Kate Samuels reports on a new ruling that signals a step forward for horse welfare in Europe.
Top photo via Wikimedia Commons
While both the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) and multiple national federations currently prohibit hyperflexion (also known as rollkur) for horses in competition, the Swiss officials have stepped it up one notch and created a national law forbidding the use of hyperflexion anywhere in the country. Until this point, all rules relating to the use of rollkur have only applied to competition venues, but now in Switzerland it is also illegal to train using this method. In addition to that, they have banned “poling” horses, or whacking horses’ legs with jump poles as they clear jumps in order to make them jump higher.
Switzerland’s Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO) proposed the ban in 2008, and it was approved in October of last year, taking effect at the beginning of 2014. Article 21 of the Ordonnance sur la Protection des Animaux states that it is forbidden to “require the horse to maintain its head and neck in hyperflexion (rollkur).”
The FEI has described rollkur as “a dressage method compromising the animal’s welfare”. Further adding that “this method, used in dressage, consists of imposing on the horse a particularly low position of the head, either by aggressive pulling on the reins or by other means, which provokes a hyperflexion of the head and neck and excessive tension in the back”.