Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Rollkur, and the "Blue Tongue"

Last night, I did something I "never" do. I signed a petition asking (hopefully demanding) that the FEI condemn the practice of Rollkur, and ban the use of it at FEI sanctioned dressage competitions.

There has been a video listed on YouTube, which has gone viral in record time:

The most disturbing thing, for me, is not the tongue hanging out, or the fact that it becomes bluish (in response to the circulation being cut off). That is just the proof that Rollkur demonstrates the extreme force exerted on the horse, physically and psychologically...and here is my opinion.

When a horse is being ridden (properly), s/he will sometimes put their tongue over, or in between in the case of a double bridle, the bit. That happens. But now we must ask ourselves, what is a horse's normal reaction when that happens?

In my experience, in every single case, the horse has a violent reaction and comes above the bit, slams on the brakes, and lets the rider know in NO uncertain terms that something is VERY wrong, and s/he is in extreme pain.

In this video, the horse continues for over one minute (that we can see, and it may have been more to produce the discoloration of the tongue) before the rider even notices that the tongue is in between the bits and lolling out the side of the mouth. And here is the key....the horse continued on the whole time, showing the rider no sign that he is extremely uncomfortable/painful.

The pain and discomfort of the Rollkur position is so extreme that the horse is unable to exhibit any reaction AT ALL to the discomfort of his tongue being pinched between the bits to the point that circulation is cut off! Can you imagine what pain the horse was in as a result of the tongue-pinch? So, which is the bigger cruelty? And what can we glean from this very apparent comparisons of pain--one which under normal circumstances of training produces an immediate and violent reaction to pain, and the other which overrides that normal reaction to the point that the horse is completely shut down to the original pain and just keeps going while his tongue turns blue? Again, which is the bigger cruelty?

To my mind, there is no room for doubt and this is the video that finally proves just how cruel Rollkur is. The poor horse's pinched tongue being turned blue due to lack of circulation (for at least one minute) is not even enough to override the pain and force of the rollkur position.

How can the FEI condone and REWARD this cruelty through scores of over 90% now? How can WE as a dressage community condone this practice?? We must send a loud and clear message as a cohesive international community that we will not stand by and do nothing anymore.

There is a title link to the same petition that I signed last night at the top of this post. I welcome all comments here, but even if you do not comment here, please go to the petition, read some of the comments attributed to the signers, and consider signing.

You may even sign anonymously, but remember, if the FEI is anything like the U.S. government, an anonymous signature does not count. Please consider signing your name--I did, and I am a dressage professional.

Thanks for reading this post.


  1. What the heck is Rolkur? And how does this relate to blue tongue?

  2. Hi lif,
    Thanks for posting! Did you click on the video link in the post? It takes you to a YouTube video which depicts a rider (Patrick Kittel from Sweden) warming up his horse during an FEI sanctioned show. FEI is the international governing body for horsesports, including dressage. The horse is being ridden with his neck forced into a very curled up position--even more so than can be accomplished with drawreins, which are bad enough, but this is pure abuse, since the horse is worked like this for an extended period of time--EponaTV, who produced the video alleges that PK worked this horse for more than an hour and a half in this position. This "training method" is called Rollkur or hyperflexion, and the proponents have been vicious in their defense of this "method" (which has NOTHING to do with good or humane training), to the point of suing people in court to stop anyone from speaking against it. This abuse has to stop, and this is the reason that the video has gotten such a has gone on for too long, and people are finally finding their collective voice (through the petitions) and are demanding that the FEI--who makes and enforces the rules of competition--get some guts and denounce this horrific abuse to the horse. As for the blue tongue, if you look at the video (and the camera even zooms in on it a couple time), you will see that the horse has gotten his tongue between the bradoon (snaffle) and the curb bits, and it is being pinched to the point of cutting off the circulation, turning the tongue "blue", much as your finger turns blue if you tighten a rubber band around it, cutting off circulation. It is very painful, and normally a horse will have a big negative reaction to this pain, but this horse just keeps going with his blue tongue hanging out of his mouth, because that is all he can do in the Rollkur position. That is proof that the rollkur is SO abusive, that the horse cannot react to the excruciating pain of having his tongue pinched to the point that the circulation is CUT OFF and the rider doesn't even notice for more than 30 seconds.
    I hope this has answered your questions, but if you would like more clarification please feel free to post again. I appreciate the question!

  3. Where is the link to the petition? I would love to sign it...but I don't see the link. Thanks!

  4. Hi Frizzle! I checked out your blog--great one! Anyway, if you click on the title of this post (Rollkur, and the Blue Tongue) it will link you directly to the petition site. Thanks for your interest!

  5. Thanks for the link! I will go right over and sign it. I agree, the FEI needs to know that we will not standy idly by and watch such cruelty to horses go unpunished.

  6. Thank you Mary - I am not an experienced dressage or horse person - but even I can see that this is something that has to be stopped - THANK YOU FOR SIGNING THE PETITION - and thanks for your help with my "on the bit" dilemma - best wishes - Rekha