Hey Dressage judges, DRF and FEI- what happens to you?

9. februar 2020 Af vibe skouenborg

English edition, on request.

The Danish version is here:

Hey dressur dommere, FEI og DRF, hvad sker der for jer?

About DRF and FEI:

Large organizations, judges who judge and prominent people have great power and what they say and show  is considered truthful and the final answer.

There is a tendency not to question here.

DRF (Danish Ride Federation) and FEI (Federation Equestre Interationale) are the Danish and international riding sports organizations respectively. They organize all riding disciplines.
They describe that they take care of horse welfare.

They both say:
” Code of conduct:
Prioritize horse welfare and consideration for the horse above all else. ”

FEI say:
”The FEI is unique as an international sports governing body due to the fundamental relationship between horse and rider across equestrian sports. The welfare of the horse is of vital importance to the FEI. It is therefore imperative that horses are protected against overuse or abuse.
The FEI Code of Conduct outlines the basic objectives for all people involved in equine development, training, competition and retirement. Everyone must be aware of and adhere to this essential document.
In ensuring that the highest welfare standards are maintained, we must continue to improve our understanding of environmental and scientific factors surrounding the care of sports horses, both in and out of competition. With that in mind, the FEI collaborates with the charitable organisation World Horse Welhttps://coachmetoo.com/2019/09/01/action-needed-unfortunate-developments-in-dressage/fare by regularly consulting it on welfare matters and supporting Research and Development. ”



FEI about dressage:


The object of Dressage is the development of the Horse into a happy Athlete through harmonious education. As a result, it makes the Horse calm, supple, loose and flexible, but also confident, attentive and keen, thus achieving perfect understanding with the Athlete.

These qualities are demonstrated by:

The freedom and regularity of the paces. • The harmony, lightness and ease of the movements. • The lightness of the forehand and the engagement of the hindquarters, originating from a lively impulsion. • The acceptance of the bit, with submissiveness/throughness (Durchlässigkeit) without any tension or resistance.
 The Horse thus gives the impression of doing, of its own accord, what is required. Confident and attentive, submitting generously to the control of the Athlete, remaining absolutely straight in any movement on a straight line and bending accordingly when moving on curved lines.
The walk is regular, free and unconstrained. The trot is free, supple, regular and active. The canter is united, light and balanced. The hindquarters are never inactive or sluggish. The Horse responds to the slightest indication of the Athlete and thereby gives life and spirit to all the rest of its body.
By virtue of a lively impulsion and the suppleness of the joints, free from the paralysing effects of resistance, the Horse obeys willingly and without hesitation and responds to the various aids calmly and with precision, displaying a natural and harmonious balance both physically and mentally.
In all the work, even at the halt, the Horse must be “on the bit”. A Horse is said to be “on the bit” when the neck is more or less raised and arched according to the stage of training and the extension or collection of the pace, accepting the bridle with a light and consistent soft submissive contact. The head should remain in a steady position, as a rule slightly in front of the vertical, with a supple poll as the highest point of the neck, and no resistance should be offered to the Athlete.

Mostly it looks like this.

The reason is that the horse will otherwise get injuries, get hurt, break down.

The highest point should be the back of the skull, which is between the ears. The position of the neck reflects how the horse uses its body. Described with FEI and DRF.
When this point is highest AND the nose is in front of the vertical line, the horse’s body has the opportunity to move in the natural and able to build muchels in a appropriate way.

DRF has formulated an education / training scale.

Where exactly this is included.
When the horse is trained according to the training / training scale (description is seen further down the page), it will not suffer overload and the horse will maintain the body’s natural shape and training based on it.
The position of the horse’s neck and body would be achieved by proper use of the training scale, with the nose  in front of the vertical line and the vertebrae maintaining the correct position for the vertebra to have, the pelvis tilting forward, allowing the hind legs to swing under the center of gravity of the horse and the chest to be lifted between the shoulder blades. All this must the horse be able to maintain throughout the training.
AND then  the real collection is shown by the front og horse is clearly lifted up- and not only the neck. And the hind legs are carrying the horse
This is described in detail here:

Typically, you only see the neck is high at the riding horse and only carried by the reins, with the ‘crack’ being at 2nd-3rd. cervical vertebrae, which is also described here as a BIG mistake.
When the horse bends its neck here, the rest of the body is ‘disconnected’, and unable to engage in  carrying and collection.
In fact, it already happens when the horse’s neck is shaped just a very little bit with the bridle, during the horse’s training. The horse need to use its body in the naturally shape to get trained!

