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Rollkur: A logical opinion...

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  • Rollkur: A logical opinion...

    And, frankly I’m just as sick of it as the next poster. But…I feel compelled to give my 2 cents (lucky COTHers) today.


    I find it so discouraging that no one seems willing to have a logical conversation regarding this technique. I’ve ridden and trained horses for 30 plus years, and will tell you now that I’m not a supporter of the technique as it is currently applied at the upper levels. Like any training technique it can and is being abused. But, at the same time, I am willing to admit that I have certainly seen much more abusive (and useless) “training” methods.

    Being primarily of the Jumper and Eventing worlds – I have ridden and watched horses that have been trained with rollkur. My experience is that these horses tended to be quite heavy on their forehands – it seems to teach them to lean on the hands -- tend to lose the desire to go forward AND become easily frustrated in their work (which makes training difficult).

    Let’s look at it logically. Rollkur boiled down to it’s simplest terms is restricting/holding the front end – telling the horse “no no no.” As well as, kicking and asking for “go go go.” I’ve watched horses going around, pointed downhill, with chin on chest and the hindend fishtailing behind them…(even in the Anky vids). So ask yourself, as a horse trainer, is this not a conflicting message to the horse? Seems like a lose, lose – both physically and mentally. It’s impossible for the horse to give a correct answer as they are being told to do two entirely different things for a lengthy period of time. IMHO this defeats the purpose of training (for any discipline, not just dressage). I’ve always equated using my aids to being a Drummer. All my appendages may be doing different things, but when done right, it makes one cohesive and beautiful sound. All the aids should support one another, not be in total conflict.


    I suspect some of you will counter with – well, it’s just for a moment. Well, restricting a horse or confusing a horse for a MOMENT is not rollkur. It’s called getting their attention and there is most definitely a time and place for this. My issue with rollkur (from a training standpoint) is it’s continued/long-term use. Every gadget or odd technique has it’s time and place, when used properly by educated people. But, they are for the short term and should never become a “way of life.” Draw reins, for example: I use them. I use them on a difficult or out of shape horse – short term, so that they can either build the necessary muscles in the topline or I can use them in a disciplinary fashion on a horse that’s being a bully. But, my goal, as a trainer, is to create a relaxed and compliant horse that does not NEED the draw rein. Anything else is laziness OR, as I like to put it, putting a square peg in a round hole. If we’re honest with ourselves – not every horse is cut out for the job we might originally envision for them. And, rollkur (or any other gadget) should not be used to force a horse into a job that he cannot otherwise do happily once he understands what is being asked of him.

    For those that defend the constant use of rollkur in terms of it making the sport more exciting (I presume you attribute the big exciting use of the horse’s front end to the technique…)… I must respectfully, and logically, disagree. I don’t consider making Dressage more exciting for the masses a reason to do anything. For example: the “wild horse race” they do at the Calgary Stampede is very exciting and you don’t need to be horsey to feel the danger and excitement. BUT, is it good for the horses – I say no. In fact, good luck training those horses after an experience like that – but I digress. ;-) Like a nice Hunter (who honestly is BORN with that jump--that's why they cost so much ), a big moving dressage horse is born that way too. We shape and refine and teach it “tricks,” but that really is the extent of our influence.

    As a horse person, the current state of dressage (the new and exciting version we’re seeing) does NOT appeal to me. I have no desire to dominate or control my horses. For me the thrill is creating a symbiotic relationship – a true partnership. And, I don't see much of that at GP level right now.


    Now, I’d love to hear for those that can stick to “horse training.” I believe in discourse and the exchange of ideas…

    Thanks,
    Seb :-)
    Aca-Believe it!!

  • #2
    Sebastian, I appreciate your trying to achieve a logical discussion of the technique formerly known as rollkur. I finally got a copy of Tug of War and am reading it in an effort to understand more about the physiognomy at work. I would like to read or hear equally clear and well illustrated discussion from the other perspective.

    Fingers crossed!

    Comment


    • #3
      Finally, thank you!
      Sebastian, I agree with you on pretty much everything. Especially your last paragraph about how GP riders tend to dominate their horses. If you look at Totilas, for example, he doesn't seem like he WANTS to work for Edward, but instead is being pushed and pulled around like a puppet. It really would be a challenge to find a true partnership competing at GP in international competitions.

      Comment


      • #4
        Frankly, I cannot understand why RK is even discussed as a training technique. It is completely counter to the USEF dressage rulebook in every point, at every level, gait and movement. It is not recommended as a method to achieve collection anywhere therein, while half-halts, lateral movements, leg yields all are. Those who can read, draw your own conclusions.

        I will only reference a single of many, many quotes from the rulebook:
        “The head should remain in a steady position as a rule slightly in front of the vertical with a supple poll as the highest point of the neck and no resistance should be offered to the rider.”

        My observation is that RK does not aim to have the poll as highest point, nor the head in front of the vertical, nor steady, nor without resistance to the rider.

        Or is the rulebook not to be used for reference?

        Comment


        • #5
          Sebastian

          Unfortunately logical discussions about Rollkur are hard to come by here. For one reason the technique has ben so demonized that it would be hard to get any supporter of the technique to come forward to be a part of the witch hunt that takes place on these boards.

