Dressage Detox

It's about time. Riders and trainers have long complained about the decline of horsemanship in general and dressage in parti
cular, especially as concerns competition. In recent years, only the most spectacular, showy performances have been rewarded at the expense of correct dressage and, more importantly, at the expense of the well-being of the horses. The situation is becoming toxic - for horses and riders. It's time to clean house.
Granted things are unlikely to change when these riders are backed by serious money and corporate sponsorships, but we have to try something to bring the standards back up to some meaningful level.
Grey Horse Matters sent me this link from Philippe Karl's website and I thought I'd pass it along to those who might be interested. Philippe Karl is one of the too few truly classical voices out there, and someone I have great respect for as a horseman. Of course, the Petition only addresses the German Equestrian Federation, however, this organization sets the standards to which we are all eventually subject due to its powerful influence on the FEI. A change in the German system might just positively influence the FEI and other national federations, including the USEF and USDF. I have signed the Petition, and I hope you will consider signing too and possibly forwarding to horsey friends or post on your own blog...

Petition: Reforms of the FN rules

To read the Petition and sign, click here.


  1. Thanks for signing. I did too. I hope a ground swell will form in this country too and put a stop to this torture. We should all post this on our blogs and get as many people involved as we can.

  2. I already signed - thanks for putting this out there as well - it's time for a change!

  3. I love dressage and am relatively new to a lot of things, but the sad part is I understood just about everything in that petition.

    The horses definitely need this!!!

    Thank you for posting the link. I have added my name to the list.

  4. Glad you posted this - I saw it two weeks ago and have been reading more and more people getting involved.

    Philippe Karl is coming to Toronto in July - I wish wish wish I could go to the clinic, but maybe you can since you're closer!

  5. jme, would you mind if I copied the exact text and image you have here re: the petition and post them on my blog?

    (if not, no problem - just trying to save myself some time, and I'll attribute it to you if you give permission)

  6. billie - no problem at all. thanks!

    would be nice if we could get mr karl to do a clinic closer to home...

  7. Just out of interest, why does he/do you so disagree with a lunge rein being attached to the bit? I have always attached mine to the bit and either over the poll, or back to a ring on the roller and then back to the bit, so that I have an action rather like a rein contact. I would never have a tight contact on a lunge rein in either of these two styles, but have found horses more inclined to hang on the lunge rein when it is attached to cavesson.

    I agree, in principle, with all of these ideas, but I am not sure that I would want them to become 'rules' as it were. I looked after a very sensitive skinned horse (who was not quite as sensitive to the leg!) and her hair used to rub away from the spurs. It was hard to convince people that this horse had not been abused by the spurs. She absolutely hadn't.

    I also ride with a tight noseband for various reasons...perhaps I am not the best person to discuss these ideas with! It is interesting though, and food for thought.

  8. hi suzie - thanks for the great question. i can't speak for mr. karl, but my issue with attaching the longe to the bit is that it is very unforgiving to a horse that is playing up or, in the case of schooling ring abuse, being chased with the whip. in those cases it can be used to abuse the mouth as well as produce unnatural positioning. the other problem is that it is imprecise as a rein aid. if i am going to attach a line directly to the bit, i use long lines so i can have contact on both sides. having said that, there are times when i don't have a cavesson handy and have needed to attach the longe through the bit on the near side and over the poll to the opposite side and, if the horse is quiet, i don't think this is a bad compromise. but i would not want a horse longed this way at a competition where it could be used abusively. if you've ever seen the h/j world preparing a hunter before a class, they are often longed this way for hours being chased with a plastic bag on the end of a whip until they are half dead... i'd love to see longeing banned at all competition within 24 hours of a horse's class.

    i too have seen horses with hair rubbed off by spurs, and i wouldn't consider this a major problem. but i've seen in both dressage competition and h/j classes (especially the equitation and jumpers) riders with spurs firmly planted in permanent holes in their horses sides and the stewards/judges do nothing. i once had a steward speak to me because i used my crop twice behind my leg when my horse refused to go through the ingate and threatened to rear, but no one ever spoke to the girl in my class whose horse had blood running down his sides from the 1/2 inch deep holes in his sides...

    i was taught early on to crank the noseband tight on every horse. i never felt comfortable with it and haven't done it for years, but my reasons could probably fill a whole post! i don't mind a snug noseband under certain circumstances, but i hate those crank nosebands that seem to come on every dressage bridle these days, particularly when used with a full bridle. i think that just takes nosebands to a whole new abusive level...

    but then, i have a lot of opinions on everything, but it doesn't necessarily make me right ;-)

  9. jme, I wonder what would happen if a spectator at a show, upon seeing bloody holes on a horse's side, called Animal Control and reported abuse?

    Surely an AC officer showing up at the show grounds asking questions would shake things up.

    It's beyond me that something so extreme and obviously there - i.e. actual physical evidence that can't be hidden on the spot - isn't ruled on and followed up on by officials.

    Maybe the way "in" is to do judge training and infiltrate that way. Although I guess you have to be hired to judge the shows in the first place. Sigh.

  10. calling animal control is something i hadn't considered, but something i will think of doing in the future if i see something as shocking again. i have considered becoming a judge but you're right - show management hires the judges that will be most amenable to their particular way of doing things, not to mention that the process for certifying judges is a compete farce! but that is a subject i will probably rant on in a future post ;-) but i'm not giving up yet. there has to be a way to positively influence things....

  11. Signed it! I can't stand seeing horses put in rolkur. Judges that give Anky high scores for this have set the bar and now everyone is doing it. Shame on people who follow and don't see how un-natural this is for the horse.

  12. Would you mind if I repost this in my blog? The more people who see this, the better.


  13. sure thing - the more the better :-) thanks!

  14. When you get a chance, there's an award at my blog for you.

  15. You have a new award! Come on over to Enlightened Horsemanship Through Touch (http://enlightenedhorsemanship.net/2009/07/15/the-honest-scrap-award-for-blogging/) and pick it up!

  16. Hello -

    Wanted to let you know that I really enjoy your blog and in an effort to recognize that, gave you the "honest scrap" blogger award on my blog. Thank you!

  17. thanks guys for my awards! :-)

  18. I am new at blogging, but wanted to add in something on the tight nosebands. I have been riding dressage for over 20 years now..yikes! :) My experience with the crank nosebands or tight nosebands is that eventually you can make it so tight that you see an indent on the horse's nose. This to me is as bad as bloody spurs. Something else to think about is that the noseband has a strap running over the poll. The tighter the noseband, the tighter that strap is over the poll. I leave my nosebands very loose now and find that my horses relax more and it gives them room to lick and chew and even yawn if they want. If your horse needs a tight noseband then there is something missing in the basics. I go back to the training scale and usually the first thing-rhythm and relaxation-is where the problem lies. I hope this helps as I know it's hard when you've been used to a tight noseband to make a change, but we all want what's best for these amazing and noble creatures!:)

  19. kathleen, thanks for your comment! well said. i couldn't agree more :-)

  20. I got an email earlier this week that included this tidbit:

    For what it is worth he and gerd heushmann (dvd) are putting on a performance at the hannoverian riding hall in Novemeber. Imho it will be a make or break moment in changing riding back to traditional, or not. In any case 5000 tickets have already been sold.

    Wow - I would love to be there to see this. I hope it pushes some change.

  21. wow, i'd love to be there too! i really hope his message starts getting out to a larger audience. it's not only dressage that needs reform, it's all disciplines. i'd love to see the H/J world take this stuff on board too.


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