So where do we go from here? Do we sit back, relax and believe the authorities when they tell us they are on it, on our side and most particularly, on the side of the horse? OK, that one’s easy for me. That would be – Nooo. Horse and Hound writes that more scientific research is planned by the FEI, supported by their new partner, World Horse Welfare, and that this will eventually:
"…help to clarify whether the controversial training method constitutes abuse of the horse.
"This will also put to rest the minds of hundreds of equestrians who raise concerns whenever this practice — riding the horse overbent from the wither along the poll — takes place in public.”
Well, that may be a touch naďve. I do believe there are more than hundreds of us, and my mind will not be put to rest unless the FEI bans Rollkur and extended periods of overflexing in general. It’s that simple as far as I’m concerned. So far neither the FEI or, I am sad to say, World Horse Welfare, have inspired much confidence in me. And frankly, no scientific study will ‘prove’ to me that this is just dandy when my eyes, heart and common sense tell me it’s wrong.
Now, one caveat here. I happen to be one of those irrational people who do not bow down and believe in what science tells us to be some perfect, inescapable truth. I do not hold doctors and scientists above reproach or questioning, or, egads! disbelief, whether I like their study or not. My husband recently went to four different doctors and underwent three major tests for severe abdominal pain. It was all a mystery until a massage therapist friend suggested a psoas release. Presto, 45 minutes later, pain gone. So much for doctors. They don’t always find the truth or know where to look either.
Looking back over the history of science, for every scientist claiming his key to the truth, there is usually another with his study to disprove it, and preferably it seems, this should be presented with a fair amount of ridicule of the previous study. So far, the Rollkur studies are right on track.
A few years back, Dr. Hilary Clayton conducted a by now famous study with force plates, in which she concluded – with no bias or conferring any judgement on this data - that among the horses tested, many were not transferring weight to their hind end.
"In many top dressage horses, the weight does not shift significantly from the front to the hind limbs as the horse becomes more collected. However, a few horses do show a marked weight shift, and seem to be the horses that are particularly well balanced. Therefore, balance may indeed be related to the horse's ability to carry more weight on the hindquarters, but the absence of this ability does not preclude a horse from competing successfully at the highest levels of competition."
Dr. Hilary Clayton
Reading this, I was inclined to conclude that a serious error had occurred in their training. Some did not reach the same conclusion.
Classicalist Paul Belasik to the rescue. His horse showed a high degree of collection through lightening of the forehand. As he piaffed into a levade on the forceplate, it showed that his horse lifted from the hind end, and did not push off from his front end. Somehow, this was never given much gravitas by those committed to the by now fully fledged idea of ‘competition style’ dressage. Further science does not trump science once minds are made up….
"The force on St. Graal's forelegs did not increase as he went from piaffe to levade. Instead, the muscles of the hindquarters, abdomen and back pulled his front end up and back over his hind legs."
Dr. Hilary Clayton
So I personally don’t know how or why I am expected to put so much faith in what has already proven itself to be riddled with fault lines, contradictions and yes, personal and all too human rivalries and even politics. I do know that in the last few hundred years, Science has become the new God, and if you can’t prove it through some ‘by science peers deemed appropriate’ study, it just does not pass inspection, it cannot be proven true, and you’re just a sad little bundle of useless, non scientific, brain matter. Furthermore, as Animal Science shows again and again, the criteria and goal posts are often moved when they have already been met, simply because those results don’t line up with what the other half wants to hear. My article Freedom of Expression talks about that. Scientists themselves, in the end, decide who and what they will believe – the science of it notwithstanding.
Because even scientists, diplomas and geeky genius reputations notwithstanding, are human and given to hidden personal bias and agendas, and if they don’t like the result, or if it may place in jeopardy their own personal gravy train, they may hide, suppress and outright manipulate data to their satisfaction. Just look at last week's “Climategate”, a clear case in point. What’s Climategate? Global warming, regardless of whether you believe in it or not, has become big business and now scientists are fighting to keep it that way, to the point of suppressing contradictory evidence. But as always, the truth will out, and emails were leaked as evidence of this suppression of troublesome data.
So much for science and integrity, clarity of intent or irrefutable evidence. But question a scientist because his results just don’t, well, FEEL right to you and he is likely to pull a Ghostbuster Bill Murray on you snorting: “Back off, man, I’m a scientist!”
So show me Love, show me Compassion, show me Truth measured and weighed and quantified. Give me the genetic formula of Dignity, the molecular composition of Pride, the atomic weight of Spirit. Can’t do it? Oh well, sorry, then you can’t prove to me that a Rollkur horse does not require and beg for the first three and experience the degradation of the latter. But, I guess I am getting ‘emotive’ again. That, by the way, is the politician's and scientist's way of demeaning and making invalid, your opinion.
And they are REALLY good at it. They even do it to each other. How else explain the blatant disregard in the community and by other scientists and vets, of not only