I've been meaning to write about this all week, but reading the exclusive in Horse and Hound about the controversy tipped me over the edge.
For my non-horsy readers, rollkur is a training/warming up technique used by some dressage riders. It basically involves riding the horse with its jaw pulled in virtually to its chest, in order to increase suppleness.
Patrik Kittel , a Swedish competitor in Odense was videoed riding his horse in this way. If you watch the video, you'll see the horse's tongue hanging out - blue. It takes a while before the rider notices this. When he does, he stops, puts the horse's tongue back in, and carries on.
There are two things which bother me about this. Firstly, I am fully aware large sections of the dressage world, and some of its brighest stars, consider rollkur perfectly ok, but the FEI guidelines state this practice should only be for short periods, allowing the horse to rest. Patrick Kittel apparently rode the horse for two hours in rollkur, albeit with rests: look at those round about him in the video. None of them seem remotely bothered, which suggests to me riding your horse this way is not unusual enough for anyone to notice, comment, or do anything about it.
Secondly, Patrik , in Horse and Hound, said "Scandic sometimes plays with his tongue. During the filmed period of my training, he caught his tongue over or under the bits. I stopped when I noticed, and put it back in the right place." And so he did, but he didn't get off the horse, and carried straight on with a bit more rollkur. If my horse had had a blue tongue, I would have thought that sufficient reason to STOP. To stop, get off, and let my horse recover, during which period I would be checking his tongue, and not carrying on until I was certain he was ok.
I don't like rollkur: it is not a natural process. You might see a horse piaffe, or do extended paces in the field, but you will not see it canter round and round with its chin tucked into its chest: it can't see, for one thing. I am constantly amazed at what horses let humanity do to them. If you can't achieve the higher echelons of dressage without rollkur you shouldn't, in my opinion, be attempting them at all.
Read more about it here and here. Thank goodness the British Horse Society have come down off the fence, unlike Horse and Hound.