I reread my On Horsemanship by Xenophon after reading someone online stating that Xenophon was the gold standard of horse training or something like that.
Don’t get me wrong now. Xenophon had a lot of still valid points on how to choose a horse and some of his training advice still holds true. Naturally. The horse is still a horse. Everyone should read it, or at least the ones interested in horses or what you did 2300 years ago if you were in the military.
The problem is, things have changed in 2300 years. Most things have changed. How we treat people, how we make war and how we treat animals. I too have quoted Xenophon, for instance this:
“By training him to adopt the very airs and graces which he naturally assumes when showing off to best advantage, you have got what you are aiming at—a horse that delights in being ridden, a splendid and showy animal, the joy of all beholders.”
The problem comes in the next paragraph, on how to train the horse to act this way:
“In the first place, then, you ought to have at least two bits. One of these should be smooth, with discs of a good size; the other should have heavy and flat discs (4) studded with sharp spikes, so that when the horse seizes it and dislikes the roughness he will drop it; then when the smooth is given him instead, he is delighted with its smoothness, and whatever he has learnt before upon the rough, he will perform with greater relish on the smooth.”
Not what we would do nowadays, is it? We cherry pick our quotes and leave the rest of it out.
Some of the things we do are unchanged in 2300 years, though. Does this sound familiar?
“With a horse entirely ignorant of leaping, the best way is to take him by the leading rein, which hangs loose, and to get across the trench yourself first, and then to pull tight on the leading-rein, to induce him to leap across. If he refuses, some one with a whip or switch should apply it smartly.”
Nowadays a video clip of this causes furore online and also far too many comments explaining why “applying a whip” is the only thing to do.
We should have come further in 2300 years. We have come further. It’s incomprehensible that people resort to hurting an animal just to make it perform some completely non-life-saving trick like jumping a ditch or fence, when it’s possible to train it without causing more than slight and momentary discomfort. Or not even that. Simply starting small and gradually increasing the difficulty. Takes more time in the very beginning and yields far better results, with better horse and human welfare, too.
Onwards from Xenophon
I reread my On Horsemanship by Xenophon after reading someone online stating that Xenophon was the gold standard of horse training or something like that.
“You can’t use force anymore”
The decision was taken after the statement regarding aversive training tools by the ministry responsible for animal welfare came in. The date was set when all equipment causing pain or fear used in training was to be handed in. From this day on, no training methods based on physical coercion was allowed. The trainers were stumped and asked: “If we’re not allowed to use the equipment we were using, how do we train instead?”
A bedtime story I just made up? No. This actually happened in Finland, as the now retired head of border guard dog training, Juha Pasanen, told horse people in his lecture in September. Several equestrian organisations, including Hippos (trotting and breeding), the Finnish Equestrian federation (riding), Hippolis and several equine colleges arranged a seminar on horse welfare. Dr. Janet Jones’ webinar delved into what the horses’ brain is capable of and what not, Essi Wallenius shared the new project in developing a welfare quality protocol for equines and I had the opportunity to speak about how horses learn and what we can do to make training more efficient and welfare orientated.
Pasanen, now team assessor for the EU border guard Frontex, spoke about how the Border Guard in Finland changed the way dogs were trained from using punishment as a part of training (including shock collars) to using reward based training methods. Yes, they had to hand in their shock collars.
While changing the ways you have been doing things for decades was painful, it wasn’t impossible. The result? Dogs that work at least as well as the previously trained ones, and whose welfare is better. And as a result, dog handler welfare also increased. Yes, it took years. But it was worth the effort. And these are the people making sure our 1300 km border east doesn’t leak.
According to a recent review published in Animals, “Social Licence to Operate: What Can Equestrian Sports Learn from Other Industries?” the need for the equestrian world to change is right around the corner. Or in front of us all. “Public attitudes about animal use are also affected by advances in scientific knowledge. This is underpinned by the growing recognition that animals are sentient creatures [56,57] for whom physical, mental, and social wellbeing are important  and by the growth of animal welfare as an established science .” This is happening right now.
Another key quote with regard to recent discussion within the equestrian world: “Communication strategies that have been shown to be unhelpful include dismissing public concerns as reflecting lack of knowledge or understanding  and adopting a defensive or aggressive response to criticism . Similarly, attempting to ‘educate’ the public in ‘the truth’ about equestrian sport is not effective, unless it displays shared values with all stakeholders .”
