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  1. #1
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    Default Rollkur, once more.

    There are two threads already on RK, but what I want to say, now that I am more enlightened, really doesn't fit in either one, so I started this one.

    I started reading on RK because of the current controversy and RK had not entered my radar before.
    I finally started contributing because I didn't think it was right that the controversy was brought so far as to start what I consider a witch hunt and riders that are using RK are being burned at the stake about it, called horse abusers.
    The controversy seems to be getting out of hand, even now, if that one post was correct, an animal right group involved.
    Now, I don't see how that is productive at all for any debate on the horse training technique RK is.

    I learned dressage many, many years ago, with old time, traditional masters.
    They were very strict, to the point of not letting us teach a horse the spanish walk, because it was contrary to how we wanted a dressage horse to move, it was considered a disuniting movement.
    Any hint of a horse even thinking on going behind the bit was a big sin, you worked colts for months long and low and forward and straight first, then slowly introduced any kind of contact and hints of self carriage, as you helped them develop the right muscles for the later dressage movements to come.

    Why was behind the bit such a sin?
    BTB was called "the siren song of lightness", where you had a very light or even no connection in front, but the horse's energy was not coming from the motor behind, up his back and thru, as Dr Bennet so aptly called, the ring of muscles and thru his neck onto your hands any more, but stopped at the neck and you had only connection with his head, the body was trailing behind on it's own path.

    In fact, to get a horse behind the bit is extremely easy to do by playing a little bit with the reins, mounted or on the ground and having the horse give.

    The trick to keep a horse in front of the bit and ideally on the bit is to learn to do that while keeping the connection alive, while you are bringing the horse forward with your seat and legs and letting that energy those are creating in your horse flow onto your soft hand, but then giving some support with that hand and guiding that energy into what your horse is doing.
    That is interrupted when the horse fades BTB.
    While you are working towards good basic performance, you have to support the horse a little bit more as it is learning, to teach it and keep it on the bit and in more and more self carriage thru collection and extension.

    Once you are achieving the higher levels, with the more fit and educated horses, then you again can become much lighter with all your aids and it ends up so easy that with some horses, they seem to read your mind and do what you have not quite yet formed in your mind you are going to do, you just have to support them so lightly with all your aids and the reins are the least of them, your seat the ruler.
    There, you start to find that, if you are not very exact with what your goals are when you ride, your horse will seem to anticipate and many times, it is you who is asking for something you didn't want, your horse is saying "you are not clear enough, please make your mind up what you want".
    When riding great school masters to learn at that level, that is a common occurrence.

    Now, where does RK come in on this?

    I think that some just started questioning, as evidently some have over time before, looking at what was posted of Baucher's teachings, that yes, we can at times go behind the bit and disunite horses, because that makes them more flexible, AS LONG as we have the skills to again put them together and now use that gained flexibility to perform better than ever.

    What may be those skills?
    I would suggest a very strong, educated seat and leg and a fine use of the hand.

    I right now, for what I have seen, I consider RK just one more gymnastic exercise, that works a horse toward's some goals, just as hyperextending can help any athlete, it IS used in all sports and fitness programs.
    When RK is used judiciously and with an educated technique, I don't see why it would be objectionable.

    Like any training, it can be used incorrectly and at times even when used properly, it may not work as intended, but that is the same with any technique used, is not a specific fault of RK.

    After seeing some of the RK videos, presuming I am understanding correctly what I see at all, which may not be so, I will dare say that not all in the videos, all the time, are using RK as well as they could, when, in my tentative opinion, it seems that they are holding onto RK a little too much, not giving when the horse did give, missing good opportunities to say "yes, horse, thank you!" with their hand.

    Maybe it is not as easy to be right with RK all the time, maybe I am not really feeling what the riders in the saddle do and maybe I am all wet and don't know what I am seeing at all.

    Anyway, I think that RK really should not have become this big brohuahua, that seem more about butting heads and telling those in charge, as some have done, "I pay the bills and demand and will make you do what I want, just because I can", when I think we should have asked "please, would you consider this again and get back to us?"
    Maybe, maybe we should consider that, what we are so stidently being told is "terrible abuse, I don't even want to participate in dressage if they permit that" , is not really fair to RK and those that chose to use it?

    Lets see if others can tell me where I am wrong in what I am seeing, without calling anyone names?