          However I am always ready to discuss training techniques logically and thoughtfully. Our sport is not only a sport but it is also an art. It is not like math there are no exact answers. We train by what we observe from our teachers,books and what experience has taught us. That being said it is understandable why things get so heated when training gets discussed. You have to be passionate to do what we do, we ride through pain, frustration and unmeasurable joy all to achieve the highest level of our sport.

          I do not believe in draw reins. Draw reins have no place in my training philosophy. However unlike the Anti-Rollkur crowd here. I would not start name calling or telling you that you are killing your horse or that you should be banned from all competitions. I would welcome a discussion on the pros and cons and walk away with an agree to disagree stance on the matter.

          There is a trainer at my barn that hates side-reins and tells students that they are useless. I am sure that there are people here that disagree with their use as well. However I feel that they are a good tool and use them when needed. I would welcome a discussion on this subject too. But sadly it seems that a few bad apples spoil what can be in many cases a thoughtful discussion.

          As far as Rollkur goes I think I understand what the riders are trying to accomplish that are using this technique. I equate it to a meditation technique I was taught year ago. You lay on the floor and you make a part of your body super tense. Say you ball up your fist then allow that pressure to move all the way up your arm. Now that your hole arm is flexed and tight you take a deep breath and release. Now that whole arm is relaxed and noodlely. Rollkur flexes the neck in the same manner so in theory when you release the horses neck from the Rollkur the idea is that the horse will be relaxed in that part of his body.
          Life's a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.
          -Auntie Mame

          Comment


          • #6
            I certainly concur on all your points as well, though I do train only slightly differently than you (ie. I do not use tools such as draw reins myself, however I do not dimiss their use in appropriate and educated hands in a fashion such as you are describing) - with the same goal as you of a relaxed and responsive partner.

            MySparrow I am also currently reading Tug of War and have found it extremely helpful to my learning. I have just recently gotten into dressage on a more serious/thorough note and have found the book very helpful in my understanding of the why's, how's, and what's.

            The bottom line is that it is evident that these horses are unhappy, and they are not using their bodies efficiently in a manner that suits their best interests, plain and simple and regardless of RK. I personally doubt that RK is the only method used to dominate and ride these horses; I believe that the use of such methods is a result of a particular mindset - a mindset that carries over in all aspects of training and riding of said horses. Such a mindset, to my eye, does not even result in a pretty picture in the competition arena - no, not even at the Olympic level (donning flame suit here, I know, how dare I criticise top-level riders). Their footfalls are interrupted by the hand-dominated riding, their bodies are far from relaxed (when a horse's trail is twitching every second stride, there's no way one can say the spine is relaxed and loose), they are croup-high, and their movements are far from effortless. Yet it will continue as long as the judges reward such behaviours on part of the rider. Take note I am not saying that all GP riders are working their horses in such a way, but it sure seems like a great many of them are.

            That's just my opinion from a relatively new-dresage-rider perspective, from what I can see. I am still learning though of course (aren't we always?).
            ....horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
            ~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.

            Comment


            • #7
              Ginger, that is an interesting concept...

              I would be interested to see if that really is effective and how it affects the horse if RK is done for such reasons/in such a manner, and for only short short periods of time (short, as in, a minute or two in the middle of a training session).

              Interesting take.
              ....horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
              ~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.

              Comment


              • #8
                I do not believe in draw reins. Draw reins have no place in my training philosophy. However unlike the Anti-Rollkur crowd here. I would not start name calling or telling you that you are killing your horse or that you should be banned from all competitions. I would welcome a discussion on the pros and cons and walk away with an agree to disagree stance on the matter.
                Good analogy. I'm guessing that you would not also demand that everyone else agree with your dislike of drawreins otherwise you will insist they must be users and followers of ' drawreins!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Like I said it is just my theory. Following my theory this is why I would not use Rollkur. If you are only suppling the neck of the horse I believe you are building a flaw in your horses training foundation. I believe, like I hope everyone else does that collection comes from behind.

                  The but pushes into the tummy, the tummy lifts the back as a consequence the the neck/head drops into position. You can get a visual if the relationship if you run your nails gently down the center of your horses belly from back to front his back will lift and his head will slightly drop. Obviously this equation becomes more dramatic as the degree of collection becomes greater.