Juha Pasanen’s lecture on how change was effected within the Border Guard dog training showed several interesting parallels with the current equestrian situation. The dog trainers themselves did not drive the change, the motivation came from above, i.e. their boss. The Border Guard is a military organisation and as such, change is easily implemented from the top, and in Pasanen’s words, anyone not willing to walk the talk and change training methods to ensure better dog welfare would have been sacked.
Of course this is not the way change will happen in the equestrian world. There is no boss, and the FEI for instance has shown that it will suggest change only when it is forced to. But I put it that our boss is the society around us, and that pesky new phrase SLO (Social License to Operate).
When society asks questions, like “why are you using metal rods to poke your horse in the sides” or “why do you hit the horse with a whip when it won’t jump” we need to have answers that are a) true b) in tune with the modern view of animals, not those from two thousand plus years ago. This may be impossible. Or, we change so that our training methods are ethically viable. That is possible.
If using force, causing the horse pain or fear, is outlawed, what then? No, you may not use the argument that you cannot force a horse to do anything it doesn’t want to do. That one has been showed untrue so many times now it won’t wash. I’d also like never to hear nor read about horses biting and kicking each other as an explanation for hitting or kicking horses either, ever again. Just quit riding and showing then? No need to.
Horses learn very quickly and they have a frighteningly good memory. Horses can be motivated to behave in a certain way by many different methods, only some of which are ethically unsound. What you lose when you stop using force you get in using systematic desensitisation (making it possible for the horse to habituate) and sensitisation (making it possible for the horse to learn the aids and other cues) and gradually shaping the behaviours, increasing demands so that the horse can learn. Horses are motivated by many things: release from pressure, including fear and pain but also from very much smaller pressure, like a fly tickling the hair of the horse; moving, resting, company of other horses, food, scratches, exploring, using their body in different ways. The only one who gets to decide what reinforces behaviour is the horse.
Remember, denying there is force is not an option anymore. It’s there for anyone to see. With less force, with pressure used only to enable it to be released to reinforce the correct behaviour, not to force the horse to do it, you will need more repetitions. This is true for any reinforcement you wish to use. Horses learn to bang the stable door in very few repetitions if it leads to their feed being given. You don’t usually want the horse to learn and remember things from just a few repetitions, because you may not be a perfect trainer yourself. With moderate motivation – just a few pellets of feed, just a tiny irritating bit of pressure – comes a need for more repetitions. Then the behaviour will need to turned into a routine by generalising it, practising in different situations, with different riders, varying equipment, and gradually even in that most demnading of all for our horses, in unfamiliar environments, far from other horses.
Free webinar in English!
By way of introducing myself and discussing some things about horses and how they learn I’m inviting you to a free Teams webinar in November. Because I’m working on a horse training book – how to teach your horse to load into the trailer – the date will be confirmed a little later, but you can already enroll here: https://forms.gle/JbLm5w91KbQSKziy8
To the FEI, IDRC and IDTC
I read the letter from the IDRC and IDTC to the FEI first with interest, then disbelief and finally amusement. The letter (now removed from the IDRC website but which can be read on Eurodressage at https://eurodressage.com/2022/10/05/joint-letter-idrcidtc-sparks-controversy-and-debate-social-licence) is a prime example of why the people most involved with any sport are not the only ones who should be given the license to ensure the welfare of those involved in these sports. If you are an international rider, trainer or judge, you are one of those benefiting from the status quo. Current rules and practises are your friend. Change can be seen as a threat. Even, as was proposed, a change to make a double bridle optional. As in you could use a snaffle bridle if you wanted to. Or a double. Choice.
The letter reads like a list of logical fallacies. We have the slippery slope fallacy, the straw man fallacy, the definist fallacy, the false attribution fallacy and the appeal to authority one.
My favourite sentence (no, of course I’m joking, it’s the most strange one) is this: “The snaffle produces the flexion and exercises the muscles whereas the double bridle produces the bending of the haunches” – as we say online, what the hell did I just read? The snaffle exercises the muscles? The double bridle produces the bending of the haunches? With the same letter calling for scientific proof, the absurdity is complete. Waiting with bated breath for the scientific proof that the snaffle exercises other muscles than those of the underneck, if the rider pulls the reins.
