Are some FEI dressage tests putting unnecessary wear and tear on horses’ legs?

That is the question put by Richard Davison. At a recent H&H round table discussion on joints (appearing in 9 January 2014 issue of H&H), Richard asked if the grand prix special and young horse six-year-old tests put too much stress on limbs.

A new, shorter Olympic grand prix special was brought in for London 2012 — at which Richard competed as an individual on Hiscox Artemis.

But the FEI has since reverted to the old test, which Richard believes contains too many repetitions of “end-of-range movement exercises, such as extended trot and passage” and their associated transitions.

He is also concerned about the inclusion of flying changes in the six-year-old test used at the World Breeding Championships for Young Horses.

“To deliver a good flying change in that environment, you have to start [training at home] at five years old,” said Richard.

“Horses trained by experienced trainers are at less risk. But within a global sport, you have to think about the impact on soft tissues of trends that could encourage too many repetitions of maximum exertion exercises.

“They might be performed by riders and trainers of varying skill levels, as well as on different arena surfaces too. Why not use coeffecients more and save the horses?”

Coefficients are applied to give added importance to certain movements and are awarded double marks.

Wayne Channon, secretary general of the International Dressage Riders’ Club (IDRC), agreed that the six-year-old test “asked too much, too early”.

He asked: “Is the concept behind the young horse class to produce grand prix horses of the future — or are we going for flash and expression at a young age?

“To produce a grand prix horse, you have to go more slowly.”

The issue was discussed at the Global Dressage Forum (28-29 October).The level of concern has prompted the FEI to hold an open forum on the subject at this year’s World Breeding Championships in Verden, Germany (6-10 August).

But FEI director of dressage Trond Asmyr told H&H there were no plans to abandon the current grand prix special.

“It was reintroduced after the London Olympics following a massive push for its return by more or less all the stakeholders,” he said.

This story — and the round table on joint problems — appear in the H&H issue of 9 January 2014.