Saturday, October 10, 2009

Beauty or Brutality?

Watching a top dressage horse perform is like watching poetry in motion; the movement, power and grace exhibited is truly breathtaking, deeply moving and awe inspiring....

I know very little about what it takes to make a dressage horse perform at this level, if the training practises used are humane or if what is being asked of the horse is fair. When I see a horse perform like the one below, some small detached part of my brain wonders if what I am watching is beauty or brutality....

What do you think?


  1. I know nothing of how to make a horse move like that, but I'd be interested to know. I was amused by the female announcer's comment that the horse has to be careful not to hit himself in the teeth with his own knees.

  2. I don't see any brutality there. Absolutely beautiful! The horse doesn't look unhappy at all, other than some tail swishing at one point, which may not be irritation.

    You'd have to look behind the scenes to know how the horses are kept and trained, but I think the horse looked happy enough. I've heard stories of dressage horses treated terribly, and being unhappy in their minds, but I'd imagine you could only get to the big-time with a horse who enjoys his job. Of course I could be wrong.

    I also think you'll find a lot more bad things going on in western sports. I love how they kept referring to this horse as being very young at the age of nine. This compared to western horses competing as 2 year olds. Dressage horses are very slowly conditioned to do the work they do.

    I tend to think that any time people are competing for big money the horse is the one who's going to pay. Stall vices, ulcers, scarring from spurs, big bad bits, horrible shoeing jobs, nerving, soring, cranking the mouth shut, cutting the tongue off, etc. It's depressing.

  3. Beauty - the natural movement is enhanced by proper collection. As far as I'm aware (at least at the barn I ride at) dressage horses get very few training equipment used on them - unlike some of the gaited breeds (I used to ride Arabians). Plus they wear plain jane shoes. If the horse was truely unhappy it would reflect in the dressage score - there's one (I think its called this) for obeidence.

  4. It is undeniably beautiful. But unnatural, nontheless. My bosse's wife is a Prix St. George level dressage rider. She is not brutal in her training methods, unless you count...NEVER letting the horse relax, and I mean never. He has issues with his back, his neck and all four limbs. There are many, many big-time dressage trainers who are ruthless and I would describe their training methods as nothing less than brutal. But, like someone else said...when money and prestige are at stake...the horse is ALWAYS the one who pays. Very sad. That having been said - there are some dressage trainers, and some western trainers who are not brutal and choose to conserve the horse and not use him up and throw him away for a newer model.

  5. I think when ever you get in to upper levels of any sport training is HARD! Look at gymnasts, their training to me seems really brutal. It's hard work. It's like that in any sport. With people and horses. I think the outcome of a beautiful reining horse is wonderful, but some would think that the training to get there is brutal. A lot of people out there don't realize what it takes to make great horses, it's not just loving and patting and brushing. I remember the first time I watched a trainer really "train" a horse. I was like, "Ahh, he is so mean!" But then I learned about training.

    That dressage horse by no means wants to walk or trot like that, but he is asked to and obeys. It's a well trained horse. If it were up to the animal he would be eating grass in a pasture. So, I think all well trained animals and people do through some kind of rigorous training that some days can be brutal. To me that is what makes the difference between good and great. You don't see certain "natural" horseman out there doing those moves!! LOL don't get me wrong, they are good, but that dressage horse is great!

    But that's just my opinion. I think dieting is brutal! LOL

  6. Beautiful horse, beautiful ride. The horse is not unhappy; if he were, his mouth would be either dry or slobbering. I would have liked to see him stretch out (relax) more at the walk. (Not for the score but for the chance to relax.)

    I think the rider spent way too much time in the passage - that very suspended trot. That and the piaffe require more muscular effort from the horse than anything else in dressage.

    Because his head was behind the vertical a lot, I suspect he was trained by "rolkur," a method I do not like. It's another "hurry-up" method, and is not good for the horse.

    Here I am, sounding like some high-powered expert. It's all book knowledge, beginning with this website .

    Ruthie, soon to be a "re-rider"

  7. That was a gorgeous, gorgeous ride! I don't see abuse- I see lots of schooling and wet blankets in getting there. My horses enjoy it when I ride with focus and purpose as much as when I mosey/trail ride.