Training exercises the muscles. Teaching the horse to respond to the riders aids and gradually increasing the intensity of the work using different movements that prepares the horse for collection will aid the bending of the haunches. Not the double bridle in itself. Or if you like, you can use shaping and positive reinforcement to get the horse to collect itself. Or any of a number of other ways. We can only train and improve things that are already in the horses’ natural behaviour.
I’ve been a dressage riding enthusiast since about 1986. I have followed the sport intensively since then and meanwhile worked as a journalist, photographer and now as an animal trainer currently making a living teaching horse enthusiasts how to train their horses, lecturing on horse behaviour, learning and welfare and writing horse training books.
Dressage is a supremely difficult art/sport and at its best, incredibly beautiful. But it’s not immune to horse welfare nor are the rules set in stone. With current research comes the need for change everywhere in society. Dressage is no exception.
From research we now know, among other things, that not all horses have room for two bits in their mouth. Not all horses have room even for one bit in their mouth. We know mouth injuries are frequent in trotting and eventing horses, that horses show clear indications of pain in their behaviour and expression and that most ridden horses’ nosebands are too tight. We know that horses have lesions in the nasal bone at the site of the noseband. We also know too many horses show signs of pain, discomfort or conflict behaviour in dressage.
With increased knowledge comes a moral obligation to change to improve horse welfare. Not, like the letter IDRC/IDTC sent, to go into a hedgehog mode of defence and object to even the slightest change which would improve horse welfare in dressage. I love dressage. I love the horses more. Moving with the times to improve horse welfare is imperative if we are to have a future with that most important thing, social license to operate.
One bit takes up less room in the horse’s mouth than two bits. This will make the horse more comfortable, as the tongue will have more room. This change would cost nothing but improve horse welfare and improve social license.
Starting to measure noseband tightness the way it should be, on top of the nasal bone, and implementing the two-finger rule at every show would cost nothing but improve horse welfare and social license.
Allowing riders not to have spurs (or even fake spurs, as some exceedingly sensitive horses react even to smooth metal on the riders’ boots) would cost nothing and improve horse welfare and social license.
I had a dream once that every horse sport organisation and all people involved in the sport would make the changes needed proactively, as new research is published. Not leave it until the goverments of different countries make change mandatory. Then I woke up.
You can’t put the fox in charge of the hen house (or as we say in Finland, the goat in charge of the cabbage patch) nor can you leave improving horse welfare to those benefiting most from the current situation. What we need, if horse sport is to continue, is objective measurements and yes, change. Why not change?
Some additional reading:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9133790/ Oral Dimensions Related to Bit Size in Adult Horses and Ponies
https://beva.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/evj.12827 Lesions associated with the use of bits, nosebands, spurs and whips in Danish competition horses
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1558787811001432 The effect of double bridles and jaw-clamping crank nosebands on temperature of eyes and facial skin of horses
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32947819/ Prevalence and Distribution of Lesions in the Nasal Bones and Mandibles of a Sample of 144 Riding Horses
Food rewards in horse training
I’ve been training horses using positive reinforcement (food rewards and scratch rewards mostly) for about twenty years now. Does this mean I don’t learn and realise new things anymore? Nope. I just realised something I think is pretty interesting. If this is one of these “Everyone knew that” cases then good for you (and why didn’t anyone tell me sooner?)
One of the horse lectures I give is on recognising the different ways horses express themselves (facial expressions, including pain, and behaviour) and during it I talk briefly about making inferences based on how a horse looks or behaves. Is it allowed or should you just observe? My opinion is that we as people infer things allt he time, the key is to recognize when we’re doing it.
If the horse has its ears pinned back, for instance, instead of inferring it hates your guts or is being moody or a pain, you should always make the inference in the horse’s best interest. Check for pain, ulcers, saddle and bridle fit, oestrus pain in mares etc. If the behaviour is seen around feeding and/or training using food rewards, consider it might be the horse simply having an emotion that initiates a behaviour it has known how to do since being a very young foal.
I have a homebred mare called “Ilo” (meaning “joy” in Finnish) who I’ve trained using both positive and negative reinforcement since she was around 3 weeks of age. She has a facial expression and behaviour I see fairly frequently while training: ears slightly pinned back and sometimes blocking my path by curving in front of me. While the behaviour has irritated me, especially as I would have liked her to look like the other horses I train (= expressing an open, interested, positive mood) it has never felt dangerous or even aggressive.
