Great news this week out of the FEI's round table conference at its Olympic Headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, as the equestrian governing body voted to outlaw the "Rollkur" or "hyperflexion" style of dressage training, in which a horse's head is forcibly overbent to induce proper carriage. The group ruled unanimously that "any head and neck position of the horse achieved through aggressive force is not acceptable." The board's investigation and ruling began after controversy surfaced over a video that showed Patrik Kittel utilizing such aggressive hyperflexion while training for a competition in Denmark that his horse's tongue turned blue. The FEI will institute a working group of Dressage officials to develop strategies for identifying and sanctioning hyperflexion offenders in competition. Kudos to the FEI for addressing this issue and passing a ruling that promotes the safe and humane campaigning of dressage horses.
It never ceases to amaze me the various lengths to which even (and perhaps, especially?) some top level competitors will go when seeking those almighty points/championships/dollars. What I do think is impressive is how the Internet and social media have become such powerful tools in the fight against equine welfare transgressions, due to the speed and efficacy with which they can deliver such stories to concerned members of the equine community. Videos can be taken surreptitiously of training abuses, and then circulated in real time, resulting in fast and forceful advocation for the affected horses. Twitter and blog sites join communities of like-minded people quickly and fiercely, forcing governing bodies to swiftly investigate and rule on abuses. It seems we have passed the threshold into a new era for equine welfare, in which abuses can be readily and immediately checked due to the instantaneous nature of digital dissemination, and everyone can participate in creating a better world for our horses.