Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Amazing or artificial - or both?

Have a look at the clip below and see what you think. Here is Jane Tweedie's blog post, after being at the Europeans:

The horses these days have more and more comic-book movement. They look so unnatural and few of them stay sound for long.... although given how they are ridden, I'd go lame pretty darn fast too.

Having said that, one rider and horse did look better than the rest, the horse was calm on a long rein after the test. This horse looked like he found it pretty easy, and didn't need a continual stream of yanking and poking to get the movements. It all flowed. He was, however sweating like a demon, and I can't say he looked like he was enjoying himself, but at least wasn't actively being hoiked around. I don't like the movement, and I don't like the training methods behind it, but it did look like a less unpleasant experience for the horse and oh to be able to ride like the rider and use it for good not for medals at the expense of the horse!

Not one of the others we saw were the same, they all yanked, leant back, hollowed their backs and braced against the horse to hold it in. Meanwhile, spurs a jabbing. It looked awful.

There has been a lot of discussion about this over the last couple of days online, and I am with Caroline Trayes, who posted on www.smartiesdiary.blogspot.com:

I watched the Totilas freestyle on uTube last night. The horse is enthralling. The ease with which he does phenomenal movements is unbelievable. His down transitions, from full extension in trot into a halt with no intervening stride in a smaller trot, for example, are extraordinary. BUT. I am unhappy about where dressage is going with this. Wonderful as he is, he is not natural. He is an extreme of selective breeding that I fear will end up like the worst of show dogs. In fact it may already have done so. I wonder just how many horses are not staying sound to his age, nine, and how much longer he himself will be able to go on producing such incredibly extravagent movement without getting arthritis or tendon strains. It just doesn't feel right to me, it feels as if we are heading for future international dressage competition to be full of genetically engineered freaks........
Although there is a lot to admire when you see it, I have the same sense of unease. As a matter of interest, and bringing this back to hooves for a second, Caroline had a fantastic young KWPN who went abroad earlier this year. I'd seen him as a 4 year old and he had the most stunning fluid natural movement I've ever seen. In his first ever dressage test he scored 69%...but then the new owners decided they needed to shoe him to "improve" his movement. It may impress the judges to artificially change his stride, but again its a question of long-term soundness.

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