The year has barely started and it’s already shaping up to be a blockbuster. The FEI alone looks set to provide me with enough material to post on an almost-daily basis, never mind those USEF press releases which are every bit as stellar as they have been in past years; Cees Slings and his technophile team are set to launch the freestyle judge-a-ma-tron; and no one can say that results will be a foregone conclusion at major CDIs, that is as long as Totilas doesn’t turn up. And speaking of Totilas, I think it will be VERY interesting to observe whether his recently announced sexual activities will have any effect on his behaviour in the ring.

Before I go on about the topic that just won’t roll away (yes, I’m talking rollkur), I want to say how gratifying it was for me to learn a few days ago that quite a few people are taking a peek at this blog. I fear that my criticism of the food and service at The Player’s Club last week may have landed me on a ‘no fly’ list for some restaurants in Welly World; but since any restaurant worth its sea salt shouldn’t be afraid to serve me (I’m not picky but I don’t fancy being treated like dirt or served something that tastes like it), I expect that being denied entry at certain establishments will save me further disappointments.

Yesterday the FEI issued a satisfied-sounding statement that at a roundtable conference the Rollkur controversy has been resolved. Wow! Really? Just like that? Pardon me for my cynicism, but I don’t think so. Exchanging one vague term for another is hardly what I would call a resolution. They have dropped the ‘prolonged and excessive’ line of argument and replaced it with ‘aggressive riding’. How is the FEI now arming its stewards with a gauge to measure what is aggressive? There are people who think using spurs is aggressive, for jujubes’ sake. Additionally, they have now declared that Rollkur, aka hyperflexion, is forced and therefore unacceptable, whereas Low, Deep and Round (LDR) “which achieves flexion without undue force, is acceptable.” I can’t wait for the anti-LDR petitions to start circulating around cyberspace. How can such a group of intelligent, informed horse people deceive themselves into thinking that they are not still dancing in point shoes and tutus around the issue? The press release includes a list of all the participants, as well as a photo to prove that there were no bleeding foreheads or black eyes (though come to think of it the photo could have been snapped pre-conference):

In its continued efforts to produce the most bizarre and pointless videos in the equestrian world, the FEI has posted a YouTube video of FEI Dressage Director Trond Asmyr in which he pretty much just read the press release verbatim. Apparently he tried to have it memorized but he stole a few glances down at his cheat sheet, which didn’t do much for his camera presence:

Now, what on earth do they think using closed circuit TV in warm ups is going to do? This issue isn’t about ‘behind the barn’ activities; the warm up areas are open to all manner of observation, which is supposed to include stewards. And what does this sentence mean? “The FEI President HRH Princess Haya accepted a petition of 41,000 signatories against Rollkur presented by Dr Gerd Heuschman.” She accepted it as a gift? I confess that I have lost the plot here. All I know is that what Klaus Balkenhol said in his open letter went right to the crux of the matter, but I fear it is to no avail: “We expect the FEI to maintain unaltered their regulations, which have until now been valid, resting as they do upon the classical precepts of riding – for the good of the horses and the continued good repute of international equestrian sport.” In other words, uphold your own rules, dang it! I don’t think the FEI is any closer to identifying or understanding what their rules mean when it comes to this issue, though it’s clear in the open letter that quite a few storied names in the equestrian world think pulling a horse’s chin to its chest is not A-ok according to the FEI rules. If the battle were decided on the most impressive list of names, I daresay Klaus’ group would win hands down.

Reading back over what I’ve just written, I’m getting a strong sense of the curmudgeon in me. Let’s lighten things up with a few choice quotes from Joanie Morris’ USEF press release from the Masters in Welly World last weekend.

On Steffen’s second place result: “It were those moments that perhaps cost him the win, but his score of 81.7% left him comfortably in second place and he took home a check of $20,700.”

A new term for winning streak: “winning tear”

And here is perhaps the finest composition of the whole thing: “The 2009 USEF Horse and Rider of the Year have been winning at a very rapid pace since their victory at the 2009 FEI World Cup Final in Las Vegas, they followed that up with a sweep of the CDIO Aachen and then a win in the Grand Prix on Thursday – the freestyle proved that the pair is indeed, mortal.” Mmm, my favourite – comma splice with a dash of hyperbole. Sorry Joanie. I make mistakes too but this press release is a truly outstanding addition to your body of work that I simply couldn’t resist sharing.