Video: FEI Working Group Will Have a Rolkur Action Plan in Six Weeks

by Fran Jurga | 20 February 2010 | The Jurga Report at

Trond Asmyr, Director of Dressage for the Federation Equestre Interationale (FEI) has prepared another videotaped news report to the world following last Tuesday’s roundtable on how and if to enforce an official policy against the type of riding known as rollkur or hyperflexion, as a warmup technique for dressage horses before competition.

In this video, he announces the members of Frank Kempermann’s working group, who have begun to tackle the implementation of an enforcement program to police warmup rings at FEI dressage competitions and to work with stewards on how to recognize aggressive riding. They expect to have a system ready by the end of March, according to Asmyr, so we can expect to see this system in place at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky this fall.

The working group will be led by Dressage Committee Chair Frank Kemperman, widely known for his work at the helm of the international dressage show held each summer at Aachen, Germany. Group members are Richard Davison (GBR), Rider/Trainer; John P. Roche (IRL), FEI Director Jumping/Stewarding; Jacques Van Daele (BEL), FEI Honorary Dressage Steward General/Judge; Wolfram Wittig (GER), Trainer; and Trond Asmyr (NOR), FEI Dressage Director/Judge.

Asmyr also mentions the implied support of horse welfare advocates such as Dr. Gerd Heuschmann, author of the anti-rollkur book Tug of War: Classical vs Modern Dressage and the DVDIf Horses Could Speak, and the World Horse Welfare organization.

Heuschmann was interviewed by the German magazine Cavallo immediately after the FEI meeting on Tuesday. An English translation is posted anonymously here.

Roly Owers, WHW Chief Executive, comments: “World Horse Welfare has never and will never support the use of cruel, aggressive riding of any sort for any period of time. We are pleased that the FEI has used this opportunity to draw a clear ?line in the sand’ regarding rollkur.

“Over the past few months we have worked with the FEI and others to find a way forward that will further improve the welfare of horses in competition. It is now vital that the decisions made at the February 9th meeting are implemented, and that stewards receive proper guidance and training on what is and what is not acceptable at competitions.

“It is very encouraging that the meeting looked beyond the emotive issue of rollkur and considered the broader issues of all unacceptable riding. The ultimate responsibility for the welfare of the horse rests with the rider, whether at competition or at home. This is often overlooked and the education of riders, as well as stewards, is vital for the good of horse welfare and the reputation of horse sport.”

The guidelines produced by the FEI’s working group will be communicated directly to FEI stewards and also to riders and trainers. The working group is expected to put forward further proposals for the education of stewards to ensure that FEI rules are strictly adhered to and that the welfare of the horse is maintained at all times.

Guidelines for stewards will incorporate the use of a range of sanctions, including verbal warnings and yellow cards for riders who transgress. Stewards will also be re-advised to watch out for signs of distress in the horse, which may include but are not limited to obvious fatigue, profound or inappropriate sweating, persistent rough use of aids (i.e. bits, spurs or whip) and over-repetition of exercises.

The FEI Management is also currently studying a range of additional measures, including the use of closed circuit television for warm-up arenas at selected shows so that potential abuse accusations can be more readily identified and recorded.

The FEI said in a press release that it will ensure that all findings produced by the working group are communicated on an ongoing basis. The Jurga Report will keep you informed about progress made on this issue and other matters related to horse welfare and safety at competitions.

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