The vertebrae of the neck need to be in their natural shape to make the half halt engage the hindquarters and the rest of the body because otherwise the upper line ligament will not engage the base of the neck .

The opposite is actually happening: you bring the horse further to the front, because the cervical vertebrae are pressed further together in their S shape, and pushes the chest down.
What you want to happen, is to get the topline ligament to pull this UP instead and it can only be done if the horse is trained in its long natural form before being required in collection and so on.
When the head and neck is in this position where the ‘crack’ is at 2-3. cervical vertebra, it is impossible to flex the neck/ bend the head to the side at the atlas joint – which is also one of the fundamental riding principles. Then it goes beyond these already force-bent 2.-3. cervical vertebrae, when you ask the horse to turn his head, because they can not at all bend both forward and sideways at the same time. Actually the 2.-3. cannot either. But the do bend.
Many of these horses have major challenges in this area.
The alternative is it shoots the shoulder.

Everything just don’t work.
That is why you often see these horses shake their head / neck sharply if they get long reins after training / riding. And the muscle get too thick/big because nature try to hold it together.
80% og all riding horses have injuries in this area,- very often never discovered,- becourse you don’t take notice of the signals the horse show you.
Head shaking, nerve damage, loosing baglegs and 1000 of other things.

Seek more knowledge here:


Here is the neck forced to ‘crack’ at 2nd-3rd. cervical vertebra, the nose is behind the vertical and the back is clearly hollow behind the saddle, – the hind legs ‘disconnected’ and the primary weight is out in the front. Here is absolutely NO carrying-.

Quote FEI:
”The welfare of the horse is of vital importance to the FEI. It is therefore imperative that horses are protected against overuse or abuse.”


DRF has introduced a special rule to prevent tight nose bands. There must be at least 1½ cm between the nose and the noseband measured on the horse’s nose.

They just forget to use it.

The FEI has no special rule as such. Their rule is that the horse should just be able to breathe and there should be room for 2 fingers, flat pressed into the cheekbone….:

Horse Noseband check: Special care must be taken concerning nosebands that have been excessively tightened, regardless of their position. It must be possible to place two fingers between the Horse’s cheek and the noseband: the fingers are to be place side by side, flat against the horses’ cheek. Stewards must not allow any noseband to be positioned so low and tight that it interferes with the horses breathing as this would be against the welfare of the horse. If it happens again the rider should receive a yellow card for not following the instruction of the steward.”

Despite that scientific research has been done on the harmfulness of tight nose bands, no mention is made of it.
Read about these studies here:


To repeat the quote:
” Code of conduct:
FEI Prioritizes horse welfare and consideration of the horse above all else. ”


THE TRAINING SCALE (also called the education scale).

The training scale is mentioned and described as the pillar of the proper training of the horse at DRF.
Among other things is written:
Goals and general principles.
The goal of the dressage is to make the horse obedient, easy and comfortable to ride, so that all movements and exercises can be performed with small and invisible aides and without effort for the rider.
Through a systematic gymnastic work, the horse’s muscles, tendons and joints must be given such strength and flexibility that the horse is able to move in balance and in full harmony with the rider, no matter what the requirements.
The correct dressage work must also make the horse calm, yielding, detached and supple, so that it obeys its rider confident, attentive and willing.
That a horse is dressage correctly ridden shows by:
• Detached, cleaned and regular gaits.
• Harmony, ease and agility in the movements and the execution of the exercises.
•Energy and strength of the pendulous hind legs , resulting in ease and relief of the front for greater shoulder freedom, which in turn should allow for a more spacious and supple movement.
• That the horse is to the bite with complete obedience and indulgence, with no tension or resistance whatsoever. ”


The training scale is the most important guideline for coaches, riders and referees.
It applies to training young horses and more trained horses up to the GP level.
Following these classic educational steps will inevitably lead to a successful showcase in dressage sports.
The training scale is also a benchmark for the judges to assess the quality of a program.
The training scale is divided into 3 phases as shown in figure 1.
• The habituation phase consists of the first three requirements: Tact – detachment and acceptance of the bid
• Development of the horse’s ability to push consists of: Detachment – acceptance of the bite – resilience and straightening
• Development of the horse’s ability to carry consists of: Resilience – straightening and collecing. The result is a horse that is 100% cooperative and flexible. ”

No training pictures are included in the description, so how it should be done can be interpreted freely.
Unfortunately, however, there are pictures of horses behind vertical with the highest point of the neck at 2-3. cervical vertebra that is supposed to represent the ‘perfect’.
Of course, this is very confusing.

