Monday, August 06, 2012

More Controversy

Olympic "Hands On" the Horses

So now, a few Internet folks are raising questions about the bits and rigs riders are using in the show jumping.

And, I do have admit, some of the contraptions are pretty ugly. I'm not even sure how to describe them in correct technical terms.

In small defense, jumping is generally a lot more dangerous than dressage, so there is some reason to want more control over the horse....but, when does that become overkill and should it really be necessary??

Someone, on a post, suggested that if a horse could not be ridden in a snaffle over fences then something was wrong with the training. Well, that may be, but even my super well trained hunter--who did do all his show hunter rounds in a snaffle, needed "a little more bit" cross country. He was an enthusiastic fellow who'd jump nearly anything I set him at, but once we were "out in the field" he'd like to take charge so much I might actually not be able to point him at the right spot without a little more leverage. I used a kimberwicke and never needed anything more.

I can fully understand, therefore, the need for more bit on a jumper, especially on a course requiring speed, sharp turns and accurate "take off" spots. But I do have to question some of the complex rigs with tie downs, weird, severe bits, too tight nosebands, and who knows what.

All of that gear is a shortcut to hours of really good training. Disagree if you will, but there should be a limit as to how much hardware a horse can wear in competition.

As for the dressage, there are bitting rules, strictly followed, but even they do not protect a horse from a rider's abusive hands.  Sure, the judges can only score what they see in the competition arena, but a horse behind the vertical can be penalized on each score and  also have scores lowered in the "general impressions" section of the test.

If I recall correctly, in an extended gait, the horse is supposed to extend his head and neck a little. The frame lengthens with the gait.  Here's another place a rollkured horse is not going to gain any points. Just because a horse has the natural talent to go well despite some incorrect training or riding should not be the basis for an "8" or "9" on a movement. It's a sad commentary on what "classical' dressage has become as a competitive sport.

Ah, well, the debate will continue until someone in power takes a stand on all of this.

I'm glad I'm not a judge or official in the midst of the controversy. I'd be cringing, knowing how my decisions might "make or break" some of the top scoring riders and that I'd probably run into all kinds of flack from my fellows. The FEI rules are rather "whimpy' on all of it, after all, but there's a lot left open to interpretation.

Maybe it's time someone took the risk of interpreting them in favor of the horses.


  1. as someone who has ridden and trained jumpers to a fairly high level, i have to disagree that they can all be ridden in a snaffle at that level - i've had a few who could, but some needed a light curb and my most aggressive jumper suddenly went like a dressage horse in the lifting action of a hollow mouth gag. but i do agree that the combo gag/hackamores are excessive and cruel, as are sharp/twisted mouthpieces; the tight nosebands are out of control and, combined with the running martingales they have the potential to turn the whole thing into a giant pulley system that can do a lot of damage to a horse's mouth/face. i've never used gear like that, and for those who do it requires a lot of tact and responsibility from the riders; unfortunately when big egos and big $$$ are on the line, the horses tend to lose out.

    maybe the only upside is, unlike dressage, when a rider really overdoes the pulling and yanking on a jumper, the results are more obvious and objective, ie they mess the horse up and often pay for it with a rail down or refusal, whereas in the dressage it seems to be entirely up to the judges discretion whether it's harmful, and these days they don't seem to mind, and even reward that kind of thing :-(

  2. I don't know much about jumping. I know I sure wouldn't want to jump those courses in a snaffle, though! Seems like a recipe for disaster. But, I wouldn't want to jump in a tie-down, either. That also seems like a recipe for disaster...

    I have several antique hunting pictures that I love looking at. They're from old riding magazines and are pictures of actual hunts. All the horses are in Pelhams, but none of them have martingales or tie downs or any other contraptions. And many of the women are riding side-saddle! So, they're all galloping through fields after the hounds, leaping fences, bushes and streams with nothing more complicated than a Pelham, and some of them are riding side-saddle!

    I wish they showed the individual movements scores and comments in the Big Dressage competitions. I think it would be a great learning experience and would help with the controversies.

  3. I agree with your points, especially about dressage. We do seem to reward flamboyant gaits more than harmony. It seems to me that if you are getting suppleness by short cuts, it will show up eventually. I'd rather be a rider known for a relaxed happy horse, obedient, and truly a partner (like Peters, or Hess or so many others) than one who can stay on a big mover. Oh well. Another reason I'm happy to not be in the big time. I can't really voice an opinion on the jumpers other than they are huge, strong, hot horses and riding in a snaffle would scare the beezeesus out of me if the horse got strong.

  4. I have to agree with you on a snaffle not being the only thing that should be used when jumping. The bit should depend on the horse and it's personality and way of going. I don't agree with some of the 'over the top ugly cruel bits' employed by some however. There should be no shortcuts to good training be it in jumpers or dressage. I have always ridden equitation or hunters and only in the past few years switched to dressage.

    Still I can tell when something is wrong or hurtful to the horse. I can't see how rolkur could possibly benefit the natural flowing movement of a horse. It also boggles my mind that it is allowed and judged with high scores. I'll most likely never compete again and I'm sort of happy about that.

  5. In conclusion, many (usually the loudest or more prolific) posters on the net do not understand anything about horses and training and PERFORMING at this level!!!
    yes it pleases me to watch Peneloppe Leprevost riding in a snaffle bit and Marcus Ehning in a double bridle. It is classical riding at this most. But I am curious and open-minded when I see American and Canadian riders riding in weird snaffle/hackamore contraption.
    I believe genetics, nutrition have created really different horses than 10 years ago!!!
    New techniques have been created too!
    And why not?!
    I wish "horse people" we're more open-minded, and les intended to create controversy to make themselves interesting!!!