On Jan. 1, officials in Switzerland enacted a new law prohibiting the use of hyperflexion, or rollkur, in their country. The law was originally proposed in 2008 and was approved by the Swiss government in October of 2013.
Similar to the Fédération Equestre Internationale’s 2010 distinction of the difference between “rollkur” and “low, deep and round”, the new Swiss law seeks to target “extreme” cases of hyperflexion, in which a horse’s head and neck are forced into a particularly low position by pulling on the reins or other means.
Unlike the FEI rule that prohibits rollkur in competition on a federation level, the Swiss law makes the act an abuse against animals at the government level under Article 21 of the Ordonnance sur la Protection des Animaux.
According to Nathalie Rochat, a spokesperson for Switzerland’s Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office, Switzerland banned rollkur on a national level so that authorities can officially control and sanction horse owners because the practice is not considered to be in line with animal welfare principles.
Rochat said that breaking the law will be punishable by fines of up to 20,000 Swiss Francs, or about $22,200, and that regional veterinarians will enforce it.
A full text of the law is available online.
Article 21 also includes a new rule that prohibits the practice of poling a horse to make it jump higher or neater. The law defines poling as “any action that causes the horse pain or fear to make it lift its legs higher. This applies to both active measures, such as the lifting of a bar or jump after take-off, as well as passive measures such as the use of barely visible thin rods or wire, or chemical substances placed on the horse’s legs which leads to surface pain.”