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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Blue Tongue Dressage: Hyperflexion Still a Welfare Issue

by Fran Jurga | 23 October 2009 | Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog

This video clip was shot at an FEI World Cup Dressage qualifier in Europe last week. Luise and Julie from Epona TV were surprised that a rider at this level schooled this stallion for as long as two hours in a hyperflexion frame.

They grabbed the camera when they noticed that the horse's swollen tongue had turned blue. The horse's lips were curled and apparently even the rider could see it, as he stopped and put the horse's tongue back into its mouth.

Apparently the schooling ring steward did not see anything wrong with this rider's method.

Click here to read the full story about this videotape and about the effects of the curb rein and bit of a double bridle on the horse's tongue.

FEI rules discourage what is called hyperflexion, rollkur or "bite the chest"--riding with the horse in an overbent neck and head position for a prolonged period of time. The practice is the subject of last year's best-selling horse book, Tug of War: Classical vs Modern Dressage by German veterinarian Gerd Heuschmann.

Since last spring, Heuschmann's DVD If Horse's Could Speak has been on sale and goes even further than the book to tie overschooling, disconnected riding and especially overflexion/rollkur to unsoundness and musculoskeletal injuries in dressage horses. But it is very, very hard to prove the dots are connected.

Here's a clip from the If Horses Could Speak DVD (this is a German trailer, even though the actual DVD has an English soundtrack, not subtitles):

The DVD is 75 minutes long and is sold in North American format (NTSC) format. The cost is $60 per DVD plus postage. Click here to read more and order from our secure web page. You can order the book as well.

I thought that by the time the DVD was translated and available here in the USA the subject of rollkur would be forgotten but I guess that is not the case.

In a special interview with Olympics champion Anky Van Grunsven on Epona TV, Anky defends her use of hyperflexion as a training method, saying that she uses it for a few minutes at a time, then lets the horse relax, but that she only uses it on her advanced horses, and horses that are strong enough to do it, and for whom it is easy to go to that frame. She said she varies the time that she stays in the overbent frame from horse to horse, depending on how strong the horse is and how it reacts to being in that frame.

In a riding demonstration, Anky pointed out that her horse was pricking his ears while in the overbent frame.

Julie and Luise's Epona TV is a subscription-based library of equitation-science videos with interviews and demos by Gerd Heuschmann, Hilary Clayton, and many behavior and welfare experts. They are making a tremendous effort to provide a service that is a level above what you will find almost anywhere else on the Internet.

© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing. No use without permission. You only need to ask.

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