    We really don't need to demonize those that use RK, but ask them why and agree or disagree that it is something we would use or not, if we ever were in a situation to do so, just as we just didn't teach the spanish walk, but others did.



  2. #2
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    thank you.
    one oak, lots of canyons

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  3. #3
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    Dude, this BB was so much more fun when the only trainwrecks were Drafts In Dressage and Pelhams Are Good Training Tools. Seriously.
    EDDIE WOULD GO



  4. #4
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    I wonder if this whole relation of 'abuse' and RK came about due to the riders (GP and non) who are misusing the method though? Personally I do not consider a RK frame 'abuse' if it is used correctly (ie. not for extended periods of time). Granted, I could be wrong, but it seems to me that it is simply another exercise available when it is used correctly. However when I think 'Rolkur', I unfortunately do not imagine, in my mind's eye, a horse being hyperflexed judiciously - the image in my head is that of a horse being forced into such a frame for long periods of time (think: Blue Tongue video). While I do realise that that image is not synonymous with the correct and intended use of RK, it seems to be a popular image in RL and I wonder if others being under the same impression is the reason RK in whole now, is so demonized? I wonder if people would not feel so strongly opposed to RK if its use had always been as intended, if we did not see force dominating in other aspects of dressage (even at the GP level)?



  5. #5
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    The video of Kittel/Scandic has been pretty much proven to be manipulated and of no particular use to judge anything.


    << However a horse in the RK position has to trail its hindquarters, at least to an extent. It is not physiologically or bio-mechanically possible for the horse to hyperflex its Longissimus and use the very same muscle to pull the hind end beneath it fully.>>

    Most riders never get the horse's hind end underneath fully, no matter what position the horse's head/neck is in. LOL

    The studies done on rollkur have shown that there are different affects on ROM depending on placement of head/neck.

    That is the reason to VARY the position.

    AS Wolfram Wittig (Isabell Werth's current coach) has stated: "We used to train
    movements, but we lost the gaits a lot. Now, we train muscles and ligaments."

    As Bluey has pointed out, the current thinking in training horses is to treat them as athletes and use current sports techniques-- which includes hyperflexion.
    one oak, lots of canyons

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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by canyonoak View Post
    As Bluey has pointed out, the current thinking in training horses is to treat them as athletes and use current sports techniques-- which includes hyperflexion.
    And mental imagery!



  7. #7
    Bluey is offline Schoolmaster Premium Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by fburton View Post
    And mental imagery!


    The horse or rider's imagery?



  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bluey View Post
    The horse or rider's imagery?
    The horse's, naturally!



  9. #9
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    Bluey, what I read, is that you're equating behind the bit with hyperflexion.

    They aren't the same.

    A horse is not necessarily behind the bit while hyperflexed. he may be, he may not be.

    Behind the bit is not the same as behind the vertical. Behind the bit is holding the neck so that it is short of the connection or contact, where ever the bit is, where ever the horse's head and neck are.

    Some of the horses I tried were 'headless horses' (behind the bit). Others were very much making a connection with the hand, reaching for the bit, following it up, down, anywhere.

    Doing any really exaggerated neck positioning on a horse still gives me the squeams. Just sayin'.



  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by canyonoak View Post
    The video of Kittel/Scandic has been pretty much proven to be manipulated and of no particular use to judge anything.


    << However a horse in the RK position has to trail its hindquarters, at least to an extent. It is not physiologically or bio-mechanically possible for the horse to hyperflex its Longissimus and use the very same muscle to pull the hind end beneath it fully.>>

    Most riders never get the horse's hind end underneath fully, no matter what position the horse's head/neck is in. LOL

    The studies done on rollkur have shown that there are different affects on ROM depending on placement of head/neck.

    That is the reason to VARY the position.

    AS Wolfram Wittig (Isabell Werth's current coach) has stated: "We used to train
    movements, but we lost the gaits a lot. Now, we train muscles and ligaments."