FEI has nothing similar,-  only a more superficial description of the horse’s training.


Judges reward riding with the highest point of the neck at 2-3. cervical vertebrae, lowered back, hind legs working behind the body, pushing behind the horse rather than carrying, and great bridle pressure – though this is not what is described as the optimal dressage riding.
It is rewarded to ride in a way that is very detrimental to the horse.
Both with pain / stress / tension here-and-now and with damage to the long run.
For horse bodies that use in this way are under great pressure due to tension, incorrect balance, overstretched joints, incorrect muscle training, congested tendons, unengaged upper line / lower line, too tight nose bands, too much bridle pressure (incl with kandar) and too high demands to what they are regularly trained for.


It is impossible to find research or other surveys that proves / shows the benefit of tight nose bands, forced over-flexion of the vertebrae, excessive bridle pressure, or lack of engagement of the hind legs (whereby the back hangs and the horse is on the front) when carrying a rider .
On the other hand, it is very easy to find substance about the harmful.


Still, this is highly rewarded in the show.


Mouth stress. Painface. Tight nose bands. ‘Hanging bridge-backs’. Over flexed cervical vertebrae:
Top score. The world’s elite.

Again, just remember the quotes:
” The horse’s head should always be kept in a calm position, always in front of the vertical line, with the point between the ears being the highest point, and never in opposition to the rider’s hand. ”
” Harmony, ease of movement, freedom of movement of the forelegs together with an under grip of the hind legs ”


A horse in balance looks like this:

The training could be like this:


Both FEI and DRF have ringstewards.

”Training dressage horses .
For the DRF it is of the utmost importance that horse handling takes place with the utmost consideration for the welfare of the horses. This of course also applies to training methods and we are very aware of the methods that are close to the banned rollkur / hyperflexion. Our officials are aware of the significant role they have – especially at warm-up areas – and they take this role very seriously. It can be very difficult to distinguish in borderline cases and for the purposes of this resolution the FEI has prepared a manual that is used by our officials and we are constantly working to further educate and inform our officials on the best possible way to handle the task.
Horse’s posture and bearing in dressage
Dressage is the building of the horse’s agility and strength (gymnastisizing) so that it can perform various precision drills. When the horse is trained, the training constantly affects the horse’s entire body. For example, if the hindquarters and back are in a certain position, the head and neck are held in a position related to the rest of the body.
In the debate on training methods for dressage horses there is a lot of focus on the horse’s head and neck position. The debate centres around whether the horse is held too closely in front, where the neck is ultimately bent beyond its physiological limit under duress (hyperflexion / rollkur, which is not permitted) and alternatively the neck positions that can be accepted as gymnastisizing:
– Long, deep and round
– Low deep and round
– Long and low
Head and neck position is an important parameter when assessing whether the horse is overburdened at the front, but it is important to focus on whether the horse is generally ridden properly by the rider. In this case you have to look at the horse’s ENTIRE body, since the horse’s form is primarily created from the hindquarters up through the body. For example, the horse can work well in a posture where its neck position corresponds to one of the diagrams of acceptable neck positions shown in the FEIs Steward Manual, but where the horse still does not work correctly from behind across the back. If a horse therefore lacks suppleness or walks with a lowered back, it can cause discomfort and wear on its body. It is therefore always important to look at the horse’s whole way of working when assessing whether the work is acceptable for the horse and this can be difficult to judge from still images.
Danish Equestrian Federation Rules on training dressage horses
The Danish Equestrian Federation follows the FEI’s rules, which generally state that the horse’s welfare is the top priority. When it comes to specific training methods, it is impossible to include all eventualities in a regulation and it is therefore important to make it clear that under all circumstances the horse’s welfare is always the highest priority. Since over the years the debate has centred on training horses with specific head and neck positions, the FEI has developed a manual that addresses this specific issue. The manual is used by officials when supervising the training and warming up of horses at showgrounds. The manual describes permissible stretching and gymnastisizing positions for dressage horses with a focus on neck and head. The manual also states that you should look at the horse’s whole body when judging the horse’s working form, since head and neck position are only a partial expression of the horse’s total body work.
According to the manual the horse must always work in accordance with its natural physiology. You can gymnatisize and deflect the horse up to its natural physiological limit, but not beyond, and you may only keep it deflected in its natural outer positions for very short intervals. When working with the horse in a fixed position where it moves with the same head and neck bearing for one period, the interval in which the horse is working in the same position may not exceed 10 minutes. However, a neck position must never be maintained in a horse if the horse is showing signs of fatigue or stress. This does not just apply to natural outer positions, but to all work with horses, where it is a recognised training principle that variation in training increases the horse’s suppleness and durability.
Supervision at event sites and training of officials
When Danish Equestrian Federation officials oversee warm-up areas around the showground, it is a task that comprises several elements – including checking that the horses are ridden in a way that does not compromise their welfare. Keeping an eye on the horses’ welfare, including whether the riding is technically correct and acceptable and that no horses are forced by the riders, is a major and difficult task, where the Danish Equestrian Federation has a strong focus on continually training officials at the showground and evaluating the overall and individual issues that may arise in connection with events, so that actions are constantly being developed.
Intervention during training of dressage horses
When situations arise where horses are ridden inappropriately from a purely technical perspective, or in another sense, the Danish Equestrian Federation officials can intervene directly at the showground. In other cases courses or events are subsequently evaluated with the rider and/or other parties involved. In each individual case consideration will be given to appropriate penalties or recommendations. The Danish Equestrian Federation’s objective is to ensure the horses’ welfare through guidance and training of riders, as equestrianism must always be developed with a focus on the horses’ welfare.”

