Switzerland Bans Hyperflexion Use in Competition, Training
By Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA • Jan 03, 2014 • Article #33144
Swiss officials have enacted a law prohibiting the use of hyperflexion (also known as rollkur) in that country.
The law applies to competitive events as well as training sessions, said Regula Kennel, communications director of Switzerland’s Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO).
Originally proposed in 2008, the ban was approved in October 2013 and took effect on Jan. 1. Article 21 of the Ordonnance sur la Protection des Animaux states that it is forbidden to “require the horse to maintain its head and neck in hyperflexion (rollkur).”
The country’s refers to a description of rollkur provided by the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) in the FSVO’s explanatory statement for the law. The FEI describes the practice as “a dressage method compromising the animal’s welfare,” the statement read.
“This method, used in dressage, consists of imposing on the horse a particularly low position of the head, either by aggressive pulling on the reins or by other means, which provokes a hyperflexion of the head and neck and excessive tension in the back,” the statement added. “An exaggerated flexion of the head can thus be observed.”
However, the FSVO is not targeting all cases of rollkur, said Kennel. Some horses might naturally put themselves in hyperflexion for short periods of time, she explained, and this is not considered illegal. “It’s the method used to get the horse into the position, and not necessarily the position itself, that concerns us,” she told The Horse.
Specifically, the cases considered “problematic” for the FSVO are “extreme cases,” its statement read. Such cases are defined as “those in which the influence exercised by the rider, the means used, and the non-natural position are harmful and/or the hyperflexion of the head and neck lasts several minutes.”
This is consistent with the FEI’s decision four years ago that distinguished between “low, deep, and round” (LDR) and “rollkur.” In LDR, head and neck position are achieved without force, but “aggressive force” is used to achieve rollkur, according to a Feb. 8, 2010, statement by the FEI following a round-table discussion with industry experts.
While the FEI and several national federations prohibit rollkur in competition horses, leading to sanctions within the federation, the new Swiss law makes the practice a crime of animal abuse at the government level. Penalties have not yet been reported.
Also as of Jan. 1, Article 21 of Switzerland’s Ordonnance sur la Protection des Animaux now forbids “poling” horses—tapping horses’ legs with sticks or poles as they clear jumps in order to make them jump higher.