In which I'm not the only one to make a tough choice for a good horse

My post yesterday was about pulling Fiddle from competition for the remainder of the year.   
If I ever thought that was a hard choice to make, it was before I read today's Facebook post from Olympic competitor Adelinde Cornelissen of the Netherlands, who pulled her horse at the entry gate at the Olympics because she knew he didn't feel well.

Adelinde Cornelissen on Parzival (NED) Credit: Jon Stroud Media
The article in Horse and Hound really played up the illness angle, but the rider's own account, posted on FB and pasted below, emphasized that all the vets had cleared Parzival for competition. 
This was absolutely a tough call to make, a true "rider option" pull, and although I have tremendous respect for any rider who takes an RO, I have even more respect for a rider who flies a horse all the way to South America and pulls at the start line with the whole world watching.  All for the benefit of the horse.  
I can't help feeling I'm in good company.  
So here's a question for the readers:  have you ever taken an RO?  Either at a competition, or elsewhere, made a drastic change in plans for the benefit of the horse?  Or have you ever declined to make a drastic change and regretted not doing it?  
No flames are permitted on this blog, but I'd be interested in sharing stories that might benefit other readers.  The comment box is open.  

Adelinde Cornelissen
2 hrs

My story....
Lots has happened...
The first days in Rio went according to plan: a relaxed flight, stabling good, training good. Parzival feels happy and fit.
Until yesterday morning... I planned to train early on Tuesday morning, so I was at the stable at 6am. Saying good morning to Parzival, I saw the right side of his head was swollen, he had been kicking the walls. I took his temperature:he had a fever of over 40 degrees Celcius, but he still didn't look sick. He was eating and drinking and while walking I had a hard time keeping up with him, as always...
Jan Greve came right away and after double checking with the vets here they concluded he was bitten by an insect or spider or some sort of animal which produces toxics.
To get the toxics out of his system we gave him fluids. From 6.30 to 15.45hrs we kept him on this. It helps the kidneys to clean up the toxics out of the body. The vets at the clinic took swaps from the nose and checked the blood. The temperature dropped gradually and by 15.30 it was 38.4... We then took x-rays from the jaw and echoed the area. Just making sure..All ok.
At the end of the day the fever was down and I handwalked Parzival a bit. He looked a lot better and the swelling of his head was at least 1/3 the size of this morning...
Then difficult descisions came... We requested the FEI if we could swap starting places within the team, so Parzi could get a day to recover. Competing on thursday in stead of wednesday. But the FEI declined.
At that point I didn't want to compete anymore... Parzival's health is more important than anything else in this world!
I slept at the stables, checking up on Parzi every hour... I was not going to leave him alone! Of course I didn't get any sleep...
Main thing, this morning temperature had dropped to 37.5! And the swelling again had come down a bit..
New difficult descisions to make.

I had decided yesterday I was not going to compete, but now the temperature was back to normal, he looked fit, was eating and drinking good, I also didn't want to let the team down... In the back of my mind knowing we had no reserve combination here..... What to do?
Between 7am and 8am we were allowed to ride in the arena.
I discussed with Jan Greve and Johan Rockx and decided we were going to walk and trot under saddle for 10 min and see how he was...
And so we did... We went to the arena, rode a few laps and he looked happy and fit. Coming back to the stables the temperature was still down...
Again difficult descisions... What to do? He is fit now, but you know what happened yesterday... Nobody to fill in my place if I would withdraw, letting the team down.
Questions questions... What is wise? I discussed with several vets and the team coach.. The FEI vets came and checked up on him around 10am. All gave green light to compete.. We decided I would give it a try. The fever was down, which means the toxics are out of his system. There is still a bit of swelling in the jaw, but we cooled it all the time and the swelling gets less...
I agreed to give it a try. Knowing the story, I took it easy in the warm up and didn't want to ride full. He was ok, although he didn't feel very powerful. Normal of course after a day like yesterday. I walked a lot to save the energy.. When I entered I already felt he was giving his utmost and being the fighter he is, he never gives up... But in order to protect him, I gave up...My buddy, my friend, the horse that has given everything for me his whole life does not deserve this.... So I saluted and left the arena.....


Ms Cornelissen, you may not have earned a medal for your team in Rio, but here at Haiku Farm we think you deserve endless Gold Stars.

UPDATE:  Did Adelinde break her horse's jaw prior to competition using Rolkur?  
Did she try to "kick him awake" prior to her rider option pull?  

I don't know.  If so, I'm sorry for it.  

If not, I'm sorry for the "trial by Facebook" that is burning up the Interwebs now.  

If you have never experienced first-hand the ugliness of humanity online, then count yourself lucky.  There is something about the medium that seems to spur (intentional pun) the vitriol.  Sometimes the meanness is justified.  Often it is not.  I know of at least one virtual mob that whipped itself into a frenzy last week over statements that were flat-out wrong--and worse, not a one of the participants remembered to apologize for the nastiness they helped to generate.  And I am very sorry for that.

I urge my Gentle Readers: before participating in any online witch hunt, consider your source of information, and the source of your information's source, and the source of that source's source, and so on.  If you see rhetoric spinning away from true and into the unkind, speak up, promptly and strongly.  

If you are taking somebody else's word, please spend some time in pondering before grabbing a pitchfork and flaming torch.  

As for me, I'm going riding.


  1. I don't buy Ms Cornelissen's concern for her horse - she is proponent of rolkur, and one has only to watch the video of the rein-back in her aborted test to see how unhappy in the mouth her horse is.

    Back on topic - I've unfortunately done both. The most recent was a case when I should have packed up & gone home, my horse was a bit off in his action as judged by the ride organiser (not a vet). As the trot up was on uneven ground, and he had literally just gotten off the float, I assumed any issues were stiffness related.

    I was wrong. Still off in his action at the end of our slow 10km ride (same person, same ground to trot up on). I wish I'd pulled at the start.

  2. Ah, linky goodness re Parzival.

  3. I hope by now you've seen the posts debunking the "hero" status of this rider? She was seen furiously spurring the horse in the warmup arena to get energy out of him, and entered the test with spur marks visible from the stands. By the time she stopped her test, her horse's tongue was blue. There were posts from people who were in the stands watching the warmup and the event describing this. The woman has a bad reputation among fellow dressage riders, some saying she's no better than Dutch rider Anky van Grunsven when it comes to training techniques. She quit the test simply because she realized the horse could not finish.


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