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November 24, 2009

The HSUS Releases Statement on 'Blue Tongue Dressage' Video

Video taken at FEI World Cup Dressage qualifier in Odense, Denmark

The Humane Society of the United States, the nation's largest animal protection organization, issued the following statement concerning the recent YouTube video depicting Swedish Olympic rider Patrik Kittel riding his stallion, Watermill Scandic, is a state of hyperflexion (known in the dressage world as "rollkur") at the Odense World Cup competition in Denmark. At one point, the horse's tongue is shown hanging limply from his mouth as it turns blue.

This highly controversial method of training is typically employed at the upper levels of dressage training by using the riding aids (hands, seat and leg) to hyperflex the horse's neck until his chin is almost touching his chest; often the horse is required to maintain this position for extended periods of time. While it is not known if temporary or permanent physical damage can be caused by using this method, this extreme position is unnatural for the horse and could likely cause discomfort and distress if used for an extended period of time.

"While no representative of The Humane Society of the United States witnessed the incident depicted in the video of Kittel and his stallion from the Odense World Cup, the images in the video are deeply troubling," said Holly Hazard, The HSUS's chief innovations officer. "We are pleased to see that the international governing body of equestrian sport, The Federation Equestrian Internationale, is investigating. If warranted, we urge the FEI to take appropriate disciplinary action against both Kittel and the ring stewards at the show who failed to act on Watermill Scandic's behalf."

The HSUS believes that the humane treatment and training of all horses — whether they are high-level competition horses or companion animals — should be of paramount importance to the rider, trainer, discipline and industry. We have long advocated for the use of humane training techniques (such as natural horsemanship) and have actively worked to end cruel training methods, such as the soring of Tennessee Walking Horses. 

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org.

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