A UK dressage expert today slammed critics for accusations that dressage is a blood sport.

Winnie Murphy, Communications Manager for British Dressage, dismissed claims that the sport was cruel saying “I don’t think its a blood sport in any shape or form.


IMAGE CREDIT: Retraining of Racehorses

We have stewards at competitions and any signs of blood, it doesn’t matter where it is or how its been caused, the horse is stopped and it is actually eliminated.”

Training is understandably an important part of the process as Murphy says but there is little cause for concern as “The riders know them really well, they train with them everyday. They recognise the traditional signs. Horses are just like humans, we all have good days and bad days. Horses are no different and thats part of the relationship that they build up.

Some argue that horses trained for Dressage are over-worked but Murphy argues that a horse will not follow instruction if it does not want to and they are very much like people “you can’t make a half ton of horse do something that it doesn’t want to do. every horse definitely enjoys it because you wouldn’t get what the sport required out of them, you wouldn’t get the movement if they didn’t love it.”

Speaking of why dressage has become popular Murphy explained how success and approachability has helped “The success of 2012 really put us in the spotlight. I think people at home can relate to it a little bit more and we have really good coverage by the BBC.”

The simplistic methods that we use to train the horses – we began to earn respect from our European counterparts. British Dressage had recognised that we needed to improve our offering, we needed to be much more approachable, more inclusive and provide with an entry route.”

Sometimes referred to as ‘horse ballet’, dressage aims to show focus and control of the horse, but some label it a ‘blood sport’. Communications Manager for British Dressage, Winnie Murphy discusses how the training method rollkur has been banned by the Federation for Equestrian sports “Its not something that we use on the whole in this country. Its not something that we support in any shape or form.”

The FEI (Federation for Equestrian Sports) make it their priority to ensure that horses are treated well within the sport and that mis-practice does not occur and that training methods which could be deemed cruel are not permitted.

The FEI say “All aggressive riding is not acceptable whether it is in dressage or any other discipline.”

On the topic of the banned Rollkur technique, equine studies author Karin Blignault says: “…scientific reviews indicate that such a position should not be held for longer than 30 seconds, since doing so may harm the horse, even to the extent of causing permanent physical damage…”



The equestrian sport which was registered into the olympics in 1912 in Stockholm has, over time, become increasingly popular and engagement for the sport is continuing to grow.

The sport practices control and how well the rider can control his or hers horse. Training typically takes years of practice and during this time the relationship between horse and partner strengthens. Murphy highlights the importance of bonding “Sometimes the rider can ride for ten minutes and they have achieved everything that they want to in that session or it may take a half-hour session. So its really the perception of the rider and the horse.”

Modern-day dressage competitions see the horse and rider execute a series of movements for a panel of judges which ware then judged.

Dressage Events say “A dressage test is marked on the bearing, demeanour, discipline and elegance that the partnership brings to the arena. Each test consists of a sequence of movements to test the suppleness and obedience of the horse.”

There are an abundance of different levelled competitions from introductory to more complex performances. Introductory level competitions require horse and rider to carry out smooth walking, trotting and simple circles.

More advanced competitions see more difficult sequences where the horse will trot on the spot and perform canter pirouettes.

Getting to that level takes a lot of time and effort which Murphy perfectly explains “It takes years and years and years to get horses to the top level. And really dressage, as I say, is the training of the horse and what you see in competition is just a result of that training.”

During training, and even competitions, the rider can get an idea of the horses mood and these differ just like us “Horses are just like humans, we all have good days and bad days. Horses are no different and thats part of the relationship that they build up that you recognise that in your horse.”







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