A happy athlete or a welfare issue?

Adelinde Cornelissen

This photo is of Adelinde Cornelissen and Parzival yesterday in the dressage Grand Prix Special at the World Equestrian Games. Sadly this was considered good enough to take 4th place with 79.629%. Who is judging the judges?

This is not the 'happy athlete' the FEI are supposed to be promoting - Parzival was overbent throughout his test from serious force on his mouth, his noseband fastened so tight it appears he needs padding on his jaw, his mouth open to try and avoid bit pressure, rowel spurs dug in his side... What has happened to 'lightness' and 'relaxation'?

At the recent ISES conference Dr Andrew McLean gave a fantastic speech asking for an overhaul of the dressage judging system. He reminded us that dressage actually means 'training' and that any horse should be able to enter and be judged equally - on their training. However as it stands there is a huge risk of judges being biased towards different countries, breeds of horse, fitting in with their colleagues, marking differently at different times during the session and so on – so where is the objectivity? He also highlighted how inappropriate the term 'submission' is and asked that this be reconsidered.

Certainly something is seriously wrong if these pictures represent the best dressage in the world. If the FEI are going to continue to reward riding and training in this way, then nothing will change.