Rollkür, Low Deep and Round (LDR) or hyperflexion are all names to describe a type of training that, while having been used for centuries for limited purposes and time, has become increasingly popular over the last 30 years by the top international competition riders, firstly in show-jumping and now in dressage. Rollkür consists of bringing the horse's head downwards and inwards towards the chest such that the poll is no longer the highest point and the nose is far behind the vertical. More recently, rollkür has been witnessed being used for prolonged periods when famous dressage riders were seen in the warm-up arenas at international events, riding their horses with an an extreme flexed head position for long periods of time. Often these horses are ridden in double bridles with extremely tight nosebands, preventing the horse opening his mouth to escape any pressure exerted on the roof and bars of his mouth, making him submit to the pressure and become compliant to the rider's aids. The horse's field of vision is also greatly compromised.


Critics claim this hyper-flexed position of head-carriage is greatly damaging to the horse's physical and mental welfare. Not only does it create sensory deprivation, but it can cause damage to muscles, tendons and ligaments, resulting in muscle spasms, tetanic contractions and compression of the neck, wither and shoulder muscles. It causes a decrease in air-flow, restricting oxygen to the brain and muscles and increases the production of adrenalin and other related stress hormones which, in turn, bring further welfare implications. It also puts extreme pressure on the soft tissue, muscle, nerves and bone in the horse's mouth.

The people who support the use of rollkür feel it is of great benefit to the suppling of the horse's body so that he can achieve more expressive movements in his dressage test, thus earning him higher marks.

Whilst many science trials have been carried out to determine the degree of stress and physical damage caused by rollkür, results have been varied and no definitive answer found. However, in 2008 the FEI Veterinary Committee adopted a stance on hyperflexion saying that "There are no known clinical side effects specifically arising from the use of hyperflexion, however there are serious concerns for a horse's well-being if the technique is not practiced correctly". However, the latest study, by Machteld van Dierendonck, Mirjam van Dalum, Mandy Beekmans and Janne Winter Christensen, and presented at the ISES conference 2012 at the University of Edinburgh, has shown that increases in salivary cortisol concentrations above a baseline were significantly higher after 10 minutes of riding in the hyper-flexed position, compared with the increases observed in the "competition head-position" or with the loose frame.
[A well-earned stretch. Much more worthy of the judges' marks....]

Taking all this into consideration, we at EBTA feel that using pain and pressure of any kind to force a horse into submission so that it becomes safer, easier and more supple to ride is not appropriate. We do not support this type of training, even by professionals for a limited time, let alone those of lesser ability. The horse should never have his vision impaired when being ridden. Although not proven 100 %, we feel there is enough evidence to support compromised welfare through this type of training. If we are going to ride and compete horses, we must put the horse's welfare first and not inflict pain or damage to further our own goals and achievements.

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