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.