It’s the second day of dressage at the 2012 Olympics, and although the mainstream media has largely ignored the fact that the UK are currently in team gold and individual gold and silver positions thanks to Carl Hester and Laura Bechtolsheimer, they should pay as much attention to the overnight social media storm as they do to allegations of cheating in the Chinese team.
What’s rollkur? A controversy that’s been brewing for years in the dressage world. It’s a form of training in which the horse’s head is hauled back “behind the vertical” so that its chin is pressed to its chest. It can damage the horse’s muscle and even bone and it also produces a stiff back that is counterproductive to good dressage. The practice has also been rewarded by dressage judges with plenty of points and prizes.
In 2010 the FEI ruled that rollkur was unacceptable, although “low deep and round”, was acceptable. This ruling was given shortly after a Swedish rider, Patrik Kittel, was filmed by Epona TV in the warm-up ring at Odense World Cup Dressage Qualifier, with his horse’s tongue lolling out of its mouth, apparently blue from lack of circulation – something commentators said was due to the fact that he was being forced into neck hyperflexion.
Yesterday the FEI, Eurodressage, Olympic and British Dressage Facebook sites were flooded by images of Patrick Kittel warming up a horse with its chin bent to its chest at Greenwich. Here and here. People want to know, what are the FEI and the Olympic authorities going to do about it?
There are calls to spectators at the park today to turn their backs or refuse to applaud when certain riders enter the ring. What if there are boos? What if people hold up signs? Whattya gonna do, FEI?
UPDATE with further photos here.