She doesn’t do this if we’re just walking alongside each other in the field, nor does it seem to be related to pain or discomfort. I see this only when training her from the ground and usually when I’m also moving. I’ve thought before that it relates to irritation or frustration. It’s not easily trained away, I’ve tried both negative and positive reinforcement and a combination of both (to straighten her out, not trying to clicker train her ears forward).
I’ve seen and heard about simliar behaviour in other horses, too. Some are mild, some have a more intense form, blocking the trainer when trying to leave for a break or even kicking. It is usually only related to training with food rewards and in my experience, the higher value the reward (carrots come to mind), the more likely the horse is to show it. All horses don’t do it, in my non-scientific opinion, perhaps one horse in ten or twenty.
How to solve the problem? Teach a “take a break” cue and leave some food for the horse when going away.
The lightbulb, finally
Fast forward to this spring. We have two new foals this year and as I’m updating my “How to tame and train your foal” online course I’ve been filming them a lot. That’s when I saw it. The very similar set of behaviours, the near identical expression, first in one of the foals, then in the other. And after that I realised I’ve seen it in other foals before, laughing at it as people do.
In short: There is the foal who wants to nurse and the mare who is walking. The foal will often curve in front of the mare, under her neck, and will pin its ears, sometimes making a bite or kick threat (like the foal in the video).
The mare doesn’t have a leadership problem, nor is the foal being bossy, crazy nor impolite. It’s simply being a horse.
(The mare is recovering from a hoof abscess, which is why she walks like this.)
Why is this important? Well, at least it cut me some slack as I’ve beat myself up now and again for accidentally training my own horse to look sour and cut across my path. Also I think it’s important to make inferences that cuts the horses some slack, too: If we consider it possible that a horse, when feeling frustration or just simply being motivated by the food reward, may be exhibiting a simliar behaviour to the foal on the video clip above we may take the behaviour itself with more calm and ease.
When coming across a horse exhibiting a more intense form of this behaviour we may be more ready to make the necessary adjustment to the training situation instead of just giving up the idea of training this particular horse using food rewards, thinking the trainer is incompetent or the horse crazy. At the moment I don’t think this has much to do with the training at all.
Disclaimer: I’ve been wrong many times, I may be wrong now
The reason I’m going out on a limb writing this down, is this: The more empathy we have for both horses and people, the better both will fare. If, when you see this behaviour in a horse next, you are able to think of it simply as a grown-up foal wanting a drink of milk (= food reward) you may be able to see the behaviour as that and act accordingly.
Another reason is that if you consider this behaviour a training issue, relating to frustration due to trainer mistakes (horse getting stressed) and try to fix it as such, you may get bogged down in making hundreds of unneccessary repetitions and the training won’t progress as it could.
Have you seen this behaviour? What do you think of my possible explanation?
Next up: Using positive reinforcement is the most natural way of training a horse there is
“Ilo” as a young foal.
So What Is It You Do, Exactly?
Someone asked me that recently. Well, officer, one thing led to another.
- Loved horses and other animals since I was little, started riding at the age of 5.
- Rode at low levels and not very well, groomed horses competing at national level here (here = Finland) in dressage, show jumping and eventing as a teenager
- Became interested in photography and worked as a freelance photographer, doing mainly books
- Happened to see renown Finnish animal trainer Tuire Kaimio work and became interested in animal training
- Got to work with different animals in movies and TV as her assistant and then by myself
- Learned a lot about how to train animals, became one of the first to gain the then new professional animal training degree in Finland
- Have trained horses, dogs, cats and also some chickens and cows
- I still write articles for various equestrian magazines, photograph people and animals but mainly I work with horses and horse owners
- I give lectures on horse behaviour and training, travel around the country and also have both animal training students and ordinary horse owners and riders come here to practise horse training in practise
- I use science based training methods and a combination of reward based training and properly applied pressure and release techniques
- I try to keep myself as up to date as possible on horse behaviour and training and also work to make horse keeping more species appropriate (ie. making sure the grazing animal can move and eat at near the levels it would in nature)
- I aim to make things easy both for the horse and handler and to make the horse think that difficult things are fun
A few video clips to illustrate what I do. Teach horses to stand still and enjoy being injected by the vet:
Teach horses to come when called even though they’ve escaped:
Worked on some TV and movie sets with horses, trained the horses for this commercial:
Teach horses to load into the trailer:
If you want to contact me, send me an email at email@example.com and if that doesn’t work – Gmail is notorious for putting your emails in the spam folder – try Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/minnahorsetraining
The Colonel’s Ill-fitting Gloves
Some fifteen years ago a friend of mine who was interested in horse friendly dressage riding found an association online which was dedicated to preserving lightness in dressage. She contacted the association and asked if there was anyone available to come to Finland and teach some ordinary amateur riders.
