It Can Bleed- Once

And here we go, with the ”you are such an idiot,” remarks. You will excuse me, if I don’t allow those comments on this blog, you see this is MY blog, and I am a bit of a dictator about what I allow strangers to throw at me. Life it just too short for that. Still, I would like to comment on a few of the remarks I have got.

A lot of people seem to not care about the horse that bleeds from the nose as it leaves the show ring. A lot of people seem to want to excuse the rider, to quickly jump to the conclusion that the horse is a bleeder, that its blood vessels break easily, or that it bit its tongue. Poor guy, don’t take his points away over that!


You have got to be kidding me. If the horse is a bleeder, it has no place in international jumping. Then it is a frail horse and it will happen when strained. Imagine a horse, jumping so high, under so much strain that it causes him to bleed inside a lung. Imagine the horror he must feel, when he tastes, and smells the blood. Do we accept that in our sport? For the sake of a riders points?

I have to say, this horse did NOT bite its tongue. This bleeding is coming from the nose. Even if it did “just” bite its tongue, and caused such a bleeding, to we allow that? For a horse to be under so much pressure, we now need to tie his tongue down, so he won’t bite it, or swallow it, in the show ring? Because we all know, that is what some already do, to avoid just that. Are we okay with this? When do “sport” become “Abuse?”

My first thought was that the horse should be tested for doping… but I guess that is too late now.

And lastly, I did read the FEI “blood rule” for show jumpers.

“Horses bleeding on the flank(s), in the mouth or nose or marks indicating excessive use of spurs or of the whip anywhere on the Horse(in minor cases of blood in the mouth, such as where a Horseappears to have bitten its tongue or lip,Officials may authorize the rinsing or wiping of the mouth and allow the Athlete to continue; any further evidence of blood in the mouth will result in Disqualification”

So this horse, I guess could compete, because show jumpers are allowed to bleed – once. Twice and you are out, but just one, small little innocent bleeding, who cares? “The athlete may continue.” Honestly, is this the way we want our sport to be?

The horse can never be an athlete. It should never have to suffer for the sake of human gain. The rider is the athlete. The horse is an animal, whose needs must ALWAYS come first.

Allowing it to bleed- once- how do we accept that? How did we happen to get so close to the race track industry, where horses bleed, break and die on track every single day? If we don’t call a halt now, where then, will the sport end up? As a money driven game? Oh wait… are we already there?

I have been told that I don’t understand the sport. I guess that is a matter of opinion. I understand what the sport SHOULD be. And yes, I understand what it is these days, sadly. I understand that once upon a time, it was impressive to have a horse who trusted you so much, it would jump anything for you. Once upon a time, it was about having a good, faithful companion, for hunting, or for war. Looking at these bound, and tortured animals, I wonder. In a war, how many of them do you think, would try to save their riders lives?

I understand that these days, the sport is just that. A sport. The riders might as well be riding a motorbike, because that would be easier. The motorbike would not act up if not wearing a draw rein, or a gag bit, or a few spikes… and more importantly, the motorbike would not feel pain.

It wouldn’t become your friend either, or be a reliable companion in a war, but you know what, these horses and their riders, are not friends either. So why not pick a sport that does not include torturing innocent animals?

I do understand that the sport I have been in for 20 years, the show jumping sport, has changed, and it is a sport I no longer want to be part of. But for all of you who think that I am just a silly little misinformed girl, who has no idea what she is talking about, and who has been riding bareback and bitless all her life, you are sadly mistaken. You may read my book, “Surviving the Equestrian World,” before you tell me that I don’t know this world.

I know it, and I am sickened by it.

I have been told that moving the bar onto the edge of the holder is not barring. I have been told too, that is so is! I have had people excuse it, explain it, and tell me that I am a hysterical idiot for even bothering to comment on it. Which is why I would like an answer from FEI and DRF, on the matter. It would be nice if we knew what was allowed and what was not, because clearly, ask one simple question, and people start fighting over it. We need clear rules. We need an answer.