    As Bluey has pointed out, the current thinking in training horses is to treat them as athletes and use current sports techniques-- which includes hyperflexion.
    I am not sure why you brought up my points from a different thread, lol (just...weird, is all, I suppose). What do you mean by 'most riders' - does that include 'most GP-level riders'? Of course having a horse drop its croup and fully engage its hind depends upon the rider however obviously neck position is going to have some effect on that as well. With a raised neck, the horse can use its Longissimus to its fullest extend and power. With a hyperflexed neck, it is not physically possible for the horse to gather itself as effectively. Not to my knowledge anyways, based on the research I have done. It would not make sense for the horse to be able to use a muscle to its fullest (particularly with a rider on board?) when said muscle is overstretched. It's just physics. I am not saying that RK is not useful or anything of the sorts, just that while it might encourage a horse to work from behind, it itself (the actual position) does not directly have a horse work harder from behind. It might encourage such (through using such a position) once the horse has left the RK position, but the horse cannot possibly gather itself to the fullest extent when it is actually in the RK position.

    I definitely am not pro or anti RK: though I do believe that prolonged (improper) use of RK is likely harmful to the horse (everything in moderation, and when it comes to 'extreme' postures, I question things a little more), I am fine with current sports techniques, Rolkur inclusive, if it is used to benefit the horse and does not harm said horse. I concur with Bluey and yourself that horses should be treated as athletes, but that does not necessarily mean incorporating all current sports techniques. Do all GP riders use RK? Have they done so throughout the history of classical dressage, with no ill-effects to the horse? I am not criticising RK, but am simply rather questioning if it is an absolute necessity for all riders (not to say though that top-level riders cannot use it effectively to benefit the horse, I am sure they likely can) - I am sure there are other equally-effective techniques. I do not belong to the anti-RK crowd (when it is used correctly), however I don't believe that RK is the way, the truth, and the light, lol. It's just one of a number of techniques available to riders. Of course as my knowledge increases due to the research I do, so could my stance, but based on what I have read and heard thus far, the preceding is my current stance.

    RK aside, I do not agree with much of how current GP horses are being ridden and trained. Whether or not this is due to the extensive use of RK or not (ie. using RK for prolonged periods), I do not fully know. I personally think that it is not due to RK, but that it (the current training methods and tests being ridden) is a result of a particular mindset of the rider, of which the abuse of RK (in certain situations) is simply a part.
    Last edited by naturalequus; Jan. 31, 2010 at 01:43 PM.



  11. #11
    Bluey is offline Schoolmaster Premium Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by slc2 View Post
    Bluey, what I read, is that you're equating behind the bit with hyperflexion.

    They aren't the same.

    A horse is not necessarily behind the bit while hyperflexed. he may be, he may not be.

    Behind the bit is not the same as behind the vertical. Behind the bit is holding the neck so that it is short of the connection or contact, where ever the bit is, where ever the horse's head and neck are.

    Some of the horses I tried were 'headless horses' (behind the bit). Others were very much making a connection with the hand, reaching for the bit, following it up, down, anywhere.

    Doing any really exaggerated neck positioning on a horse still gives me the squeams. Just sayin'.
    Right, good point,
    A horse can be in self carriage, that is one goal of dressage, no matter where it's head is, look at all those cutting and reining horses out there, ridden off seat and legs, contact minimal if at all.
    Look at the videos of Anky trying to ride a reining horse, it is not easy to feel that difference of a truly self carrying horse on it's own and one still being assisted by contact, minimal as that contact may be.

    The difference is there, as you mention.
    To many, RK IS BTB, because in many instances, it becomes BTB.
    That happens if done with the horse standing there, or the rider is not very strong with it's seat, maintaining impulsion and proper self carriage, no matter where the head is.

    When doing carrot stretches, we are flexing the horse's neck around, even hyperflexing if you ask for more, but the horse is standing there and if asked to move, it would fall into that movement, discombobulated, or have to collect itself from the stretch first, there is a disconnect in that static flexing.
    The same when using the reins to flex with the horse standing there.
    That is why I was trying to follow those Baucher posts, because they seemed to be talking of static flexing.

    Then, when you get the horse moving, you HAVE to use seat and leg as you flex to keep the horse moving as one, or he will fall apart on you and the body go one way, the head and neck separated from it.
    That we had to correct on some horses trained in odd ways, we called that "rubbernecking", where the horses were flexing their necks, but the body was not part of it.

    Because of that, I used to think that RK probably was counterproductive, as it takes so much to put the horse back together and you have shown him a possible evasion with RK, that is, if all doesn't go right, he can get BTB so easily.

    Well, evidently those practicing RK can get past that, maybe they are such strong riders they can keep a horse together as easily as they let them disunite with hyperflexing.

    That is my muddled theories, best I can follow what is happening.



