Is This a Reining Sport Secret?

Is the reining sport secret men’s business?

The reining sport authority says:

“All complaints filed with the NRHA are confidential, as are the decisions made by the committees in closed session.”

Well, that keeps it all a secret does it not? – click here for a redacted copy of a letter signed by the National Reining Horse Association.

And the rules state you must pay $250.00 to file a complaint and you receive a letter saying that?

The National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) is a not-for-profit association, with a member-elect Board of Directors. For many members they may not know this happens when one of their peers attempts to file a complaint with the NRHA; they receive that letter and the door seems to be slammed shut. The committees all meet in closed session from what we know at this time.

So how do the names on the disciplinary list in the Reiner Magazine get there?


If all complaints get that letter, as it states they do, then could this be a perceived gagging order on members?

Sections of the membership are showing resounding silence across the globe when issues of abuse are raised. There are those that deny outright what goes on, those that indicate it is going on, and others that write about their experiences and what they have personally witnessed. Those speaking out often say they are no longer members. Others say they can speak now as they are no longer members.

Are the responses of denial verging on a culture where avoiding exclusion from the sport at the expense of horses? Read our article on Who is Protecting Reining Horse Welfare and the public comments.

There is some conjecture that if you lodge a complaint or speak poorly of the NRHA they will revoke or deny your membership as ‘a person not in good standing’. Seemingly they can revoke/not grant it without reason. If this is true, it could weigh heavily into the need for more transparency within the NRHA and its complaint handling procedures and membership rights. It is a not-for-profit membership and not a private company.

Legal Action

Kit Cosper, former NRHA Board Member and an Executive Committee member, is currently testing that clause with legal action against the NRHA after his lifetime membership was cancelled.

Click here to read the court document claim and click here to read the NRHA legal response to the claim. We do not wish to debate or comment on his individual claim and look forward to reading the court’s decision. We can say is that he is an active person in seeking transparency within the NRHA.

These are public documents available through the courts.


Now here is a dilemma

If the complaints are confidential as their letter states, then how do the names on the disciplinary list get there? From January 2011 to December 2016 – just 15 members globally had serious action taken against them (suspended/revoked) and just 11 were placed on probation. We know two happened after the courts found them guilty of abuse; Arballo and Weston. One states unsportsmanlike conduct while the others remain a mystery as to why they are listed.

There is conjecture that these people listed are used to show affirmative action is being taken to satisfy the public and those members who are less informed.

Questions, Questions, Questions

We can all ponder how the NRHA is managing complaints but it would be best if you write to them and ask them to answer the questions, publicly?

What exactly does that confidentiality statement mean to a member?

  1. Do you not get an answer to your complaint because it’s confidential?
  2. Are the results of a complaint kept secretive to everyone, including other members and the person/s you complained about?
  3. What happens if a complaint is a serious abuse issue and the filer feels it has just been dropped into the abyss?
  4. Where is the proof that the complaint is handled if it’s all confidential?
  5. Are only complaints filed by show representatives heard and made public?

The members own the NRHA and not the elected board members and staff!

More Questions

Members should be asking:

  1. How many complaints are actually received by the NRHA each year that are ‘locked under confidential’?
  2. How many complaints are found to be substantial and require disciplinary action but none is taken?
  3. What are abuse complaints measured against when the rule book dedicates just 4% of its welfare statement to animal abuse and the code of conduct is not enforced on trainers?

If there was ever a catalyst for the need for transparency and a more independent complaint handling procedure, this would be most likely part of it.

Have your opinion and vote on whether you believe changes are needed. Poll Now Closed.

© 2016  All Rights Reserved.


Customs Can be the Biggest Horse Abuser

The truth is that a person deemed as knowledgeable,

may well be the cruellest person that ever stepped into a horse pen.

Ask a reining trainer or clinician how they train their horses and they will have a mantra response that is palatable to most people’s ears. What they won’t talk about is the things they do behind barn doors; sometimes barbaric practices deemed tradition in the training of the reining horse.