I have been told too, that if I think that what I saw was barring, then I have no idea what I was talking about, because real barring is SO much worse. Again with the “it could be worse” excuse. Of course it could be worse. I live in Denmark for pity’s sake, I have SEEN worse, time and time again. I don’t know a single professional show jumper who has not been trained by being hit across the legs while jumping, or by tying metal wires to the obstacles, making the horse fall as it jumps, I have seen it all and no, moving the bar to the side of the holder does not come close, but that was not what I asked.

I asked FEI and DRF if it was legal. Plain and simple. Again, I want to see the rules. I want a clear answer, and not from all of those who think it is okay. I don’t think so, and I want to know if FEI is with me on this, or if they are not.

Just because you can do worse, does that make it alright? Because you can rest assured that the riders do it for a reason, and it is not to give their horse a good jump on the warm up.

I have been told too, that the horses are not forced. That you can’t force a 500 kg animal to do anything they don’t want to do. That they love to jump. Quite frankly, I am getting so tired of that Anky -kind -of -reasoning, that I am going to say it only once more.

OF COURSE YOU CAN FORCE A HORSE! They are kind and gentle animals, they succumb to pain and pressure. You can force a bear, you can force an elephant, and you sure as hell can force a horse.

Anyone who thinks differently, needs a reality check.

And the excuse I hear for the draw rein, over and over again, is so tiresome, and only bears witness to how many people have a fundamental hole in their knowledge of horses, training and riding.

“The draw rein is to get the horse into the right shape.”

Show me ONE horse in a draw rein, who is in the right shape, I dare you. All of you. Show me one.

I have yet to see one. The draw rein forces the horses head down, and in, which causes the horse to lower its back and prevents it from placing weight on its hind legs. Quite the opposite of what “the right shape” is.


It is very easy to spot the difference. I believe I even pointed that out in my previous post, with pictures and everything. But of course, when I wrote, “the difference is subtle,” I was being ironic. Clearly, a lot of people don’t see the difference, or think that the white horse Rolf-Jorgen is jumping, is doing it right?

(I know, he is not wearing a draw rein in the picture, but the shape of that horse is unmistakable.)



Has it truly come to this, that all we can use to judge how a horse is “shaped” is from how much we can curl up its face? Wasn’t that called rollkur, once upon a time? Wasn’t that illegal in dressage, if used for more than ten minutes at the time? These show jumpers were curled up and tied down for half an hour, some of them more, and no one cared.

So how come that the rules for dressage is insufficient, that these horses needs protecting from the draw rein and the rollkur, but with a show jumper, anything goes? It can even bleed, as long as it can be whipped away.

And lastly, let me just say this. Anyone feeling the need to defend this kind of “riding,” and “training” and downright torture of a silent animal, don’t bother commenting on my blog. Here, I don’t have to look at you guys. Out there, in the equestrian world, it is hard to avoid you, but here, I am the border patrol. You may ask questions, I would be happy to explain anything you may not understand, but name calling and “Anky remarks” will be deleted.

There is no way that I will ever accept violence, or abuse, or bleeding horses in the show ring or on the warm up. We should be able to do better. After all, let me say it again. This is the best horses in the world. This is the best riders in the world. Why don’t we expect them to do better?


I have been told that any old donkey couldn’t jump this, and clearly I don’t know anything about these kinds of horses.

Again with the snide remarks, and the jumping to conclusions. First of all, most horses can jump 1,60. Most horses can jump its own height. So no, a donkey might not be able to, but it would probably be able to jump about 1.30, which would be impressive enough, its size taken into account. These horses though, they are the best. They are born and bred for jumping. Blood line after blood line, of pure breeding. If an ordinary horse can jump its own height, why do these horses need this much force and pain to do the same?

