Rollkur/hyperflexion in dressage horses

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Edition XII


Some time ago this youtube video of a horse being ridden aggressively using hyperflexion or “rollkur” was viewed by many, including myself. I think it would be wonderful if the national Tennessee Walking Association (TWHBEA) who is the recoginzed organization which registers the Walking Horses, would be brave enough to do this same thing: show a big lick horse that had been sored on YouTube to get the practice to stop. Of course they wouldn’t. Two of the stores in Shelbyville which sell Walking Horse supplies won’t even carry my book: The Horse That Wouldn’t Trot. (my youtube book trailer here:   I discuss soring in this book, as well as sharing touching horse and horse/human relationship stories, and some history of the Walking Horse breed. I didn’t bother to ask the third supply company in Shelbyville. My goal was to tell the story about soring these magnificient horses as well as entertain. The industry says it wants to clean up, but still hasn’t. It still takes the government inspectors to appear on the show grounds to have “cleaner” horses, others pack up and leave.

anyway, here is what FEI has done about this abuse. Why cannot we do the same for the Walking Horses?

Welcome to this month’s HorseConscious Newsletter (please see the whole newsletter if you wish, and you can subscribe to it. It is based in Europe)

Well, the big news story of the month has been the meeting of the FEI and their subsequent announcement on the subject of rollkur/hyperflexion.

If you’ve not heard the news, here is the official statement:

Following constructive debate at the FEI round-table conference at the IOC Headquarters in Lausanne today (9 February), 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 emphasised that the main responsibility for the welfare of the horse rests with the rider. ABSOLUTELY! INCLUDING TENNESSEE WALKING HORSE RIDERS AND OWNERS

The FEI President HRH Princess Haya accepted a petition of 41,000 signatories against Rollkur presented by Dr Gerd Heuschman.
Let me paraphrase a section of that again: hyperflexion/Rollkur has been defined as flexion of the horse’s neck achieved through aggressive force and is unacceptable.
It remains to be seen what guidelines they will give to the stewards and how exactly they intend to fully police this although the use of video cameras will certainly help.

  I think the real policing (and power) does not lie with officialdom at all but the people who love horses and follow the sport. It is their presence in the warm-up arena and elsewhere that will safeguard the health and safety of the horses in the future. Bold print mine! this is what the Walking Horse Industry needs also. It IS the people who can and will change/stop the soring problem also!!

The people have spoken and now know that they have a platform and a voice that perhaps they have never had before. I was actually interviewed earlier in the week for a forthcoming documentary on the subject and made the comment that with the internet and the power of social media, we are now seeing democracy in action. No longer can public figures, such as the riders, and those in authority, the FEI in this instance, consider themselves untouchable and beyond reproach.
Did you notice the number of signatories? 41,000!! Here are some other numbers to underline the public support for this campaign:
The original Blue Tongue video on YouTube (and wherever else it has been posted) has been seen nearly 200,000 times

The site I set up had over 23,000 visits and 500 comments in the 2 months following it’s launch

So you do have a voice and through you, the horses now have too. If we can bring about this change, what else can we achieve? This month’s newsletter features a couple of articles giving you the chance to show your support for the other issue that needs it – saving America’s wild horses.

Before we leave the Rollkur debate for this issue, if you are interested in taking the measure even further, Nevzorov Haute Ecole have started a petition to ban equestrian sport altogether. Their statement said the following:
“Whether or not to take part is only up to you to decide. Some will simply not be able to close the window, others will look through and quickly forget it, meanwhile others still, terrified, will watch the development of affairs. We do not call for anyone. We just give you an opportunity, here and now, to become a part of history. But – it is up to you to decide.”

You can read more and sign the petition at:



Inspirational horse story

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In “The Horse That Wouldn’t Trot,” I write about Galahad, one of my stallions. I eventually sold his as a top notch trail gelding. Eventually he was purchased by one of the former boarders in my barn. This is her and Galahad’s story of his later days. It gives us faith that our beloved animals go to a better place.

