The One Picture

I’ll be quick. In Denmark we have a huge horse show this week, and last week.

I just felt like showing you the one picture that says it all.


Picture by, T. Bisgaard,396839,396824,396825,396828,396807&urlinfo=Hestemagasinet-JBK%3A+Det+ligner+hingstenes+championat+i+2013

Three year old Sezuan, ridden by Andreas Helgstrand.

Note the locked back, the hind legs that does not follow the horse at all, the head held behind vertical by the bit, and of course the impressive high front legs…
Is this really where we are going? Is this truly a beautiful picture?
Is this dressage at all?

Apparently it is, Sezuan is hardly competing with the others, no one has any worries that he will win. After all, he passed the stallion performance testing when he was two and a half years old, (yep broken in almost as early as a race horse, and we all applaud,) despite the fact that he has OCD. He was just so exceptional, and able to raise his front legs so high, the judges had to let him pass. I was there. They said that.

We all applauded. Well, most of us.

And now he is four, and in the four year old finals, tipped not so secretly to win. How could he not? Look at those front legs?

Wait, there is a video as well. Four year old Sezuan;

It could be, of course just a very unlucky moment in time, that picture, and it could be a reporter that wanted to show the world a bad picture of Andreas, right?

Well, I think not. In fact, I am pretty sure they picked that picture, because they think it looks impressive. Because they wanted to show us all, how fantastic Sezuan is.

And he is, no question about it.

I just think it’s sad that this is what it takes to ride dressage these days. In fact, I am a bit horrified, that we keep looking at this horse in awe. But then again, what judge would dare, kick his ass for mistreating his horse like this?

Apparently no one.

So, here I am, unable to keep my mouth shut, once again. Apologies.

Some things just needs saying. Over and over until someone listens. Hopefully, someday, someone will.


About Starstone

-Owned by horses. Writer, Photographer, Director, Musician.
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41 Responses to The One Picture

  1. Lisbeth Thostrup says:

    I totally agree with you!

  2. Marie Anne says:

    Poor horse looks extremely uncomfortable. Any of my riding instructors back in the day would’ve had my head for being in the horse’s mouth like that.

  3. agree with you! Makes me sick to see this kind of ‘training’…. the judges should NOT ever reward this, as a 4-year old should not be trained like this! This poor poor horse…. where is that article about growth in horses? This horse has not finished growing (growth plates are still open) and yet he is ridden like a much older horse. He won’t last… and for what? To prove that a 4 year old can work like this? That’s nothing to be proud of!! 😦

  4. Reblogged this on pferdeakademie and commented:
    it just needs to be said all over again because nobody seems to be listening … what is happening in dressage.

  5. just reblogged your article – as always (sadly) to the point.

  6. Spot on .. Could not agree more!

  7. Claus meyer says:

    It is only a question of time that this beautiful horse will run to get ill. This is not riding and this is not dressage. Dressage is PRO the horse and PRO its development in movement and Lokomotion. This kind of using a horse is ABuse! It is CON the horse nature and health! This horse will become very ill!
    Claus Meyer, Veterinary surgeon

    • Starstone says:

      I’ll say he is already lame if you look at the video, the way he turns… that is a horse with ligament issues…( or a sick chicken, hobbeling about…) but it can be hidden for a long while, sadly…
      But yes, very nice to hear it from a vet, we need more people like you to speak up 🙂

      • Mercedes says:

        Agree, he’s already lame behind. How can he not be? And I’d say you can’t actually hide it if you’ve any kind of an eye and are honest. It seems quite apparent to me he’s lame. The judging for dressage has gotten right up to where it used to be at the height of Dance Figure Skating. The whole lot of them ought to have their judging cards pulled.

      • Starstone says:

        What I was refering to was how the rider holds the rein when the horse turns… Sezuan starts to nod his head when he turns, that is a very unbalanced, or a very lame horse that does that, and yes, you can hide that by holding on to the rein at the right moment, which is what he is doing…
        that does not change that the horse is lame, but it makes sure that the judges and most of the audience won’t notice… sadly…

  8. its just horrible – thank you for speaking about it!

  9. Pingback: Another Picture | Starstone

  10. Magda says:

    sadly this is what the judges, the trainers, the riders and the audience wants to see…..and let’s face it…..having a horse costs money, and they damn well better get out there and be seen and aplauded before they cost to much money (horrible but true)…..what happened to taking our time in training our horses correctly? so sad…..lovely horse by the way

    • Starstone says:

      it is a very lovely horse, yes… and you’re right, its all about money… I just find it hard to accept that animal abuse is legal, as soon as there is money involved… 😦

  11. Donna Hayman says:

    What a shame such immpatience and greed to make such a young horse go in that manner, let him mature and he would be even more flashy in his own time.