This is how Colonel Carde, then president of said association (Allege-Ideal), also former ecuyer in chief of the Cadre Noir, French National Team Coach and member of the French Olympic Team began to hold clinics in Finland.
They still continue: the Colonel will teach at two clinics in Mäntsälä, Southern Finland, in May and June 2017. I warmly recommend anyone who is interested in riding to be in the audience.
Colonel Carde in 2016.
[joke]Now let’s talk about me[/joke]
A few words about my background when I first started auditing Colonel Carde’s clinics. I’ve been riding from the mid-seventies when I was a kid and have been interested in dressage more or less since then. In the 1980’s I saw Kyra Kyrklund training a young Matador and I still remember clearly a mare called Tosca, ridden by Eeva Holmström, because she had the best extended trot I had ever seen. I watched a lot of training and competitions in dressage, working as a freelance equestrian journalist and photographer.
I also had the opportunity to watch and photograph international shows, among others the Hamburg Derby where an 8 year old Rubinstein II debuted at Grand Prix level and Dr. Reiner Klimke showed Biotop. I also followed the World Championship dressage with interest and conflicting emotions in 1998, when rollkur was already on the scene and horses like Donnerhall competed against the new wave.
So I had watched a lot of dressage and tried to learn as much as I could.
The Ill-fitting Gloves
When Colonel Carde came to give clinics in Finland he still often rode the horses himself to train them and give the rider the correct feeling. I was in the audience at the first clinic, watching with interest. The first ten minutes I saw him riding I remember thinking that he had very badly fitting gloves on as he seemed to lose his grip on the reins all the time and take a new grip.
The horse was of the kind which easily hollowed, put his head up and chewed the bit while leaning on the reins. Was for a while longer, but then he changed. He flexed at the poll, rounded his neck and back, stepped softer and moved more flexibly. His mouth quietened and relaxed. He became calmer, and more content. All in those ten minutes.
I don’t remember the exact moment I realised that there was nothing wrong with the fit of the Colonel’s gloves. Probably someone wiser than me mentioned it. This was not my best moment as a spectator, but I did realise how little I knew.
Colonel Carde relaxed his fingers to reward the horse as soon as the contact improved. At the beginning every few seconds. It was just a topic I’d hardly heard mentioned before this and certainly not often enough. The horse was allowed to try different things, but when it stopped resisting the contact for a second, it was rewarded by giving the reins. Repeated that often and with such skill, the change was obvious and quick. This is operant conditioning at it’s best: The horse was allowed to learn from the consequences of his own actions.
”As soon as the horse yields, you give”
I have had the opportunity to watch enough of Colonel Carde’s riding and training and he truly has an exceptional understanding of both horses and dressage. The kind of classical dressage (I hesitate to use the word classical because of some of the odder riding having that name added to it) where ordinary horses are trained to move better and better all the time. I’ve seen the best riders in the world but in my opinion Colonel Carde is still in a class of his own as a rider.
I also hadn’t previously seen working on collection without at the same time holding the horse back; horses finding a peaceful cadence while keeping active. I also got to hear the perfect answer to the question of whether raising the horse’s neck will help with collection: “Yes, but only if the horse is round.” Round meaning flexed at the poll, withers up, not nose behind the vertical.
Round horse. Four beat walk. Colonel Carde and Junker in 2005.
“Horses are nice creatures. If they understand, they do.”
How can this knowledge be transferred so that it isn’t lost? The secret to good dressage training isn’t complicated but it certainly isn’t easy either. It is a combination of tradition and feel, knowledge of the horse and practical application.
I once read a book, where biologist Mark Carwardine and author Douglas Adams chronicled their search for what were then the most endangered species of the planet. It was aptly named Last Chance to See.
I hope that Colonel Carde will continue to share his knowledge for fifteen years more. I hope his students are able to preserve what he has been showing them all these years.
Various studies have shown that too tight (tighter than in the image above) nosebands/cavessons will compromise horse welfare. Tight nosebands also press the cheeks into the sharp edges of the teeth, often causing discomfort and sores inside the mouth. Be smart. Check your nosebands. And it’s not the crank noseband (as in the picture) that is the problem, it’s how tight it’s fastened.