  12. #12
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    naturalequus--sorry for taking quote from other thread and sticking it here.

    as for rollkur-- it is just a tool. And tools are as bad/good as the humans who use them.

    Most riders, no matter what time period, are just not really fabulous.
    That is because there is a bell curve to life, and be definition, it is difficult for more than just a relative few to be outstanding at whatever activity they pursue.

    ...I want to add more ,but will do so later.

    just really wanted to apologize for bad netiquette.
    one oak, lots of canyons

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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by canyonoak View Post
    The video of Kittel/Scandic has been pretty much proven to be manipulated and of no particular use to judge anything.
    this has been said other times too... but who "proved" it was "manipulated" and how exactly was is "manipulated"?

    i honestly want to know..... because while i am no film editor i am not sure how they could of altered a 10 minute uncut piece of film to show what is seen on the scandic tape?

    if that film is a fake then we need to know. so please do share your info.



  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by canyonoak View Post
    AS Wolfram Wittig (Isabell Werth's current coach) has stated: "We used to train
    movements, but we lost the gaits a lot. Now, we train muscles and ligaments."
    .
    so many things that are said nowadays as new and improved or modern are just what is in the classical books.

    i am glad that people ore getting away from "training the movements" and are training the entire body - but that is not a new idea



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    "We used to train
    movements, but we lost the gaits a lot. Now, we train muscles and ligaments."
    This was the thing that won me over about this technique. I saw the rapid and correct physical development in my horse. After about 2 years of more conventional training, my horse didn't seem to be developing physically as a dressage horse. I made a change to a trainer that emphasized the basics - forward, rhythm, straightness and engagement (and yes hyperflexion was part of the toolbox) - rather than the movements and the horse just bloomed. I believe that physical development is an accurate barometer about the correctness of the work that is done, you can't fake it.

    Afterall dressage isn't quantum physics. If the horse understands the aids and has the physical ability (balance, suppleness, strength etc), they should be able to do just about any movement without much practice. Practice is necessary for correct transitions between movements (the real meat of training IMO). But the movements themselves should be easy enough.



  16. #16
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    Bluey, I liked some things about your post, but there were some things that set off blinking red lights.

    Many more horses are broken at the poll and behind the vertical than truly behind the bit, first of all, and those horses are not light.

    Horses that are truly in self-carriage are light as a feather in the rider's hands. Even at training level you shouldn't be dealing with pounds of pressure in your hands. If the horse is trying to get behind the bit, or behind the vertical the rider is restricting the horse with his or her hands.

    I'd look at this rollkur method with some respect if the competition horses didn't look like hollow leg movers. But they do.

    Can a lot of bending have a place in dressage training? Absolutely. Lateral bending. Because it can get the horse straight and get him to release tension in the base of his neck. And it doesn't restrict forward.

    And the hysterical siren song about PETA is just well, annoying. If dressage is ever pulled from the Olympics it will be the fault of the state of competitive dressage, or the committee doesn't want to mess with building horse venues. It won't have anything to do with PETA.



  17. #17
    Bluey is offline Schoolmaster Premium Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by grayarabpony View Post
    Bluey, I liked some things about your post, but there were some things that set off blinking red lights.

    Many more horses are broken at the poll and behind the vertical than truly behind the bit, first of all, and those horses are not light.

    I agree, some are broken a the thrid vertebra or more and that is definitely not good for collection, the back can't lift well like that, no matter what the horse's discipline.

    Horses that are truly in self-carriage are light as a feather in the rider's hands. Even at training level you shouldn't be dealing with pounds of pressure in your hands. If the horse is trying to get behind the bit, or behind the vertical the rider is restricting the horse with his or her hands.

    Right, most horses become light, but you have to get them there, even the first few rides on a colt can determine that, even before you put a bit in one's mouth and have any kind of contact.
    We do some ground work that facilitates that, but then, that is another story.


    I'd look at this rollkur method with some respect if the competition horses didn't look like hollow leg movers. But they do.

    I don't know, seems that some are very good all around, the judges sure seem to think so.
    I would not know what you are seeing there that judges don't?


    Can a lot of bending have a place in dressage training? Absolutely. Lateral bending. Because it can get the horse straight and get him to release tension in the base of his neck. And it doesn't restrict forward.

