Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Impressions of the WEGs

The FEI Rules describe the object of Dressage, which means “training” in French, as “the development of the horse into a happy athlete through harmonious education. As a result, it makes the horse calm, supple, loose and flexible, but also confident, attentive and keen, thus achieving perfect understanding with his rider.

What has happened to dressage?

Impatience. Greed. Overinflated egos. Not putting the welfare of the horse first... all of the above.

As a relatively new student (three years) but a long time admirer of the discipline, I wonder how it is possible that dressage could survive for hundreds of years, only to end up as the questionable practice one often sees in the higher competition levels? (classical vs. modern) And who is it that suffers? Always the horses...

Disqualified Dutch rider Adelinde Cornelissen in practice ring at WEG
Earlier in the year there was a (supposedly) thorough examination of rollkur by the FEI. While the leadership could not find it in themselves to outright condemn or ban rollkur, I believe that ring stewards were subsequently instructed to monitor and time the use of rollkur in the warm-up rings.

I'm not aware of what's happening in the warm-up rings these days re rollkur, but am very pleased that the ring stewards followed the rules yesterday and disqualified Dutch rider Adelinde Cornelissen and her horse Parzival for a bleeding mouth, and also an Australian horse who appeared lame at the trot. Interesting... Cornelissen trains with Sjef Janssen, Dutch rider Anky van Grunsven's trainer (and life partner). Both Janssen and van Grunsven are major proponents of rollkur.

Annoyingly, the Dutch team whined about how "tragic" Cornelissen's disqualification was. (Note: the words tragedy and devastation apparently have lost their true meanings) I can sympathize with how disappointing disqualification was, but rules are rules - and if your horse is bleeding or lame - you have something more important to think about than losing. How about your horse dumb@$$es?! Did this happen because of something you did to your horse? Should you examine your tack and training methods? How can you prevent this from happening in the future?

I am cautiously optimistic that positive changes are on the horizon in the dressage world. What kind of future is there for the sport when those competing at the highest levels are not always required to follow the rules, and are in fact rewarded for not following the rules, as well as for using questionable inhumane training methods?

I did watch parts of the Grand Prix Special competition today. While there was much tail wringing, many disconnected uncomfortable looking horses and lots of behind the vertical to be seen, there were a few high points. Steffan Peters' bronze medal ride, and especially Laura Bechtolsheimer's silver medal ride on her gorgeous horse Mistral Houris. I noticed that Bechtolsheimer took her horse immediately to the warm-up ring after her ride, and proceeded to cool him down with some nice on the buckle work.

Here is some video of a brilliant rider and a happy relaxed horse, a willing partner:

Looking forward to the musical freestyle on Friday!!


  1. Did you know that Steffan Peters clicker trains? He has to be my favorite rider right now in mainstream dressage.

  2. No I didn't know that. He goes a little too behind the vertical for me but I believe that he loves and puts his horses first. My favorite too :)

  3. Great video of one of the masters, too bad those days of happy willing partners are gone for most of the higher level competitors. I don't know when it happened but I've got a hunch it had something to do with Anky and Sjef. They are not totally to blame even though I really despise these people. It has to do with not being stopped in the beginning and being rewarded for wrong. If these types of people don't have a conscience then it's up to the judges to give it to them. By rewarding riding practices that are torturing the horse the little people (like us) may emulate the ribbon winners with big time sponsors.

    I'm sure it has to do with big egos,big money and big fame. It seems that these days the quicker you can make a horse up and get him out there competing in the higher levels the better for you. What a trainer you are, forget about the horse he is expendable, when you break him you just have your sponsors buy another expensive one for you.

    No one takes the time these days to train properly, they need to stay in the limelight and make their money, they really don't care about the horses at all and so in my opinion are not horsemen and women but simply vehicle drivers.

    Sorry this was so long but I do get to ranting on some subjects. Glad they disqualified that jerk. I saw a picture of P.Kittel putting Scandics tongue back in his mouth again and can only wonder why he wasn't disqualified too, although I don't know if it was a current picture or someone making a point. I despise him too and feel so sorry for Scandic, that horse probably wishes someone would kill/save him. He looks so miserable.

  4. Great post! Love the Klimke video, and not just him, the whole German Team is showing exemplary correct classical work! And what a lovely shot of Neindorff!

    Throughout history there have been controversies over classical versus modern dressage, most notably Steinbrecht vs. Baucher. Toward the end of his life (when he developed a level of humility) Baucher admitted that his work had damages not only horses but horsemanship.

  5. Arlene-

    Amen sister :) Go to the sidebar and check out the link to the Dressage Counter Revolution!

    If the pictures of Kittel and Scandic are the ones Billie posted, they are from this years WEG practice ring - on 9/24/10.

  6. I love the Klimke victory lap. I periodically link to it just to remind myself that there was a time when good stuff happened in competition!

  7. Billie-

    Ha - we were simultaneously at each others blogs... crossing paths in cyberspace :)

    The video of Klimke and Alderich gets me choked up every time I watch it - so beautiful.

  8. I love that people are dropping the politeness and saying what they think on this issue.
    The video of Klimke is beautiful. I sent it to my teacher a while ago (she is totally old school / classical) and she loved it too.

  9. Carol -

    Was my cleverly disguised cuss word less than polite lol?! Believe me when I say that this topic could inspire a curse filed tirade. I tend toward salty language :)

    I hope you will consider joining the counter revolution :)

    Keep up the good work with Rogo!

  10. The vices we see today aren't just limited to today. Look at some of the older pictures (pre-camera days): massive nasty bits, 6 in long spurs, all that jazz.

    Pushing the horse beyond it's training and going far too quickly are just as messed up today as they were centuries ago. It's a problem of human nature and not of this generation specifically.


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