A fellow walking horse enthusiast who just began working for the company I also work for,  told me about the book you had written: The Horse That Wouldn’t Trot. I ordered a copy and so enjoyed reading about the early years of the boarding barn and seeing the pictures of Classy, Xanadu, and the others. I will always remember those years as some of the most special of my life.
Because you are such a believer in the spiritual bonds between animals and humans, as I also am, I thought I would tell you about Galahad’s final message to me…. I spent quite a few very pleasurable years trail riding him around our country roads and at Potato Creek and Tippecanoe. He had mellowed in his later years and was always a perfect gentlemen. Once I learned to quit trying so hard to make all my poor horses set up and look like your show horses, and just relax and go with the flow, my riding skills improved and we got along great. I also had a very spooky Walker and a Peruvian Paso who kept me on my toes and it was a matter of learn to ride them or endanger my life! My Peruvian was low man in the herd and had no self confidence and he decided that Galahad was going to be his friend and protector, whether he wanted to or not! Galahad was a good sport about it, and I would frequently find the Peruvian in Galahad’s stall with him, standing behind him and away from the other two horses. I always left all their stall doors open so they could come in from the pasture when they felt like it, and these two were always together.

During the last two years, I had to quit riding him, his arthritis was making him too stiff and he started stumbling on his left front. He had an arthritic shoulder and eventually refused to back up. He would lean backwards and then drag the leg if asked to back. I regretfully quit riding him, as I never knew if he would fall with me or not. Uneven terrain was very difficult for him with the weight of a rider on his back. His supplements worked for awhile and he did fine in the field, frequently cantered with the herd and held his own until a year ago in January. I came home to find him laying in the field and unable to get up. He had fallen on the wrong side and was unable to use the shoulder to push himself up. I flipped him over on his good side, and he got right up. He seemed fine at first, and my vet could find no injuries,but then he started laying down more frequently and needed to be turned over to rise. After several calls to accomodating neighbors and an emergency call to the vet over a two week period, I began to face the inevitable. He seemed to be losing his spark, as well, and I knew it was time. On his last day, his head also became stuck down as it used to and he seemed unable to recover from it. I found him that way the next morning. This had only happened once before in all the years I had him. I made the call and my female vet, a true horse lover as well, came and we put him down on a beautiful quiet morning, with a light snow softly falling around us.

The truly wonderful end to this story is that I had a Christmas cactus that I had rescued from a male coworker about six or seven years ago and it resided on the sill of my kitchen window. The darn thing never had more than one or two blooms on it in all the years I had it, and I saw it a million times a day. When I walked in the house after the vet left, crying my eyes out, I looked at that cactus and it had exploded in blooms! There were so many that it was hard to see any greenery of the plant. If it had had that many buds on it, I would have noticed something like that immediately! I know that Galahad was telling me that I had made the right decision and he had been reborn into a beautiful life. Those blooms remained on that plant for a full month! This year, we were back to our same two blooms.


Wild Horses vs open grazing range

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This is from Richard Beal’s blog, who incidently, did a super nice review of my book: The Horse That Wouldn’t Trot on one of his February blogs. Feb. 9 blog had an interesting viewpoint about the “war” between ranchers who want grazing rights on Federal land, and the wild horses which are being taken off in one way or another.


Retire Grazing Permits And End Range War

Posted: 09 Feb 2010 01:00 AM PST

Another view on the wild horse issue

By John Horning

Executive Director of WildEarth Guardians in Santa Fe

Momentum is building for the Department of the Interior to address one of the longest-standing conflicts on the open range of the American West: the one between free-roaming horse and burro advocates and Western ranchers and their sheep and cattle. We’d like to see this conflict resolved in a way that also advances protection of the West’s endangered wildlife like sage-grouse, native cutthroat trout and songbirds.

In your (Santa Fe New Mexican) Jan. 25 editorial, “New attention to wild horses,” you commented on efforts by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to begin to resolve this conflict, asserting that “there’s nothing quite like the sight of a rumbling herd of mustangs to stir an environmentalist’s passion for the beauty of the West.”

Not true. In fact, knowledgeable scientists and conservationists wince at the sight of horses and burros trampling and degrading Western ecosystems, just as we do at meandering herds of cattle and sheep, gangs of unruly off-road vehicle users, and hordes of avaricious energy developers tapping into our public domain.

