International Dressage Officials Club Statement Regarding the Welfare of the Horse

Friday, December 4, 2009

Antwerp, Belgium - At its General Assembly in Stuttgart, November 20th, 2009, the International Dressage Officials Club (formerly IDJC) expressed its grave concern regarding the abusive treatment of horses during the warm-up phase at FEI competitions. The recent publicity has created a public outcry that cannot be ignored and is clearly bringing the sport of dressage into a state of disrepute. The International Dressage Officials Club wholeheartedly supports all officials at FEI competitions in their efforts to bring this intolerable behaviour under control, in order to prevent any further perceived abuse of all horses being ridden under FEI rules. Competing at a dressage event is not limited to the short time spent in the actual competition area; it includes stable management in general, as well as the more extensive time spent in the warm-up and training arenas. The International Dressage Officials Club urges the FEI to bring clarification to the rules that FEI Stewards are expected to enforce and to provide the necessary back-up and support to their Stewards when needed.

It is in the International Dressage Officials Club’s opinion that those rules, applicable to all equestrian disciplines, should re-emphasize the fact that any type of abuse of the horse is strictly prohibited. With respect to hyper-flexion, it should be made clear that it is a tool that may only be used briefly and solely for corrective purposes, but not as a continuous training method. Further attention should be directed at observing that the horse’s chin should not touch the horse’s body as a result of a method of training. The International Dressage Officials Club recommends that judges be present in the warmup area whenever possible to support the Stewards in this difficult and delicate task.

The FEI rules are based on the philosophy of the horse as a happy athlete, which implies riding in harmony avoiding negative tensions and practices harmful to the horse. In this respect, the International Dressage Officials Club will remind all the dressage judges to strictly observe such an important aspect of dressage, first and foremost to preserve the welfare of the horse but also to give a proper positive image of our sport to the public and the media.

Last but not least, the International Dressage Officials Club would also like to point out that is it clearly in the best interests of our sport that the International Dressage Trainers Club and International Dressage Riders Club take responsibility for the actions of its members and are on hand at future competitions to ensure that their members are made fully aware of how to convey a correct impression to the public by treating their horses fairly and with respect.

International Dressage Officials Club
Kerkendijk 21, bus 2
2140 Antwerp (Belgium)
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