Dressage, defined by World Equine UK, is an advanced form of riding that tests the horse and rider performing difficult manoeuvres based around a horse’s natural movements. It tests their accuracy, together with the horse’s physical ability, suppleness, responsiveness, balance and obedience. Dressage has been likened to horse gymnastics and ballet.
There has been speculation in recent years as to whether certain aspects of dressage riding are unethical and cruel. In 2010, footage emerged of a horse’s tongue lolling out and going blue (dubbed blue-tongue scandal) after performing the rollkur technique, and the storm created by this has rumbled on ever since. Rollkur is a sustained period of hyperflexion on the horse’s neck, where its nose almost touches its chest.
Prominent dressage trainer and rollkur critic, Lady Sylvia Loch, referred to it as a cruel method of psychological torture, but its proponents believe is a valuable tool to improve a horse’s suppleness.
In 2010, the International Federation for Equestrian Sports banned the use of rollkur during warm-up sessions at competitions, and four years later, the Swiss government outlawed rollkur completely.
This video will ask a handful of amateur riders for their thoughts on rollkur and whether they’ve ever seen it in used.