27 March 2009 -- Philippe Karl's first letter to the German FN proposing changes to their rules

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To the management of the German Equestrian Federation (FN)

Dear Madam, dear Sir,

Due to the increasing professionalisation of equestrian sports and the growing pressure of economic constraints, the official interpretation of good riding has changed dramatically in the past 30 years.

Dressage, which forms the basis for the education of riding teachers, should at the same time provide the best example of classical schooling of the horse. Instead, it has degenerated to a superficial, coercive exploitation of the horse. A very high proportion of horses pay the price for this, under the almost completely indifferent eyes of the authorities.


On each level, from the national federations to the FEI, whether out of ignorance or complacency, judges have, little by little, allowed the unacceptable to become the norm. This tragic drift occurred worldwide. In ethical and aesthetical terms, it leads to a serious cultural regression. The ranks of those who reject such a way of riding continue to grow steadily.

The German Equestrian Federation (FN) holds a dominant position in the world of dressage. As such, it should take the lead of a reform movement that would do it great honour.

It would be naive to think that a clever manipulation of the "training scale", some nice sentences about "harmony", "gymnastics for the horse" or "classical riding" would bring about a real change of direction. What we need are sensible, radical rules that could easily be implemented and which could at one and the same time protect the horses, put a stop to offenders' games and promote healthy training and competition.

In this spirit I would like to propose that the FN incorporate the following concrete points into the rules.

1.    Auxiliary reins connected to the bit are forbidden, whether on the longe or under saddle. The longe should always be attached to a cavesson.

2.    Tight nosebands are forbidden, both in daily training and competition. (In addition, it is permissable to present a horse without a noseband.)

3.    The horse's mouth must be checked immediately prior to every test or performance. Any injury leads to disqualification.

4.    Any horse showing injury from spurs to be disqualified.

5.    Overflexion (nose behind the vertical) in any movement to be punished with a mark of at most 3.

6.    Blocked jaws, tongues pulled up or hanging out and grinding of the teeth in any exercise to be punished with a mark of at most 4.

7.    Neck extension (long position in which the mane is nearly horizontal, the nose keeping in front of the vertical) becomes a part of every dressage test, in all three gaits and on both reins.

8.    The walk is reinstated as a fully-fledged part of each dressage test, representing up to 30% of total marks possible, at least in tests on E, A, L and M level.
The lateralisation of the walk (horse comes close to ambling) leads to disqualification.

9.    In tests for young horses as well as auctions, the young horses must be presented in neck extension in all three gaits, with the rider rising to the trot.

Yours faithfully,

     Philippe Karl


22 May 2009 -- Philippe Karl's call to action

On 27 March 2009, I sent a letter to the German Equestrian Federation (FN), in which I propose a number of changes of the FN rules. So far, I have not even received a confirmation of receipt, let alone an answer.

I therefore decided to make this letter and the propositions it contains accessible to the public by way of the magazine Dressur-Studien and the Internet.

All people involved with horses (riders, grooms, teachers, trainers, owners, breeders, vets, etc.) who are willing to endorse such reforms are invited to express their support by adding their name to the list below.

Thank you - on behalf of the horses and the Art of Riding.

         Philippe Karl

An online petition was started on this date and was signed by 14,227 supporters of the proposed reforms.


15 June 2009 -- Answer from the German FN

The FN replied to Philippe Karl on 15 June 2009 and commented on his propositions. The English translation of their answer is here.
(Translation: Derek Clark)


29 July 2009 – Second letter of Philippe Karl

The translation of Philippe Karl's reply to the letter of the FN from 15 June 2009 is here.
(Translation: Derek Clark)


13 August 2009 – Second answer of the FN

In reaction to Philippe Karl’s second letter, the FN proposes a meeting. The translation of their letter is here.
(Translation: Derek Clark)


28 August 2009 – Third letter of Philippe Karl

In his third letter, Philippe Karl agrees to the meeting and clarifies some points of the agenda. The translation of his letter is here.
(Translation: Derek Clark)


July 2010 – Meeting with the FN called off

The meeting between Philippe Karl and the German FN, planned for 30 august 2010, was unexpectedly called off by the FN – without any alternative date being proposed.