McGreevy, Paul, Amanda Warren-Smith, and Yann Guisard. “The effect of double bridles and jaw-clamping crank nosebands on temperature of eyes and facial skin of horses.” Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research 7.3 (2012): 142-148.
Natural or Not?
We can only train horses to do things they have the ability to. Yes, we can train them and make them stronger, more supple, more eager to work. But we cannot train a horse to do a back flip.
Every time we sit on a horse, we upset his balance. This doesn’t mean that the horse cannot, after training, do almost as well with a rider than without. What it means is that we should train the horse in hand first, so he has the opportunity to find his balance without a rider. This gives him the opportunity to start building the right kind of strength and flexibility for whatever it is he will do later under a rider.
Let’s train our horses so that they have the best chance to succeed! When the horse learns that people never ask him to do impossible things, his trust in both people and cooperating with people will grow.
Yes, you can train a horse to piaffe in a forward-down-out stretch. Even a fat little pony, provided his conformation makes it possible.
The Beginning of the End?
I I were a media strategist, I would have done it on purpose. Adelinde Cornelissen couldn’t have hoped for better luck than the [false] rumour spreading like wildfire: That her horse Parzival had suffered a hairline fracture to the jaw which caused the need for the rider to pull up in the middle of the Grand Prix in Rio.
Misdirection of Attention
If you aren’t a horse person and/or you have missed this, the horse stuck out his tongue as far as he could in the middle of the dressage test and the rider decided to retire. Not permanently – the rider that is – but for the 19-year-old horse Rio was supposed to be the final show. Now newspapers have been running sob stories about the heroic rider who quit the Olympics “to save her horse”. Hw she loves her horse. How he is the most important thing to her.
(What apparently happened was that an NBC reporter mixed up two horses, one show jumper really suffering from a hairline fracture and Parzival, who suffered from a suspected insect bite. I don’t really believe any media strategist was involved.)
But I think I’ve read something similar in the hilarious book version of the BBC TV series “Yes, minister.” I suspect that in politics it’s done all the time. Smoke screens. Misdirection of attention. Politician gets caught doing something embarrassing. As news of the impropriety is about to break, the powers behind said politician plant another, much more radical piece of news. Something that isn’t true. The result? The second piece of news is discredited, vehmently so, proof of its inaccuracy is presented, much righteous indignation aired. Mostly it works well: the initial scandal is forgotten in the furore.
Who is the Enemy?
Let’s be clear on one point: I don’t disapprove of competitive dressage. I’m not your enemy. I actually think that horses can be ridden, transported and shown without their well being being compromised too much. It can be done, if done properly.
I do however object to horses suffering because of competitive dressage or any other sport. In my opinion, no valid justification exists for causing an animal suffering because you want to compete. I especially object to sugar-coating something that should be the cause of universal disapproval. Something that in itself could – and in my opinion should – be the end of the FEI having control of horse welfare during competition.
What happened, if the news stories are true, was this: Parzival, was taken ill on a Tuesday. High fever, swelling on the head. He was treated by a vet, given intravenous fluids and the fever went down. All well and good. These things happen. Bad luck.
What happened next is the part I still have some difficulty believing. In spite of this, more than one veterinarian (Dutch team and FEI) and the rider herself decided that the horse was fit to compete the following day. The horse, as the world saw, was not. If you have ever had a high fever you know that you’re not fit to exert yourself in any way the following day.
That is what really happened. Disregard the rumour of the fractured jaw. It is completely irrelevant. The FEI vets, the Dutch team vets and the rider all let the horse down. This to me is evidence enough to prove that the FEI isn’t capable of taking the welfare of the horse into appropriate consideration. The team vets and rider certainly weren’t.
If we want to keep horses in the Olympics and keep the social license for horse sport at all – and after this case, and the two jumping riders being eliminated today because of excessive spur and whip use, it may well be the beginning of the end of horses in the Olympics – there is an obvious need for truly impartial experts monitoring the welfare of the horses. The FEI has failed spectacularly.
This poor horse is not in the Olympics.
It is perfectly possible to train and show horses without making them suffer. I think that it’s time to make changes from within before they are made from without as happened to commercial greyhoumd racing in New South Wales.
Edited to add: No, it’s not the double bridle. It’s what you do with it. In the image below: Coco Paradieso ridden by Mia Kainulainen in Colonel Carde’s clinic in Finland.