VOLUME 51 • © HORSES For LIFE™ Magazine
THE WARMING-UP DEBATE
BY RAISING THE HEAT: The FEI does it again
Robert Cook FRCVS, PhD
19 April 2010
The April 15th 2010 pronouncement from the FEI Bureau reminds me of the story of the schoolboy who, when asked why he did so badly in the exam said, “I thought it was going to be in the afternoon.”
The warming-up ring is now referred to, I see, as the training arena. Perhaps it has always had this designation. Silly me. I had assumed that horses were already trained when they arrived and only needed to be warmed up, a process for which 15-30 minutes is surely adequate.(2) But if they still have to be trained, no wonder that such prolonged and draconian “techniques” are to be employed at the ninth hour.
To name the warming-up ring as the training arena seems to exemplify the short-cut training philosophy apparently being condoned by the present-incumbent-administrators-of-the-FEI (PIAFEI ... pronounced ‘piaffy’). Never mind! If one hour of training is not sufficient, the PIAFEI have thoughtfully made provision for this to be doubled or even tripled. Three hours should do it. Away with the need for those boring years of preparation.
“Only in exceptional circumstances and with the permission of the Chief Steward, may a pre-competition training session exceed one hour. There should be at least one hour break between any training/warm-up periods.”
On first glance, I did see a glimmer of light in the second paragraph of the new guidelines - to wit:
“The Working Group was also insistent that abuse of the horse should be avoided and, in particular, stressing the horse, aggressive riding and inflicting pain and/or discomfort on the horse must be prevented.”
As the author of a book that carries the sub-title “The abusive effect of bitted bridles” I interpreted the paragraph as a clear instruction to the stewards to disqualify riders who were using bits. A couple of metal rods transfixing a sensitive body cavity clearly stresses a horse, is aggressive, and causes pain and discomfort. But wait ... perhaps this is another of those doublespeak occasions that the PIAFEI are so good at, whereby they say one thing but do not implement it in practice.
When I followed the URL provided in the April 15th guidelines, I read something that utterly bewildered me. Yet, at the same time it explained why I am having so much difficulty in understanding what the PIAFEI really mean. Obviously, they do not use words to mean what they used to mean. Here is the brief that the Round Table Conference gave to the Working Group:
“The FEI will establish a Working Group, headed by Dressage Committee Chair, Frank Kemperman, to expand the current guidelines for stewards to facilitate the implementation of the policy that any form of aggressive riding must be sanctioned.”
Not able to believe my own eyes, I resorted to Webster to make sure that I correctly understood the meaning of the word sanction. Yes, the brief did indeed mean that aggressive riding was to be “authorised, ratified, confirmed, approved, encouraged and supported.”
But then, I recalled that in recent years politicians have been using the word to mean quite the opposite. As the PIAFEI are nothing if not political perhaps, using politic-speak, they meant to say - at least in writing - that they did not approve of aggressive riding, even though, in their heart of hearts, they wished
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