Shouldn’t all that breeding and all that pedigree make it easier? Shouldn’t these horses be born to be ridden around a show ring wearing nothing but a cordeo and still be able to jump their own height? Could it be the riders, once again, falling short? Because it can’t be the horses. They should be better than any old donkey…

I do understand the remark though. It means basically, that 1,60 is very high and it takes a lot to get a horse to jump it.

The question I am asking is this then; how much do we want to accept as legal, to make these horses jump?

And don’t tell me that they love it. Don’t tell me that the race horse loves it.

Do feel free to tell me of the last time you were curled up, tied down, beaten and kicked, and asked to do something you love. Tell me how much you would still love it then.

Because I agree. My horses love to jump. Some horses has a flair for it, and a natural joy with doing it. But any horse can be broken. Any joy can be beaten out of you.

The horses I saw at JBK were not happy horses. They were running, jumping for their lives, most of them.

Is this where we want our sport to go? To the race track?

So it is okay to bleed. What about when horses start breaking their legs in the ring. What about the next horse who leaves the ring with a nose bleed? What if that horse dies from it? Should the rider not lose his points then either? Is it okay to pressure an animal like that? So far beyond its breaking point? Where do we draw the line?

FEI and DRF, your equestrians need an answer.

Because clearly, our animal welfare organizations dare not speak up. Imagine though, treating a dog, or a cat, the way these horses are treated. Would you? Kick it, hit it, tie its face down and ask it to jump its own height?

And all of you who tell me that the bit burr with bristles do not hurt the horse, how about you try it. Pressing that into the soft skin around your own mouth and nose and tell me that an animal with much softer skin than you, with much more nerves in it, do not find it painful.


I do understand that it is to “help turn” the horse. Really, shame on you guys. If you can’t turn your horse, without bristles or spikes, pressed into the horses face, then what are you doing in professional riding?

Please don’t defend any of this to me. I understand more than most, what it is I see in my pictures. There can be no excuse. I just want to know if it can truly be legal, all of it.

Because if it is, then we have a real problem.


About Starstone

-Owned by horses. Writer, Photographer, Director, Musician.
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33 Responses to It Can Bleed- Once

  1. saraannon says:

    from Phillippe Karl’s article:

    “But I finally accepted, thinking maybe it could open the eyes of many people. And to do it was difficult because I had to keep very cool and diplomatic, but [at the same time] nevertheless say what I think. And when I was discussing with somebody who never [answered] any of my questions, repeating the wrong thing, and contradicting himself all the time, it was really not funny. And afterwards in the show ring the comments he had for the riders were really not fair and not ok. It was really hard for me to keep cool. It was not possible to exchange a serious argument. But for people watching the DVD, either they are in the official scene and they are not interested in hearing anything else, or [they are] people who are wondering, and then [the DVD] can help. This would be good information for them. I’ve had a lot of very positive and enthusiastic feedback on it.

    [HFL]: We did an article on it because I thought it was some of the best work that Thomas [from] had ever done. I think it’s an excellent DVD. I’m glad that you accepted it. I really am. I’m sure it’s going to make a big difference for many people. So you said that some of the comments weren’t fair. What comments were you referring to?

    [PHILIPPE KARL]: [During] the exchange, there was no answer to any of my questions. Never. [Except] only on this point about over-flexion – in the talk, he said he totally agrees that over-flexion is bad. But afterwards, he was showing a high-level horse which was constantly over-flexed even more in positions, in exercises, in which he should collect. And finally in the comments afterward he said, “Yes, good riders like that they know what they’re doing and that [eventually] the horses are in the correct position.” So he’s compromising all the time. I said that you can see in the photos of the horses in competitions, even at the highest level and in training, that the horses are over-flexed most of the time. And there was never an answer to any of my questions. So it looked like an exchange, but it’s really two monologues. Two parallel monologues. But it was my idea to say to the person who organized it that it would not be only about the talk. [That we would] also have a practical part.”

