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The Center Line by Caroline Larrouilh

The Center Line by Caroline Larrouilh

There is a clear line bisecting the arena. On one side are Four Schools, and hundreds of years of training, which has led to a number of training approaches that all have at the core a share appreciation for the horse as an individual, a desire to foster a harmonious relationship and develop him putting his welfare and emotional, physical and mental well being first.

The connection between horse and rider is considered artful. It enriches the rider AND the horse.

On the other side: Competitive Hyperflexion – one single school also know under the name: Rollkur and more recently LDR. A short history but a controversial one. Believes the good dressage horses have to perform on the Edge. The Edge of what? Insanity? Nervous breakdown? Lives by the maxim:

Dressage is a difficult sport. It is not a matter of IF but WHEN a dressage horse will be lame.

Believes injections, lameness and surgery are part and parcel of the dressage experience. Puts submission, first. Brilliance at the cost of the horse’s nervous central system, first. Puts showing first and enriches the rider but not the horse.

On our side, because there are different schools and sub-schools, egotists fight with each other to establish THEIR ways superiority.

On the other side, there is only one school and they are all busy taking over dressage, rewriting the rules and making fun at our side. They only have one egotist and they all follow him enthusiastically: He wins them gold.

We have to support each other to succeed, we have to look beyond politics and ego and find the common ground and stand on it firmly. We should extend the same curtesy to one another as we do our horses. We should be in and out of the barn, with horses and with humans equally gracious in debate or in agreement.

And we have to judge people on their body of work and actions, their commitment and the choices they make every day, and have for years.

As long as all the little chiefs fight to be bigger than the next chief over, as long as treaties and alliances are just hot air and last the time of a photo opp, Dressage will remain an endangered species.

I ask the representatives of our side of the Line not to call each other friend lightly but build relationships, work together, learn FROM each other and in doing so make our side stronger, make our side the only choice, if you want your horse sound and happy into its old age. If you want your riding to be more meaningful then a pilate session on steroid. If your horse is your friend first, and a vehicle for your ambitions second.

Support the people who are on our side, on your side even if you do not agree with all of their message, if their message is grounded into sound biomechanics and respect for the horse then a bridge can be built on what matters most: the horse.

If your particular little chief engages in battle, refuse to follow and remind them that united we stand, and divided we fall. And fall and fall. Put the horse first.

The Center Line is being squeezed more and more to the side and we are loosing ground. We have lost ground. How long before we are out of the Arena completely? Irrelevant and obsolete. And then what? Will we just wring our hands some more?

I expect more from the horsemen and women I choose to learn from. I expect the intelligence to know that without a coalition and a joining of forces, horses are doomed to be turned in mechanics. If adults do not start behaving as such then between Competitive Hyperflexion and Nouveau Horsemanship du Jour, traditional dressage, traditional horsemanship will keep gasping and eventually die.

Less lip service and more actions and we may make a difference yet. I certainly hope so.

Support Article 401. Respect the Rules. Protect the Horses.

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Anky Van Grunsven Accidentally Shows Her Slip

Anky Van Grunsven Accidentally Shows Her Slip

When I was a child, rude behavior, snarky comments, and general expression of my mischievous streak were greeted with this sotto voce comment from my mother: “Kim, your slip is showing.” A reference to what at the time (and especially in the South!) was an unacceptable deviation from decency. Your undergarments (and your true self) were not to be aired in public.

It appears that Anky Van Grunsven, arguably the creator of Rollkur, has flipped up her dress and waggled her slip for the world to see in threatening emails to Astrid Appels of

image courtesy the Daily Telegraph

See the press release from Astrid below.

Date: Wed, 25 Aug 2010 00:03:58 +0200
Subject: Press Release
To: Astrid Appels

Press Release


Team trainer Dutch Dressage Team Threathens Journalist!

Goal of Lawsuit: Anky van Grunsven demands removal of photo and claims damages

The renowned dressage rider Anky van Grunsven feels defamated by equestrian journalist Astrid Appels of According to Anky images of her horses can not be connected to the controversial rollkur training method. This is a system developed by Anky and her trainer and life partner Sjef Janssen in which the horse is bending its neck in an extreme way.

Following years of research and a conclusion by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI), the Dutch Equestrian Federation (KNHS) has decided in February that, “as of today hyperflexion/rollkur is seen as an aggressive way of a deep moving horse. This is forbidden as well as any head-neck position which is obtained in an aggressive way.
The LDR-method, on the other hand, obtains a deep bending of the neck without force and this is allowed.”

Much has been written about this controversial system in combination with animal welfare. And so has journalist Astrid Appels who has paid attention to this topic on her website Through highly aggressive and intimidating emails Anky van Grunsven and Sjef
Janssen have tried to prevent this, but Appels appeals to the freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

In his correspondence Sjef Janssen has sweared at Appels like a sailor. A few quotes:
“You are a tiny miserable figure”
“You’ll be next”
“You’re totally deranged”
“You’re just pathetic”
“You continue to be a super bitch”
“you belong in line with the German journalist mafia”

Appels is shocked by these intimidating and slanderous remarks by the official team trainer of The Netherlands and considers taking necessary legal steps against this.

This court case will start in Hertogenbosch on 8 September 2010.

Appels is represented by Mr. J.A. Weda

Wow. This shows just what the big name riders have to lose if stripped of their methods. Recrimination and anger of this magnitude do nothing to further the sport. Enough is enough. Bad faith, abuse, misrepresentation, and outright threats reveal participants to be manipulative and unpleasant behind closed doors. Vicious emails have a way of becoming public. See?

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BIG News on the Dressage Front

But not big in the way you expect, given the recent spate of FEI-related posts. And now for something completely different:

From Fran Jurga, a report that on Friday, July 16th, under the motto, the heavy brigade is on its way, 70 draft horses of various breeds (called “cart horses” in Europe), as well as carriages and working teams will compete in the First North Rhine-Westphalian (NRW) Cart Horse Day at Aachen.

The dressage riders and show jumpers will need to keep a tight rein on their mounts when these fellows rumble by. The refined warmbloods will be face-to-face with their cold-blooded root-stock. And they’d better watch out that the big boys don’t steal their show, or at least inspire a children’s book or two.

My all-time favorite and most beloved mare is a Percheron. Millie taught me everything. Maira is half Percheron. Windsong’s Justa Firestorm is a Percheron stallion. His son, “Buster,” is Perch/TB. You get the drift. Their nobility and grace, and courage in stressful times cannot be matched. Millie and I tried dressage. It was an unparalleled disaster. Not only am I terrible at dressage, but Millie’s typical but beautiful draft conformation naturally made it difficult for her to rock back on her haunches and carry herself properly. It was a battle. Why torture her for no good reason? We decided to stick with what we do best–hunt for a couple of hours and go home, triumphant. Trail ride and enjoy it immensely.

Below I have posted a YouTube video of a Percheron training that really takes me back. I believe that what you see in this video is typically what you get when trying to get a draft horse to do dressage. Draft horses. Conformationally appropriate? No. Willing? Yes. Capable? Yes (????)

I hopehopehope that the beauties of Aachen wow them with more than just the rumbling of the earth! I’d give quite a lot to be there.

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