                  So yes to let everyone know so they do not waste time bashing me as a Rollkur sympathizer I do not agree with the technique. But my disagreement is based on the part of the body that the technique effects

                  However there is a video of Anky explaining why she uses Rollkur in her words. The link to the Anky video was posted on the Blue Tongue thread.
                  Life's a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.
                  -Auntie Mame

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by BeginTheDance View Post
                    If you look at Totilas, for example, he doesn't seem like he WANTS to work for Edward, but instead is being pushed and pulled around like a puppet. It really would be a challenge to find a true partnership competing at GP in international competitions.
                    I must be seeing something completely different to you. Honestly, I have never watched (videos of) him and thought he looked like anything less than a willing partner. I think this is why the whole rollkur/top level dressage thing becomes so heated and complicated... people are seeing completely different things.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by egontoast View Post
                      Good analogy. I'm guessing that you would not also demand that everyone else agree with your dislike of drawreins otherwise you will insist they must be users and followers of ' drawreins!
                      No I am not that silly.
                      Life's a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.
                      -Auntie Mame

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by nomeolvides View Post
                        I must be seeing something completely different to you. Honestly, I have never watched (videos of) him and thought he looked like anything less than a willing partner. I think this is why the whole rollkur/top level dressage thing becomes so heated and complicated... people are seeing completely different things.
                        Yes, I guess we must just being seeing different things then. Sure, his gaits are expressive and light, but his whole demeanor and the way he goes about performing those expressive gaits does not come across as being willing or happy to me.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I must be seeing something completely different to you. Honestly, I have never watched (videos of) him and thought he looked like anything less than a willing partner. I think this is why the whole rollkur/top level dressage thing becomes so heated and complicated... people are seeing completely different things
                          Yes indeed. I also think that when people disapprove of a certain training method, then they find out a certain horse has been trained that way, it filters their view of that horse.

                          Do the SrS horses look gleefully happy or are they doing their job in a similar manner to how Totilas does his job?

                          I wish people would be honest about this.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by egontoast View Post
                            Yes indeed. I also think that when people disapprove of a certain training method, then they find out a certain horse has been trained that way, it filters their view of that horse.
                            Absolutely- I've been guilty of that myself before.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              yes, it's human nature.

                              Similarly, the Op describes his opinion this way:

                              Rollkur: A logical opinion
                              but all people think their opinions are logical, do they not?
                              Last edited by egontoast; Jan. 26, 2010, 06:20 PM. Reason: tried to fix grammar but may have failed!

                              Comment

                              • Original Poster

                                #16
                                Ha, Ha!! Thank you all for playing my game. Wonderful responses so far. My faith in horse-people is slightly renewed.

                                Ginger, I find your theory interesting. And, where my "logical" mind takes me...is that I'm not sure horses would process the meditative/stress exercise the same way we would -- it is an interesting take on things. As naturalequus pointed out as a short exercise, it could be useful. Much as I was describing my "get there attention" approach in my OP.

                                As far as Totilas -- I'm afraid I'm in the camp of "he looks tense" and manufactured (my term). I have a had a hard time watching many of the FEI riders presently.

                                I also agree that perception can be different for each of us as individuals. But, at least for me, part of learning over the years has been to listen to those who are more knowledgeable than myself and try to see it from their perspective. Granted, sometimes I still thought they were full of crap , but I tried... And, seriously, more times than not, I saw the error of my inexperience. And, because we are in a competive sport that is judged and therefore subjective -- I think it's really important that we continually ask ourselves -- "But, is this good for the horse?" I think it's important that we learn to distinguish what motivates those at the upper levels. And, I don't say that to judge, I tried to go pro once (a loooooong time ago), but there were compromises where the horses were concerned that I was not willing to make.

                                Seb
                                Aca-Believe it!!

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  " I don’t consider making Dressage more exciting for the masses a reason to do anything." Sebastion

                                  Hear, hear! I've been screwing up my guts to say that for a long time. Since when has money from the unknowing being spent on any sport been good for that sport? Ditto for eventing cross country courses.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I don’t consider making Dressage more exciting for the masses a reason to do anything." Sebastion
                                    I doubt that any serious dressage rider plans their daily training with that in mind. My guess is as good as yours.

                                    I mean do you really believe that people like Steffen Peters and Anky and Isabel and Gal and Debbie macdonald and Catherine Haddad and Ashley Holzer and so on get on their first horses in the morning and think ' How can I make this more exciting for the greater unwashed?

                                    I don't think so...

                                    Comment

                                    • Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      Originally posted by egontoast View Post
                                      Yes indeed. I also think that when people disapprove of a certain training method, then they find out a certain horse has been trained that way, it filters their view of that horse.

                                      Do the SrS horses look gleefully happy or are they doing their job in a similar manner to how Totilas does his job?

                                      I wish people would be honest about this.
                                      You are right...it does color my opinion of a performance. It makes me look a little harder. But, more often than not, because I don't follow the FEI riders as closely as many of you...I will see a horse that looks miserable, and upon further investigation what I suspect is confirmed...

                                      And, I'm perfectly will to be honest that not all SRS horses are probably happy. While it is a respected program, it is fairly strict. And, if I've learned NOTHING else from my horses it is that they are all unique individuals and sometimes we have to go outside the box.

                                      Seb
                                      Aca-Believe it!!

                                      Comment

                                      • Original Poster

                                        #20
                                        Originally posted by egontoast View Post
                                        I doubt that any serious dressage rider plans their daily training with that in mind. My guess is as good as yours.
                                        No, not in exactly those terms. But, as professionals, they are thinking about how to make their sport more financially viable. Let's face it we're capitalists. Making a buck matters. And, it has it's pros and cons...

                                        Seb

                                        p.s. and no fair adding to your post after I've quoted it!!
                                        Aca-Believe it!!

                                        Comment

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