  2. saraannon says:

    Phillippe Karl’s article ends with him saying:
    “The other thing is, if this over-flexion training system is good, they wouldn’t break and damage and completely spoil so many horses! It’s interesting to go backstage and see what’s there. We just see the top of the iceberg, i.e. the successes, the ribbons, the Olympic champions, World champions, Grand Prix, this and that. But go backstage and see how it is and how many fantastic horses are tortured and broken. It’s incredible. Each time I got on to this kind of argument during the [discussion], [Hess] also never answered that. He prefers not to see. It’s a matter of politics and power. And it is a matter of business too. It’s such a huge business [with] so much money that finally the judges and the system organize to please them and not put them in trouble. And that’s the reason the rules are respected less and less. “

  3. liccau says:

    Keep doing what you do. This riding “sport” needs more critical eyes. I’m the same. Don’t let the stupid comments and the defending people stop you. I’m happy I found your blog!

  4. saraannon says:

    Would you be willing to let me use one of your rolkur/draw rein photos in a post? I have been working to rehab my Thoroughbred’s neck and back injuries for over two years. His neck is finally beginning to loosen up since a bone chip has just worked its way out from between his second and third cervical vertebra. NO wonder his neck was tight and he was touchy and tossing his head!
    The only way I can think that he could have fallen hard enough with his neck twisted enough to chip bone is violence + draw reins/rolkur.
    He is an amazing horse-to still be kind and alive but I am feeling a bit murderous.

  5. Sarah says:

    Oh my gosh I agree 200% with everything said in this blog post… AMEN

  6. Issy Clarke says:

    Reblogged this on The Spoken Horse and commented:
    Well worth reading. A fabulously committed post.

  7. Rachel says:

    I really appreciate that you had the guts to write this, and thanks go to Issy Clarke for sharing your blog so I could find it. When the plight of an animal is overlooked in the name of sport, it makes me sick to my stomach. I often tell my barefoot bitless horse how easy his life is, when we are out merrily hacking and our speed and direction are often mutual choices, but it’s not really a laughing matter because so many horses have it so much harder than they need to. A change is coming, I am starting to meet more and more people who are giving bitless a go, looking to themselves and their equipment before they look to the horse if there is a problem – I do believe there is a slow shift towards the understanding that groundwork and effective communication can be the only aid you need – but until those competing at a higher level are able to lead by example, the change can only go so far.. If the organisers rules for certain competitions specify a bit must be used, I believe those are the organisations we ought to be trying to implore to allow bitless, to allow riders at the tops of their game to feel the pressure of competing alongside a naturally moving, well understood and connected bitless horse..
    Thanks again for writing this…I feel your anger and appreciate your courage.

    • Starstone says:

      thank you for taking the time to comment. Problem is, you can jump bitless if you want. No one wants to. So being able to chose is nto quite good enough, although it is a step in the right direction. We still need rules for what is allowed, and what should not be.

      • Rachel says:

        There are still lots of no bitless allowed rules out there in dressage, eventing and western. I just looked up some of the rules for showjumping and it states ponies are not allowed to be bitless – how does that make sense?!!! I appreciate your point totally though, the rules need an overhaul in all areas..

      • Starstone says:

        I don’t know… I guess it is because people think it is less safe for the children to ride bitless? But it does feel like it should be up to the child and the parent, what was the safest for the child…

  8. sarah says:

    Bravo for yet again being the voice for the horse.

  9. ANNE TWINE says:

    Can we all sign a petition, we could probably get thousands of names and send it to the powers that be demanding change.