Apparently, both DRF and FEI have doubts about what ‘natural form’ is and what it really is for guidelines they themselves have formulated about the proper use of the horse’s body. For they have to put in a little special rule:

” According to the manual, the horse must always work according to its natural body. You may want to gymnastic and deflect the horse to its natural physiological limit, but not beyond, and you must only keep it deflected in its natural outer positions at very short intervals. If working with the horse in a fixed position, moving with the same head and neck for a period of time, the interval during which the horse works in the same position must not exceed 10 minutes. However, a neck position should never be maintained in the individual horse if the horse shows signs of fatigue or stress. This is not necessarily about natural outer positions, but about all work with the horse, where it is a recognized training principle that variation in training increases the flexibility and durability of the horse. ”

For some reason, they have to contradict themselves. Actually, the horse should not be trained in outer positions that are unnatural to the body. Except sometimes. However, a maximum of 10 minutes….

Just remember the quotes:
All exercises require easy contact with the horse’s mouth. ”
”The goal of dressage sports is to develop a horse into a ‘happy athlete’ through a harmonious education.”

This is allowed for 10 min. No time will ever be taken.

” This is not necessarily about natural outer positions, but about all work with the horse, where it is a recognized training principle that variation in training increases the flexibility and durability of the horse. ”

Said otherwise, it is okay exeed the natural outer positions of the horse, when it is a part of a variation. And over-stretch the cervical vertebrae for 10 minutes.
When it is part of a variation.

It has not been possible to find physiological explanation or research on this.
Only that it is VERY harmful.



”Code of conduct:
Prioritize horse welfare and consideration for the horse above all else. ”

High movements with the front legs count well in the rating.
In order for the horse’s forelegs to rise really high, it is an advantage (or whatever it is called) that the horse is lowered in the back. There are dressage saddles with deliberate back weight, so the back can be pushed down better.

Action Needed – Unfortunate Developments in Dressage


Quote FEI:

”The FEI is unique as an international sports governing body due to the fundamental relationship between horse and rider across equestrian sports. The welfare of the horse is of vital importance to the FEI. It is therefore imperative that horses are protected against overuse or abuse.”


In 2017, the 5-star Danish and international FEI dressage judge, Leif Törnblad was interviewed for the Australian  magazine, The Horse Magazine, about his work, background and dressage riding in general.
He stated, among other things, about the dressage riding / training / warming up and the Dutch training methods and mentioned names and things he did not like.
And that he didn’t want Edward Gal to stay in the clinic in DK because of his methods.
The Dutch coach team filed a complaint for unethical opinion and wanted him convicted.
He was suspended from the judge job for the rest of 2017.

He only stated how dressage should look based on the guidelines and regulations FEI has measured themselves.

Read the interview here:

Leif Tørnblad – on training and judging

Later he told about it, to the impartial and fund-owned     https://www.uanvendelig.dk/    and here he was backed up.

Read here(only Danish):




DON’T LET THIS GO. Help criticize it. Spread knowledge about equine welfare.
It is not only the dressage horses but all on the horse world, – in different ways.
Horses are sensitive animals that do not have conflicting nature as a starting point. But can be difficult to handle, train and deal with if misunderstood.
Please share this