  12. Lisette Bork says:

    There is no excuse good enough for treating horses like that! I keep fighting, I will not be quiet.. people need to know how to ride a horse in a way that improves the horse physically and psychologically (how to spell?? 😉 ) and improves the connection between horse and rider.. and know when what they are applauding is actually abuse against the animal!! Never keep quiet about this! 🙂

    • Starstone says:

      It would be wonderful if one day, the audience would simply not applaud… imagine that… stone cold silence for a change…

      • jo anderson says:

        it wasn’t dressage, but it actually did happen once. some misguided fool invited american saddlebreds and tennessee walkers to perform at the big christmas show in london (olympia). they came out with their built up feet, 10 ” long curb shanks, horribly artificial elevated gaits, wobbly back ends, and tails held straight up in the air (they live in tail harnesses so the tendons/ ligaments all shorten to hold that tail UP when competing). the announcer tried to whip up enthusiasm in the crowd: “Ladies and GENTLEMEN, just LOOK at the horse GO!!!!!” only to be met with a stoney, appalled silence. the great british public was (rightfully) horrified by the spectacle. i was there. it was amazing. if only they would do the same for the travesty that dressage has become! thank you for speaking out for the horses.

  13. Pingback: Speaking Of The Foamy Mouth | Hooves

  14. HJK says:

    Oh that poor horse. I will hate to see how broken down (physically and mentally) he will be in a few years time. I wonder what he could have looked like had he been left to mature and move in a more natural manner … I guess we’ll never know. 😦

  15. I don’t think this is so much about showing a horse this young can work to this level, although that is undoubtedly part of the rationale, as about making more money from this young stallion and getting a quicker return on their investment. The sooner he wins at high level competition, the quicker his sperm becomes like gold! And a broken down horse can still donate sperm & cover mares – watch or his retirement in a couple of years to “enjoy fathering foals”…and don’t get me started on the fallacy of that particular facet of the equine industry!

    If not lame already, he soon will be. The nodding is either evidence of a young horse struggling to find his balance when being pushed too far for his age & physical & mental development, or of damage already done to young bones & ligaments. Either way is abuse and a criminal waste of a beautiful & talented horse. I cannot imagine what the FEI are thinking in letting any horse of that age compete even at Novice level – it should still be discovering how to use its body naturally out in a field with other horses! Oh, but then he might get injured! The irony!!!

  16. Joanne says:

    He might be legit lame (wouldn’t suprise me) or may be bridle lame from being ridden by the hand from front ot back so darn much (also wouldn’t suprise me) either way, it is only a matter of time.

  17. Reblogged this on NewsBook by Aspire Equestrian Riding Academy and commented:
    Riding NOT to be proud of…It’s incredibly sad that in the world so forward in knowledge, we are still so backward at using it wisely…

  18. I reblogged it this on my blog. It’s good to talk about these methods so please don’t keep your mouth shut 🙂 That photo of Sezuan as a 3 year old is dreadful!

  19. eventer79 says:

    I just found your blog, I think through North Horse and I am definitely going to see if I can work it in in a future article. You make excellent points and it’s wonderful to hear them from a person who is there in person. I am an eventer now and followed both Rolex CCI**** (grew up in Kentucky) and top level dressage as a kid (I watched Robert Dover and Reiner Klimke and Kyra Kirkland and those folks).

    But this type of thing that modern FEI/USDF dressage has become is the reason I stopped following the sport really at all (of course FEI eventing has it’s own issues, but I refuse to give FEI money, I only ride locally and at the USEA level). I do enjoy watching Steffan Peters ride but do not actively follow any competitions or riders/horses anymore. Thank you so much for writing this and providing such a clear and excellent analysis. It saddens me to see such a beautiful and clearly athletic young horse pushed so hard so quickly.

    It happens here as well — my dressage instructor had a beautiful huge grey PSG mare that she bought later in the mare’s life. At 5 and 6 years old, the mare was mounted and immediately ridden in piaffe and passage for long periods with no warmup. She was lucky to end up with my wonderful instructor and had an excellent late life career and retirement, but was put down in the end due to completely failure of the joints in her back legs due to that early pushing.

    • Starstone says:

      Hi, nice to meet you 🙂
      We have all seen it, over and over again, how horses are riden and trained wrong, pushed too far, and they end up dead before you know it…
      Its sad.
      But the only thing we can do about it is to keep pointing it out, and then maybe someday, someone will listen…
      And then of course, do better ourselves 😉 I’m not saying I am a perfect rider or anything, but I know what I would never sucject my horse to… and I know that if anyone ever caught a picture of me and any of my horses, like that one, I’d never ride again…

  20. Ro says:

    I only have a few years of experience but I feel sad when i see people training for the medals and glory and not for the art… It’s a pity and I am happy when there are people like you to support that.
    Since I am new, could someone help me a bit. I can recognize tension at the neck, the head behind the vertical, the unnatural high front legs, disturbed parallels, but how do you recognize the locked back? Does it have to do with the position of the hind leg that seems to be left behind?

  21. Jen says:

    Yiu are FAR from the only person complaining about this. But thank you for doing so.

  22. Chris Forte says:

    Thank you for posting. He is a child and made to perform as if he was three times his age. As I teach people to ride without a bit I am also saddened by the effect of the bit in his mouth. I will re-post your blog this week.

  23. JEM says:

    If you are strong enough, and you lean back and pull hard enough, you sure can create impressive front action. Of course, you cripple the hinds, and generally damage the back. But look at those front legs! (Ridiculous)

  24. At four, he shouldn’t even be under the saddle, let alone competing at this level. There is something fundamentally wrong when a horse so young has to be wrapped in bandages and dragged into unnatural poses just for the pride of an owner/rider, the praise of misguided judges and the entertainment of an audience that knows little better.

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