off a whole stride early, we'll make it. :)

The silly horse would jump just for fun in his field. We had a long run down the side of the mare pasture to get to the geldings behind them. I went out to get him and everyone thought it was dinner time so they boogied down the run. He and another horse are racing side by side towards the run. The other horse went through the open gate and rather than back off to follow behind my horse went over the 4 and half foot fence next to the gate! In the mud! I couldn't believe it. LOL

OK shutting up now. ;P

jme said...

jasmine - he totally sounds like my kind of horse! that must have been a blast. i had a horse once like that who could jump from way out and our jumping mantra became 'when in doubt, leave it out!' ha ha :-P

autumnblaze said...

Cassandra - I agree about the Arabians! My boy was trained liket his!!!! I was told when I first started riding him he went best in draw reins and draw reins only. I didn't think he was fit enough, and I prepared to use them. They are entirely unnecessary too. When he's fit, strethed out and working, he puts himself into a beautiful frame on his own.

Cassandra said...

autumnblaze - I speak from personal experience as well, and not just observation. I had a phase with this with my horse and found the shortcuts to be unsatisfying as it just made her sore, resistant, and cranky!

Cassandra said...

I am currently backtracking and trying to fill in holes created by my own previous ignorance. :)

Anonymous said...

The FEI Veterinary Committee has condemned the use of Rollkur: http://www.eurodressage.com/news/dressage/fei/2008/rollkur.html.

There was also a lawsuit a few years back between Anky van Grunsven and I believe a magazine that criticized her training methods.

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