Anti-rollkur campaigner Dr Gerd Heuschmann under fire

  • Anti-rollkur campaigner Dr Gerd Heuschmann is under fire after photos of him schooling a Friesian horse and pulling the horse’s head behind the vertical appeared on the internet.

    The German vet has fought against the use of extreme training methods such as rollkur — forcing the horse into a very short, deep neck frame.

    He was vice-chairman of The Xenophon Society for the preservation and promotion of classical riding culture — until he resigned in May.

    In June, he held a clinic near Mainz where he rode a horse for 25 minutes. Having seen photographs of the session online, even supporters were critical of his techniques.

    H&H forum user Booboos started a thread labelled “Shocking — and this from the guy who opposes rollkur”, to which another user contributed: “I see a stressed, tense, uncomfortable horse being forced to do things.”

    But Dr Heuschmann feels he is the subject of a witch-hunt.

    He told H&H: “[The Friesian] had a completely insensitive mouth and no reaction to the legs. I tried to get some reaction to the rein aids and then get his back up by using lateral movements.”

    Dr Heuschmann has argued rollkur is detrimental to the horse. The Friesian, though not in rollkur, looks to be in an uncomfortable neck frame.

    Dr Heuschmann explained: “The moment this photo was taken was a short second of teaching the horse to listen to the aids. I did not try to position the head in any way.”

    The Xenophon Society received complaints and Dr Heuschmann confirmed chairman Klaus Balkenhol tried to dissuade him from riding in his clinics.

    The society did not return H&H’s phonecalls.

    But Dr Heuschmann said: “The society warned me that negative pictures of badly ridden horses could damage my reputation. They were right.”

    Dr Heuschmann is currently touring the US and intends to continue with the work he has carried out for the past 12 years, saying: “I will try to avoid negative pictures, but it never can be 100% prevented.”

    This article was first published in Horse & Hound (2 September, ’10)

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