  10. Jen says:

    I have been saying for years the same things about horse racing. It sickens me how the media makes it glorious but anyone who has worked in the backside such as myself has seen different. The horses who are stalled 23 hours a day and weave and go crazy because they doped. The truck that picked up the losers and unwanted a every week without so much as a glance back from trainers and owners. Owners who can’t even tell you what their horse looks like unless it wins the Kentucky Derby and then suddenly the horse is the most loved horse on the planet. Drunk grooms, exercise riders and trainers at 11:00 in the morning. The beating of the horses if the exercise rider thought the horse didn’t give his best work out. How the excuse for whipping is that they have thick hides but yet we put fly sheets and spray on them because the skin is so sensitive.
    In regards to show jumping I have screamed at the television screen to get off the horses’ mouths and dammit release so they can use their neck for balance. Some of the pro’s make me wince. I hate that they jump off the horse that just gave their all and hand it off to a groom who knows and loves the horse more than owner and rider. I hear you loud and clear and kudos to you for having the guts to come out and proclaim the abuse we put these animals through for our own vanity.

  11. Jay says:

    Your not a idiot your doing the right thing! There needs to be more rules in events. Even if the horse did something silly. at lease wipe the blood away. but taking a horse in to the ring with a bloody nose?
    couldn’t they send the vet over after he rode to look at the horse at least? :/

    • Starstone says:

      this horse has been looked over by a vet, it was as soon as it left the ring, and it is doing fine. the bleeding happened while in the ring, not before.

      • Jay says:

        Oh okay thought it was before. Maybe with some of the things, set up a petition? Just to get it noticed a bit more 🙂 Just a thought 😛

  12. Maxine Clemit says:

    Brilliant post I agree with u 100% we need a partition off some kind

  13. Colette says:

    I’m not into all this garbage of jumping and racing and pushing these beautiful God given animals to the extreme. As far as I can remember about what science says about the frame of the horse, the only reason they should be jumping is to escape from a predator….end of! It seems man is the only predator these beautiful animals have to deal with.
    I am a Christian (yes one of them) and the word of God says that a righteous man takes care of his animals. What does this say about many horse people? I’m not here to talk about bits or riding or your shows. I have come on here to give you the truth though. This animals don’t belong to you they belong to their Creator, the Lord Jesus Christ, he’s actually going to be riding back on one in the future, so they must be special animals. For all those who abuse animals in any way shape or form, you shall be held accountable for it by my God. He didn’t put man over animals to torture them but to oversee them, but because man is sinful and basically wicked there is a lot of abuse of animals going on around the world.
    Now you can dismiss what the bible says but if you do it shows you’ve never actually done your homework, as the bible is a prophetic book and over 90% of those prophecies have been fulfilled with 100% accuracy to date, not many left to be fulfilled !!! That’s FACT not fiction ! So I suggest even if people reject Jesus Christ himself as Saviour, keep abusing the life he has created along with you and it will be held against you as unrighteousness on the day you stand in judgement.
    Although we now are now in an age of mockers and scoffers, God can still be found for the moment. A time is coming when people will seek him but will not be able to find him anymore. The days of grace are ending and God’s judgement is at the door according to scripture.
    Nothing belongs to you, all belongs to HIM so consider !!

  14. Kate says:

    What it comes down to is money. Riders don’t know how to ride anymore, and to allow for them to make it to the higher level they need extremely athletic and expensive horses whom they really have no business riding. So they bit up, put on draw reins and dull down the horses personality so that an idiot may ride it to the top, at the horses expense. It’s disgusting

  15. ANNE TWINE says:

    Care2 Causes could be the petition if someone can write it with the knowledge.

  16. Sherri Vanderveen says:

    Wow!! Your awesome. I wish I could shout all that at the top of mountain so everyone could hear!!!! I so agree with EVERYTHING you said! I have a horse that is very talented and he was trained so backwards that he started to attack people. It has taken me 3 years to turn him around. He now loves his dressage. And the Anky thing….. Your so right! She believes her own crap!! She was here about 2 weeks ago in BC. I know a couple of people that had to walk out!! I wouldn’t let that women near my horse!!! In conclusion, so good to hear I’m not the only one saying “WTF IS GOING ON!!!!!

  17. Ruth says:

    Well said. 🙂

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