    And the hysterical siren song about PETA is just well, annoying. If dressage is ever pulled from the Olympics it will be the fault of the state of competitive dressage, or the committee doesn't want to mess with building horse venues. It won't have anything to do with PETA.
    I was not who brought PETA, did respond to HSUS's involvement.
    I do believe that we are losing that fight and animal rights proponents will eventually, unless something changes, take away our rights to use animals, all of them, horses included.
    To me, that writing is on the wall now and, like the HSUS president, except that I see this with sadness, not his joy, think it probably won't take much more than the generation he was wishing would take, to eliminate animal use by humans.

    That, also, other than the posted supposedly release by the HSUS on RK, is a debate for another time and place.



  18. #18
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    Bluey I have little to argue with the general points made in your first post.
    Especially the point that we are watching on video, we are not on the horse, so how can we possibly judge.

    for many years, physics could not explain how a bumble bee can stay aloft. Now it seems we cannot explain how a horse in a hyperflexed position can be both on the bit and bringing his hindquarters well under himself, yet we can see that it is so, in person and on video when done well.

    "On the bit"- (the english term is misleading), is a feeling of connectedness, with the ability to recycle the horse's energy through our hands and reins and back into the body. The lifted back and power created by the rollkur technique has been likened by one instructor as riding on the edge of a spook. The horse can be "on the bit" or connected even when behind the verticle in rollkur. I think for those who have never been taught the technique as part of a general system of gymnastics, this is hard to understand. Many seem to equate all "behind the verticle" as being "behind the bit" or unconnected. But the feeling is not that, at all.
    As for those who think the curb must be used to pull the head around by force, this is again, a misunderstanding. The technique is generally taught in snaffle, as is everything else, and does not feel forecful or heavy in the hands in either the single or double bits. Nor is it the false lightness of behind the bit.
    "The Threat of Internet Ignorance: ... we are witnessing the rise of an age of equestrian disinformation, one where a trusting public can graze on nonsense packaged to look like fact."-LRG-AF



  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by CatOnLap View Post
    Bluey I have little to argue with the general points made in your first post.
    Especially the point that we are watching on video, we are not on the horse, so how can we possibly judge.

    for many years, physics could not explain how a bumble bee can stay aloft. Now it seems we cannot explain how a horse in a hyperflexed position can be both on the bit and bringing his hindquarters well under himself, yet we can see that it is so, in person and on video when done well.

    "On the bit"- (the english term is misleading), is a feeling of connectedness, with the ability to recycle the horse's energy through our hands and reins and back into the body. The lifted back and power created by the rollkur technique has been likened by one instructor as riding on the edge of a spook. The horse can be "on the bit" or connected even when behind the verticle in rollkur. I think for those who have never been taught the technique as part of a general system of gymnastics, this is hard to understand. Many seem to equate all "behind the verticle" as being "behind the bit" or unconnected. But the feeling is not that, at all.
    As for those who think the curb must be used to pull the head around by force, this is again, a misunderstanding. The technique is generally taught in snaffle, as is everything else, and does not feel forecful or heavy in the hands in either the single or double bits. Nor is it the false lightness of behind the bit.
    That is what I have been seeing, have been hearing, have been seen win, so others agree, but still have problems quite understanding that, as it is contrary to most of my experiences.

    BUT, I am willing to give this a chance and learn more and definitively not consider this training technique "abuse, the horror" some want to make of it.

    I say that, in some ways, we take better care of our horses all around, have better bred horses, many are suitable for dressage, not just a few as before.
    We have better nutrition and health care and just generally better management today and also training is more technical and cross training is happening with other disciplines.

    Those that want the same horses and performance and yes, even looks of 50 or 100 years ago, well, they won't find that, the world is different, the horses and how we manage and train them is different, everything around us is different in important ways.
    When now RK comes to the front, we need to see where that fits and I don't think that it is under the "abuse" label some want to stick it.

    As a gymnast 50 years ago I would not have imagined, much less been able to do what today's kids do as routine, much less the extreme moves they can so easily produce.
    Maybe we are a little bit seeing that with horses also, more can do so much and so well, when before it was just a few and for some horses, RK is one more piece of the puzzle?



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    Quote Originally Posted by canyonoak View Post
    naturalequus--sorry for taking quote from other thread and sticking it here.
    No worries, just confused was all, as we were not discussing the quote mentioned on this thread. No need to apologize

    as for rollkur-- it is just a tool. And tools are as bad/good as the humans who use them.
    I know...refer to my posts



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