They have learned skills passed on from generation to generation from people considered knowledgeable; the people that influence the sport today. Some of those people were good horsemen and many others were barbaric in their methods. Those people have immense influence over members and enthusiasts of the sport whether good or bad. They are the masters of the destiny of reining horses as they are provided with full access and authority across the globe.

Those same trainers and clinicians are conditioned to seeing and working with those barbaric methods and have no measure of the degree of abuse being applied. They justify everything with their longevity in the business and their prize winnings. A good prize winner or promoter seems to have a licence for unquestionable abuse, even when other horsemen stand back and shake their heads in disgust.

The twistedness of the trainers lack of skill and knowledge was captured in this US Patent for horse training equipment. The 1964 patent states:

Customary methods for training animals in general, and horses in particular, often are relatively very cruel. For example, in training horses to neck rein, one method involves beating the horse about the head with a wide leather paddle or bat several hundred times to train the horse to turn when the rider so orders. Horses trained in this manner to be cow horses usually are retrained after periods of two or three months, During each such training exercise the horse may again be batted about the head several hundred times. These training and retraining exercises often cause a horse to become extremely head shy.

Another training method used to train a cow horse to neck rein involves the use of sharp spurs as the rider wishes the horse to turn. This method often results in badly injured shoulders for the horse, often resulting in permanent injury. In addition, horses that otherwise were very good horses, though somewhat high-spirited, often were ruined for cow horse purposes because they could not be beaten into submission by either the hat or the spur.

Accordingly, it is an important object of this invention to provide a humane animal training device that is capable of more rapidly and more permanently training animals, such as the horse, than has been achieved by the use of prior art methods.

Another object of this invention is to provide an electric training rein for rapidly and efficiently training a horse, such as a cow horse, to neck rein without cutting, bruising, or otherwise injuring or undesirably shying the horse.

Wow. The electric rein was the improvement as it was a rapid solution and left no noticeable marks and the horse was not head shy.

I remember seeing a lovely Zan Parr Bar bred colt, in the late 70’s early 80’s, trained with electric reins. He shivered from head to toe in fear with his eyes rolling and his entire relationship with the trainer was reactionary to fear, and beatings for the wrong reaction. The trainer was deemed a champion and appeared on the front pages of magazines.

Move on to the 1980-90’s and watch some of the old educational videos; the videos actually published in that era and not the vetted versions available today. Some readers will remember attending clinics or spending time in training barns.

Those videos (and live demonstrations) demonstrate such barbarian treatment as:

  1. Barbed wire bits for hard mouth horses
  2. Reins tied from the bit to the hind legs snagging the horse every stride to soften its mouth.
  3. Metal cavessons to pull horses heads under – of course tied through the front legs
  4. Chains as nosebands and bits
  5. Shoulder spurring to the point of spur holes left in horses shoulders
  6. Wire bands over the poll being pulled taught in a war bridle
  7. Tying heads around tightly to the saddle for hours on end
  8. Tying heads high in the barn to weaken spirits and tire the horse
  9. Hobbling horses and beating them to teach them who is in charge
  10. Hitting horses relentlessly with poly pipe to spin faster

and the list goes on.

Several years ago, at a demonstration in front of hundreds of people, a prize-winning legendary reining trainer informed the crowd that when he had too many horses to ride each day, he would use hardened black plastic pipe and beat on the horses to get them to turnaround. Not much going on in that man’s head for sure.

And yes, these methods still exist to this day. They are like a mother’s milk to some trainers. Occasionally when it happens like with the death of Bella (Gunnabe Gifted) it comes out of the closet what has been happening in trainer barns. Or the horse in Calgary spurred beyond any reasonable purpose. Others have died and suffered, but did not get the media attention as the owners were fearful of the consequences to them.

How the NRHA defines abuse through the eyes of a reasonably hands-on person in training and showing horses. In other words a trainer. The full statement is subject to copyright but can be read in their handbook on page 11 of the 2017 edition.

If the people chosen were raised on these barbaric techniques, and many have been, then the toleration would be very different to someone who was a good horseman with a fair hand and heel.

