Whether you are a Dressage enthusiast or just an occasional reader of equestrian magazines and message boards, chances are you have heard about "Rollkur"
Rollkur, now officially known as "hyperflexion of the neck," is a training technique used by several dressage riders today, including Athens Gold Medalist Anky van UphGrunsven. Hyper flexing of the neck was used in other equestrian disciplines, most notably show jumping, before being adopted by such well-known dressage riders.
In 2005, accusations of abusive training by Van Grunsven appeared in the German horse magazine St. Georg. The accusations were later found unjustified in court. Germany was the world leader in dressage for decades until the Dutch team, including Van Grunsven, won the nations cup in Aachen in 2005. Below I have included video of Anky riding Krack C.
There is no doubt that Anky is a talented rider and that this is an incredible stallion. However, what is still being debated is how the results were achieved, and at what cost. Is hyperflexion of the neck acceptable when utilized by a professional trainer? Is this practice actually harmful to the horse either physically or mentally?
Rollkur teaches the horse to lower its head and round its neck as it works. Working "deep" so that the head is pulled inward. As in the picture to the left, in the extreme, the horse's mouth touches the middle of his chest. This hyper flexed state is held for a length of time, through work at the walk, trot, and canter, including shortening and extension of the gaits. Rollkur is not just longitudinal flexion (nose to chest), but also bending to the rider's toe. Most riders accomplish the head position by and fixing the hands in a low position until the horse yields its jaw. This is a response to pressure on the bit.
I discovered an interesting documentation of this method by Dr.Ulrike Thiel which demonstrates the technique through pictures. It is a critical documentation on the Hyper flexion/Rollkur method of riding and training horses. The scenes are taken out of a longer video documentation being published on 3 DVD's which demonstrate the practical use of this method by experienced riders. The short clips include eye opening visuals and very informative explanations of the phases of hyper flexion.
I have also included several links to articles on the subject that I found interesting over the past two years since this debate began. Below is the introduction to the documentation found on youtube. For the entire series please visit http://www.youtube.com/profile_videos?user=ulrikethiel
Links related to rollkur/Hyperflexion