One disadvantage to the use of rollkur has been mentioned as an advantage (confusing I know, but it somewhat depends on your views). The shortening of the brachiocephalic muscles which is seen through prolonged use of rollkur creates a high front leg action often admired in the competition arena. On the other hand, it results in a mismatch of the legs through the gaits as the high leg action created in the forelegs isn’t duplicated in the hind legs. This creates a rather disunited looking trot particularly.

Next we move to the horse’s field of vision. Bringing this back to the basics of what horses are; we’re dealing with flight animals – prey animals. Horses in nature are hunted and when faced with something unfamiliar they have seconds to assess whether it is a threat to their lives. Their reaction to something that is a threat? To run of course; that IS a horses’ natural defence. When riding, if a horse perceieves something in the distance, it will raise it’s head and focus on the target – assessing it. When it perceives something closer to it, the head will drop allowing it to shift it’s vision. The horses’ field of vision follows down it’s nose. Imagine then, that as a prey animal, we remove it’s ability to assess it’s surroundings for potential dangers. While this has the “bonus” of giving additional control to a spooky horse (read above in the claimed advantages of rollkur), it has the severe disadvantage of bringing undue stress to the horse. Indeed, the findings of the FEI Veterinary and Dressage Committee employed to investigate the long term effects of the use of rollkur and LDR stressed the necessity for ANY training method to ensure minimum and preferably no undue stress was brought upon the animal.

From a personal point of view, I believe the ethics of limiting a horse’s field of view to the extent of them literally being able to see their own feet is beyond stressful and touching on cruel.

The next problem with rollkur links to another commonly seen site amongst horses ridden in rollkur; excessive salivating of the mouth. Foam stained shoulders are a common site amongst these horses and while some degree of dampening in the mouth is a good thing and seen as a sign of the acceptance of the bit, excessive salivating like this is a problem with a very simple cause. The hyperflexion of the neck and the pinning in of the head reduces the horse’s capacity to actually swallow. The horse tenses his jaw in direct objection to the forcing of the head. This is sometimes masked with overly tight nosebands (I’ll discuss this somewhat in another post).

There is another major category of disadvantages relating to the physiology of the animal. As these require a deeper look at the structural makeup of the horses’ anatomy, it will be discussed later in it’s own section.