In one event, we observed a gelding being harassed, severely spurred and jerked hard continually in front of the show manager and other riders. It escalated to such a point the horse was in such a state of fear, and it was unable to function. Every move it made was met with extreme punishment. The gelding urinated on itself and then collapsed to the ground. No one intervened, (except for us). Amidst a spray of language for intervening, the show manager, and riders responded ‘he knows what he is doing, and the horse can handle it, that horse just has a bad attitude.’ Justifying that level of abuse left us speechless. Customs can apparently outride brains.

The image in this article is a wire wrapped metal cavesson, with a sliding gag and twisted wire bit. The string is a cavesson hanger to set it to the softest part of the horse’s face. This barbaric training item is deemed a solution to a horse with a problem and what was required to train a reining horse.

A knowledgeable (?) person may well be the steward overseeing the horses at your next show. Hardened to the point of not being able to see abuse when it is right in front of them. As the frenzy builds to have the horse completely submit, ready to run for +1 ½ scores the level escalates.

Improvements in the NRHA rules are needed and the litmus test of ‘horse public opinion’ for the treatment of horses. You do not need to be a reining horse rider to see abuse; you do not need to be a top-level trainer to understand abuse. The two most common statements are made to support any action of a reining horse person where the lines have been crossed. A good horseman can see abuse no matter what discipline they show or ride in. In the NRHA member logic, Buck Brannaman or Ray Hunt may well have been sidelined as being not a good measure of welfare as he did not show top-level reining horses. I think not.

Let us know your thoughts and don’t forget to vote.

Always Remember:  You stick up for a horse abuser  –  it’s usually because your tribe is your vibe.


© 2016  All Rights Reserved.

Do the NRHA Enforce Medication Rules?

With a massive 94% of the weighting for welfare and medications clauses sitting squarely on medications, not abuse, in the National Reining Horse Association Handbook, the questions need to be asked: “Have you had your horse tested at an official NRHA event anywhere in the world?” and “How often are they testing at official events?”

The National Reining Horse Association has gone to great lengths in its handbook to define it’s Animal Welfare and Medications Rules and Regulations within their Handbook. As we mentioned in a recent article “NRHA turns back on horses again in 2017” the reference to welfare is weighted heavily to medications, not abuse.

In fact, there are:

• Seven sections with 35 clauses and 36 sub-clauses for medications being 71 points, whereas
• Only two sections with mentions in four clauses for abuse outside of the actual show pen

That is a weighted ratio of just 6% emphasis on abuse and the balance on medications. Many would say that is just not good enough to manage and stop the abuse of horses that people write about observing in warm-up pens of NRHA shows across the globe.

Many questions can be asked about the medication rules.

The rule book states the testing can include physical examination, obtaining urine samples, blood testing or any other tests that an approved veterinarian considers necessary. All except the physical examination would have results post the horse competing in its classes. It raises the question does the horse still competes medicated or do they have an on-site rush service for testing?

Some of the prohibited drugs can take effect in a matter of minutes or within the hour before a person enters the ring. How is that tested? The horse is being warmed-up ready to show, a quick trip back to the stable and they are ready to go with it looking like it was just a quick slick up ready to show. Those that use medications would be swift and secretive in how they give them.

The test of whether the NRHA enforces the medication rules would be in the rulings. How often are people seeing someone’s placing withdrawn after an NRHA event as they were found to be in breach of the medication rules? Do they discipline the person but the horse keeps its placing at the event even though it had an unfair advantage?

The big question is, has anyone been disciplined for breach of the NRHA Medication Rules? Surely they did not write all those rules because the problem does not exist?

Keeping it positive, if there were no convictions and the testing is happening, then there are the costs associated. The NRHA funds the medications testing and the costs should appear on the annual financial report to all the members. Are any members aware of the cost of testing in the last fiscal year (2015) or have an indication of what the costs were in 2016?

Reading the NRHA Handbook is an education in the application of drugs in the equine sport today. With the listing of drugs available in the handbook, some may see this as an instructional guide more than a set of rules if they are not consistently testing.

Let us know your thoughts?

Don’t forget to go to the Poll on our website and vote.  Poll Now Closed.

© 2016   All Rights Reserved.