We are all aware of the latest development surrounding Gerd Hershman, one of the driving forces in the anti-rolkur/hyperflexion/LDR methods of riding. For those who are not aware I will attempt to sum it up in an unbiased manner for as long as I can. But I must admit at some point my opinion will leak in. My opinion is just one of the many opinions out there so I ask that you hear my story and then hear others stories as well. Then, decide for yourselves.
Recently, GH was filmed, and knew he was being filmed, at a clinic riding a horse which was unruly. The pictures illustrate him (ironically wearing a Tshirt with an anti-rolkur logo) riding this horse with high hands and the horse having its chin to its chest though its neck is lifted unlike that which is commonly found in rolkur.
The horse was a Friesian and it is said that it was running through his aids.
When this event was reported on, in words and pictures, there was an immediate uproar.
Detractors commented on the irony of Mr. Anti-Rolkur riding this way, with high hands and the horses chin to the chest.
Advocates for GH state that the difference between what GH was doing and what riders who routinely train rolkur/hyperflexion/LDR do is that in this case what was filmed was a momentary correction and not a sustained, continual, recurring, daily method of training in the style of Anky & Co.
Some say the horse’s conformation also played a role as to the horse being chin to chest.
To add to the bru-ha-ha was the report that GH, who had been an important member of Xenophon, had quit from them following a dispute there. The reported reason for the dispute was Phillip Karl’s reaction to some statement of GH’s dissing PK’s training techniques. (You can probably google this plus there is stuff on Facebook as well.) So PK goes public with his reaction (something PK has done before in a dispute with another person) and basically adds that GH should have stuck with the veterinary/biomechanics OF the horse and not continue his riding and training ON the horse.
The detractors maintain that these pictures and accompanying report are just part of the rest of the story being played out and also therefore substantiate PK’s position.
As we are all in the horse world we know that it is common for two horsemen to have disputes and in every case there are two sides of the story. This is one of them and in all fairness to GH we don’t have the other.
The story and pictures of the whole Xenophon drama were then exacerbated by the German Federation quietly bidding a fond adieu to GH as well.
For the LDRists, this was a stunning *GOTCHA!* moment, one which presented opportunity that must be taken. And so the feeding frenzy began.
Now, with the world watching (and more importantly TYPING) keyboards in equestrian homes and offices around the world began to click furiously. Other side dramas began to play out and hairs greyed upon many an equestrian scalp.
In timing considered almost too ironic to be coincidence the FEI suddenly and quietly decided to cast aside the hopes of 41,000 petitioners and removed the 10 minute limit rule for rolkur/hyperflexion/LDR in the warm up ring at FEI sanctioned events.
I guess they could smell GH’s blood all the way to Switzerland.
(Opinion Alert: Sharks, hyenas and vultures have similar long distance carrion sniffing capabilities)
This all being said I ask that we now all pause. I ask we take a moment to take a nice, long, collective breath.
Okay. Here we go. This is the opinion part.
In regard to GH most of us agree that his great contributions regarding biomechanics are worthy and that he is a great advocate for a methodology of training and riding that I refer to as riding “Classically” as opposed to “Drastically”.
I would hope that most of you would agree on this point.
As to what occurred in this clinic, or in other sessions with GH riding we could debate all day, but what is FAR more important is that the furor over the FEI’s latest action not be derailed by the global judging of GH’s riding.
I would also hope that many of you agree with the position that this latest secretive move by the FEI removing the 10 minute time limit not be tolerated.
I have come to the belief that critique of GH’s riding is now yesterday’s news. This is my position and I implore you to rather focus on the future of equestrian sport and the promotion of humane principles within that sport. That means taking a good, hard look at the FEI.
What is the FEI? Well, simplified it is an entity which produces horse shows, albeit global ones. It is a show producer.
Here is a link to Wikipedia which defines it as such http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Federation_for_Equestrian_Sports
Further, you can check out their mission statement here
Their words seem to mention the welfare of the horse a lot, but as we can see their actions speak louder these days.
By their own definition they are RECOGNIZED by the IOC (International Olympic Committee) but they aren’t the Olympics themselves. Therefore, an organization such as the IOC could decide to go with a different show producer, especially if the public demands it.
So we, “the publics” have to demand it.
Problem is there is no one else to choose from. There should be. There is no reason why equestrian sport has to be a monopoly. Just like the phone company was broken up into many other companies to combat the monopoly, the FEI should have competition by another entity when it comes to producing shows. Like some equestrian Anti-trust action.
This other entity I’ll call for the sake of this writing “FEIsn’t”. The mission statement of the FEIsn’t could be to promote all the ideals sacred to the ART of equestrian riding as opposed to what we see now.
Who would run the FEIsn’t?
I don’t care, but I’m perfectly willing to be one of their good little soldiers as long as the ideals of humane riding are upheld. I would fully support a show producer where the horses aren’t offered up as sacrificial lambs.
I would also imagine it would have to be done by some force, individual or entity which has substantial global influence and organizational capabilities. It could not be done by someone like me, a mere pimple on the ass of the equestrian world. (Although you have to admit the amateurs are the ones with few, if any, ulterior financial motives.)
I bet a lot of us, amateur and professional alike, are of like mind in regard to their supporting of an alternative.
Where would this FEIsn’t get the money?
Were any nations National Team brave, they could contribute to the FEIsn’t instead of or in addition to funding the FEI. I could imagine the Brits being brave enough to try. That’s how the FEI gets money – from the National Teams. You know those. They are the ones that send YOU little things in the mail asking for your financial support. I just got one yesterday from USEF.
Now, I won’t pretend to be “in the know” to be knowledgeable of everyone’s or every team’s personal agendas. But I might bet that some team out there might consider playing in a new sand box.
This alternative FEIsn’t show producer would run shows and offer prizes just like the FEI does. Prizes could be money or prestige (medals, ribbons, cups, etc.) and so riders would benefit. The prestige prizes would also financially assist the winners (most of whom are trainers/breeders and not amateurs anyway) in getting customers.
Whose books or DVD’s would YOU buy? One who rides with the FEI or one who rides with the FEIsn’t?
All the teams, riders, sponsors, equestrian fans, etc. who embrace more classical principles and who are against rolkur/hyperflexion/other practices deemed inhumane would flock to the FEIsn’t and sponsors who wanted to be associated with such principles would spend their dollars there. And they would get lots of customers because the rest of us would have decided not to purchase items from FEI sponsors. We would only purchase from FEIsn’t sponsors.
Then we, the herds of amateur and other riders would spend our money and attentions to this organization which best embraces our ideals, thus causing even more sponsorship of these events.
The FEI could still be doing their thing, with their supporters, and market commemorative stamps of Totilas in extended trot. Of course they’d have to put Totilas’ front legs on an adjoining stamp.
In this way, the entire global equestrian community can decide for themselves which path our future takes. It holds us accountable and gives us all a responsibility for determining our future.
Humans evolve, civilizations evolve. Once in a while it is peaceful, other times it takes a jolt, a revolution.
Now is the time for an equestrian Evolution Revolution. We must revolt against that which is revolting. We must evolve past where we are now.
Now is the time for us to gather ourselves, dust our asses off and get rolling.
As such, I humbly offer up this proposal. You may like it, or you may hate it. Someone might have a better idea, and if so I’ll fully support that too. I just cannot support this new status quo. I’m not playing in this sandbox anymore.
I now look to the upper echelons of the Equestrian Food Chain (the EFC?) and to equestrian societies and professionals to step up to the plate.
So, anyone willing to cowboy up?