Although beautiful animals, free-roaming horses and burros damage fragile streams and upland habitat, and steal forage from native wildlife, much like domestic cattle, sheep and goats. The only difference — and it’s a big one — is that millions of livestock are permitted to graze on public lands, compared to 37,000 free-roaming horses and burros.

Resolving conflicts between horses and burros and domestic livestock, while allowing native wildlife to flourish, will require removing either one or the other of these introduced animals from the landscape. The public has vociferously stated its preference for horses and burros on public lands. Why not offer to compensate ranchers to remove their domestic livestock instead?

Voluntary grazing-permit retirement is an increasingly popular way to resolve conflicts between domestic livestock and other values on public lands. Congress enacted legislation as recently as last year allowing ranchers to permanently retire their grazing permits on select public lands in Oregon and Idaho in exchange for compensation. Importantly, a recent survey of public land ranchers in Nevada — the state with the most free-roaming horses and burros — indicates that as many as half are interested in retiring their grazing permits for compensation.

Secretary Salazar is to be commended for confronting the management quagmire that is free-roaming horses and burros. The current program administered by the Bureau of Land Management has put more than 30,000 horses and burros in captivity, allowed for overgrazing on public lands, and costs $60 million per year. However, the solutions the secretary has considered to date would only perpetuate horse and burro conflicts on public lands — both between ranchers and the needs of native fish and wildlife. Voluntary grazing-permit retirement is an ecologically imperative, economically rational, and politically pragmatic way to solve this problem.

Horse Book Reviews: HORSES in Living Color

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Horse Book Reviews: HORSES in Living Color

More Information on Equine Colic Relief

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I contacted the seller and asked more information about usage of ECR and veterinarian treatments here is her reply:

This product works so much better than the oil method, there is no need to do it. I don’t think the oil would interfere with ECR as much as the pain killers would. Although banamine has been given with ECR and ECR still works. Some vet give a lot of muscle relaxer type pain killers and this stop the muscles from working (muscle relaxant), thus interfering with ECR. ECR gets the muscles in the intestines moving, therefore you would not want to give a lot of pain killers.

Apparently this can work as soon as 10 minutes to hear gut sounds and would definitely be something that could be used while the vet is coming, and sometimes they are not available right away. There is a You Tube video about this too if you google Equine Colic Relief that shows a horse with colic and having ECR administered to it.

I am excited about this product, but hope I never have to use it, even though I have ordered it.


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This is information I just found in a magazine that I think every horse owner should know about. It is a product made from natural ingredients. According to the ad, EQUINE COLIC RELIEF/ECR  helps dissipate gas in the bowel, assists gut rehydration, balances electrolytes and softens any impacted or hardened fecal matter so the hors’s gut can do what it does best. It can go with you anywhere, has a 13 year shelf life and is stable in all temperatures. It is a 4 oz liquid that is administered orally via syringe which is included towards the back of the horse”s mouth. It does not interfere with anything the vet might do, although vet treatments will slow the effect of the product. I personally have lost horses to colic, and would use the product and call the vet, however, what if you were out trail riding alone, or at a show? This could be a marvelous product to have on hand. Please check out the website for much more infomation and how to order. Equine Colic Relief


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Only Horse People.

– believe in an 11th commandment: inside leg to outside rein.

– know that all topical medications come in either indelible blue or neon yellow.

– think nothing of eating a sandwich while mucking out a stall.

– know why a thermometer has a yard of yarn attached to the end of it.

– are banned from Laundromats.

– fail to associate whips, chains and leather with sexual deviancy.

– can magically lower their voices five octaves to bellow at a pawing horse.

– will end relationships over their hobby.

– cluck to their cars to help them up hills.

– insure their horses for more than their cars.

– know (and care) more about their horse’s nutrition than their own.

– have no problem speaking of semen, abscesses and colic surgery at the dinner table.

– have a smaller wardrobe than their horse.

– engage in a hobby that is more work than their day job.

– know that a good ride is better than Zoloft any day.

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