About the Latest Dressage Scandal Involving the FEI No Blood Rule

I have been thinking now for two days about the latest competition dressage scandal due to the application of the FEI blood rule.

My thoughts are, in no particular order:

  • The FEI dressage is a faulty system that promotes incorrect riding. The horses have lost their proud and beautiful expression and are presented with lots of tension and pressure. The horse with the highest front leg action and the least hind leg engagement wins. It’s dressage turned upside down.
  • The competition system hasn’t done dressage riding any good, it’s on a steady decline. With all our knowledge today and our technology, we ride much worse than 50 years ago. Less and less exercises are shown with decreasing correctness. It seems that the only soft and correct riding is done by riders who don’t compete, or compete on a low level.
  • In my opinion, animals should not be involved in a performance competition. The competition should only be with ourselves, to become better and more knowledgeable each day, and not to become better than others or win over others. There is a big difference if I teach someone to win or I teach how to ride well. If we compete in a discipline that only involves our own body, we are free to make decisions over that. But when the body and mind of another being are involved, that raises a lot of ethical questions. We can find proof of that in all equestrian disciplines.
  • It is not necessary to apply so much pressure in horse education that bleeding becomes a possibility. Horses feel the wind on their skin, they are not dumb machines, and they can learn to understand the finest aids.
  • In any discussion related to the topic, substitute the word “horse” for “child” and see what different standards we set! “Children have sensitive skin and a little bleeding can happen, it is unfortunate but everyone who is involved in the training of competition children knows that these things do occur.” See what I mean?
  • Animal welfare organisations are already targeting horse sports, and rightfully so, one might ad. There are more than enough ugly pictures to prove their point. As long as so much sponsor money is involved, not much will change, but if that system should stop working one day, I see a good possibility that all riders will be affected by the ban of certain equipment or certain things we can do with horses. The FEI is giving all of us a bad name! I virtually have to explain all of my non-horse friends that dressage is not as cruel and crude as on TV…
  • We should all stop supporting this system. We can do more than we think: stay away from events, don’t watch it on TV or the internet, don’t buy from sponsors, don’t buy the books or online videos. The rules of capitalism are what has shaped this ugly way of riding, so the same rules can stop it again. It seems that just being a good example is not enough. There are plenty of good examples, all over the world, and all the information about correct and incorrect riding is available to everyone. Nobody can say they didn’t know any better. The system willingly and consciously promotes wrong riding, we should all be aware of that. This is not an accident. Wrong riding is rewarded by judges, and whoever wins gets the sponsor money. You cannot tell me that all judges are collectively blind. The emperor is naked, and everyone can see it. Don’t support this system!
  • We look upon the past with raised eyebrows, such as animal fights in the theatres of the Renaissance. But imagine a child in 50 years finding all those terrible pictures of competition dressage and asking, why we did that, or why nobody stopped it? What do you say? That usually, the rider trained very soft at home and all these “moments” were accidents and it can happen to everyone?
  • I love my job and I love dressage. I just hope that these happenings will not make my job impossible one day.


Many greetings to all horse lovers around the world,

6 Comments on “About the Latest Dressage Scandal Involving the FEI No Blood Rule

  1. The only thing that I can add to your perceptive commentary is that the shortsightedness of human beings never ceases to amaze me. The current trends being rewarded in competitive dressage, as with a lot of other horse sports, are headed toward becoming meaningless dead ends. As judging standards reward more and more stylized dressage movements, we will inevitably get to the point where the judges’ hair-splitting in the giving of scores becomes functionally meaningless.

    To illustrate what I mean, take a look at competitive ice-skating, whose standards are similar to those in dressage.
    In the top echelon of the sport, the difference between winning and coming second is often expressed as 1/100 of a point that turns upon a disagreement about how perfect a particular jump or spin is. Spectators can’t tell the difference between the best skaters because, truthfully, often there really isn’t any difference. But because the judging system has to have a “winner, “ the scoring has become largely inexplicable and oddly unrelated to actual performance. The top ice skaters’ main objective is not to make a mistake. Only once in a blue moon does an ice skater win while performing loosely, freely, and with enjoyment.

    Is this what we want in dressage?

  2. I used to volunteer to work at the ”four star’ dressage training facility near me when they had tests. I always volunteered to do bit check After three years of seeing the TD either sit on her butt as far as she could from the ring, or have to chase her down when I had issues with a 4th level rider who insisted that her horse’s cavesson was NOT too tight, I just had ”fat fingers”, or the 4th level rider who complained that I checked her horse ‘last time’…different horse, mind you..I gave up. I realized that they weren’t playing by the rules, and resented my doing so. And the one who suffers in the end is the horse.

    • But the vast number of competitors do not cheat because they know you will catch them. For that reason, I continue to volunteer.Bonnie

      I have also been a bit checker. I have had a similar experience, but it turned out differently. I was also required to check the length of the whip that each rider carried. One time, in 100°F heat, a trainer riding a horse in a fourth level test wanted to argue that her whip was not 6 inches too long. I just looked at her and said, “Gee, my measuring stick says differently. But if you’d like to wait here for the Technical Delegate, I can always try to find her.” When I showed no signs of being intimidated, her husband, who was hovering nearby, walked up and handed her a whip have an appropriate length. I think some abusive riders feel that volunteers can be intimidated. When you’re not, sometimes that moves mountains. It was 100°F that day, but I had to stand there regardless of whether I stuck to my guns or not. I didn’t know the technical delegate, so I was not sure what she would’ve done had she had to come over. Yes, you do see abuses like that at dressage shows, so I empathize with your story. But the vast number of competitors do not cheat because they know you will catch them. For that reason, I continue to volunteer.

  3. I’ve been out of the “competitive” horse world for a few years, but every time I see upper level events, all I can do is critique, LOL. It is sad that the lovely movements like piaffe and passage have been turned into grades instead of a true way of testing collection and harmony between horse and rider. You voiced what I’ve only been thinking:)

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