Rollkur: Training… or Torture?
About the head of a truly great horse there is an air of freedom unconquerable. The eyes seem to look on heights beyond our gaze. It is the look of a spirit that can soar. ~John Taunter Foote Rollkur. You see it everywhere. Among dressage, jumper, hunter, and even western pleasure trainers, this particular method has become the mainstay of many riders today. But what is it, what it is intended to do, does it work, and is it ethical? Rollkur has just been redefined by the FEI as “hyperflexion of the neck.” It involves a combination of extreme longitudinal and lateral flexions of the neck with a pronounced break behind the poll. At times the nose will touch the chest or shoulder. Proponents of this method claim that rollkur stretches the topline, lifts the back and supples the horse, and therefore is a desirable technique for developing the equine athlete. These proponents do not, however, distinguish between “good” and “bad” stretching. After all, a torn ligament or disl