Reining Futurity – the seedy underbelly of abuse to horses to win

“I am no longer willing to do to the horses what it takes to run at 75+ at a reining futurity?’ breeders, owners and some respectable trainers are saying about horse abusers.

Breeders and Owners connected with some of the top horses in the country are sick of the abuse and are backing away and some are even leaving the sport forever.

The wannabes and “excusestrians” are still justify ‘what it takes’ saying the horses are the most cared for horses in the world. So what are the people talking about when they say ‘what it takes to train a horse to run a 75?

As you sit back cheering and applauding horses at the NRHA Futurity, or any other major event, think of the horse’s life and experience before the Hollywood lights were turned on and the few moments in time define the public view of reining – big slides and fast spins. A trainer has a split second to define their place in the reining sport history, and the horse will make or break them.

For that reason, the futurities bring out the worst in people, and the NRHA is an association that has built nearly its entire existence around it. For reiners, it is the basis of every conversation, every breeding program, every trainer’s waking moment – competing in the futurity and winning. Doing whatever it takes to win.

The futurity is the event that takes winners to a perceived level of godliness to those within the sport. A right of passage that seemingly allows a person to do anything they want without question. A place where ego’s flourish and rule every decision. Ego is what the entire futurity and show system is about. It is like a drug that once sampled at the lowest of levels must be pursued at all costs to reach the top.

For the uninitiated, the rules are simple for the sport of reining. To rein a horse is not only to guide him but also to control his every movement. The best-reined horse should be wilfully guided or controlled with little or no apparent resistance and dictated to completely. Any movement on his own must be considered a lack of control. A lack of control is penalized by predetermined points, and they are out of the money.

So, you have an ego-driven dictator in control of a horse’s well-being. An ego that may take any action of the horse as disobedience that must be reprimanded immediately or as they say corrected immediately to stay in the money. The excusestrians have a field day with bizarre justifications of what is outright abuse, but then horse abuse is not their problem – they enable people to do it.

It would take a very mature person to manage the balance day-in-day-out to train these horses, and an ego would be the most dangerous tool to have.

Sitting on the fence 2am-4am in the morning during futurity week and you would be hard-pressed to find a mature person respecting the horse.

Winning all weighs on the horse. The horse, a simple creature that is rarely asked for his opinion or whether it is what he wants to do, is subjected to some of the most horrific things just to feed the futurity and show ego and win. The horse has no voice. Unfortunately, horses can take a lot of abuse before succumbing, and they are usually silent about it. The horse is ridden and trained to the point of helplessness. It must wait on the rider for every movement, its legs, head, and body and be in total submission and control.

To get the results, you will not see big name trainers back off nor their wannabee underlings; the horse, will perform no matter what. They have invested time into the training, and the horse has no excuse – it must do it. The longer the animal has survived in training, the less tolerance the trainer has for any level of disobedience or movement on its own. A misunderstanding of a command can lead to untold pain and suffering for the horse. Of course, the trainer never made a mistake it is always the horse that is wrong.

Mention that pain and suffering inflicted by a trainer and the wannabes and “excusestrians” will be lined up behind them, worshipping their winning ways and trying to be just like them. It is like spawning abusers. The excusestrains will ignore any sense of compassion and intelligence to be accepted in the inner circle of a trainer barn.

So what does it take to run a 75 at the futurity or major event?

For many horses, it means hours, weeks, and months of drilling maneuvers over a two-year period. The expression Drilled Numb sums it up. Drilling that is based on a desire for complete control and the horse to sacrifice its natural behavior and perform extreme and precise maneuvers on command every time. Living in a stable and working in the same pen, day in and day out for two years.

The horse that does not comply is faced with choices as the trainer, as much as some owners are determined to make the horse do it. The trainer is living off the horse, so they will not quit anytime soon.

As the training program continues, the tolerance of the trainer for incorrect steps or actions is reduced, and the pain and suffering increase through:

  1. Excessive spurring to the horses to the point of permanent puncture holes to the sides of the horse. From high in the stands this is not seen, but bend down at the side of a warm-up pen, and you will see horse after horse go by with scar tissue, granularized marks and punch holes.
  2. When horses react to excessive spurring by swishing their tails which is a penalty in the show ring. No problems, block their tails so they cannot show signs of spurring and discomfort. The well-known cure is easily detected as the horse’s tail hangs lifeless streaming behind the horse. Back at the stall, the mares have their tail tied around with a rope, so they don’t pee in them. The staff continually clean dirty hind ends where they shit on themselves.
  3. Excessive jerking of the reins to correct the horse. Watch a rider hauling from side to side and importantly either leaning way back in the saddle for more strength pulling on the reining or climbing over the top of the horse to haul upwards with strength.
  4. Prepping the horse to soften it as some Neanderthals attempt to justify? Bit check or tie them around for hours. A common practice according to court documents presented by Top 20 Trainer Arno Honstetter. Go to a gym and ask your trainer if you should be asked to hold an extreme position for 30-60 minutes (god help the horses for hours) and see what response you get. This is a practice that shows the lunacy of horse trainers.
  5. Overbending of the neck for sustained periods of time. Scientifically proven many times over to be detrimental to the horses breathing and muscles and causes extreme stress. But trainers know better than science, don’t they? Why they love this is it takes away the horse’s ability to fight and flight. The ultimate control
  6. Drugging the horses. Supposedly illegal but many reiners talk of the random and low level of testing that goes on. It’s a gamble worth doing when there is so much money on the line, and they can usually talk their way out of it.Do you see fines for drugging – not really? They can use a cocktail of drugs or some old favorites like Reserpine used it to calm hot and anxious horses. It changes chemicals within the brain to alter the horse’s temperament. The side effects are shocking causing permanent brain damage. Fluphenazine a popular drug for causing horses to be reluctant to move. Perfect for trainers wanting a horse in complete control. Unfortunately, the side effects can range from depression to violent episodes of head tossing, frantic and manic Those won’t make the show pen.
  7. Hock Hobbles. Tying a horse’s bit to its hocks and lunging it to bring its head down and round its back up or so they convince themselves. Side effects, torn mouths, tongues and flipping over backward.
  8. Tying high. Again, a popular approach both at home and at shows. Tying the horse high in the stall to tire it out. Make it so tired it will wait for the trainer for every move. Now there is control.

The list goes on, but that is enough for now. Now some or all of those things is a common journey to the flashing lights of Reining Hollywood where people believe its all roses and champagne for the horse.

The “excusestrians” say the horses are the best cared for in the world. They had shiny manes and tails and fed every day. Shiny coats and the trainer pats them at the end of a run showing how much they love the horse. The same thing a child abuser says about the children they abuse.

Abused TWH horse winning eventLet us share with you the comparative best of care in the world. TWH Gen has a shiny black coat and standing up tall. In this picture winning a major title, he has 8lb shoes on each front foot stacked high, weighted chains, sored legs (acid poured on his skin and into cuts), chains, tail blocked and tied high, horrific bit – Yep – that is love and care. The enabling abusers are standing by his side.

The Trainer/Rider and the Two Owners of the Horse – “Gen’s Black Maverick” – in THIS PHOTO are ALL serving USDA Federal Suspensions for the alleged SORING of THIS HORSE – “Gen’s Black Maverick.” A bit of makeup they say, and he is okay to show says the trainer.

Is reining becoming the new Big Lick Horse??? Some owners and breeders of L4 horses are very concerned.




What history is showing us is:

  • Winning requires extreme training to get the horse to run a 74+. Not all horses can do it, but many are pushed beyond their limits in an attempt to do so.
  • The first major win usually amplifies the likelihood of becoming a serial horse abuser as they attempt to repeat it and churn through horses to fulfill their dreams.
  • Winning lots of money means the likelihood of being abusive is high as the ego attempts to retain the top of the

As a closing statement: Hitler appeared on the front page of Time Magazine, like those horse abusers that could appear on the front page of the NRHA magazine.

It is time for Hitler to be removed from the sport. Go to the Poll and Vote for Change– now closed and the improvement of the rules to protect these horses.

© 2017  All Rights Reserved.

Isn’t It Abuse No Matter How You Attempt to Justify It?

The reining horse training is now renowned for the excessive spurring and jerking of the horses which can be seen in many warm-up pen at shows across the world. People cringe at the movement of a western pleasure horse but they are shocked about what they see away from shows or in the early hours of the morning at big shows.

Reiners say it is done with masterful techniques but a trip to horse show tells a different story when you see it first hand. Craig Schmersal Top 20 Reining Trainer looks very masterful in this old photo taken at FEI competition as he runs spurs up the sides under the saddle and leans over the wither to gain more leverage hauling on the horses mouth in a curb bit. A quick look at a recent show and you can see its an epidemic style.

Reiners claim that anyone not seeing it is masterful must be from PETA or a tree-hugger. It is become laughable to hear as some of their own high profile people start to break away and state it is abuse and excessive abuse, throwing a spear into the heart of their well rehearsed lines.

You just have see the poorly managed tempers and frustration taken out on the horse while their egos take over in the relentless show down between riders of who is bigger and better in the warm up pen.

The un-inducted and non-reining horse people are often left speechless as they watch how these horses are trained to achieve those moments of flashiness in the show ring. Many observers coming away with the conclusion that it is abuse; something any reining horse rider denies. They deny it publicly but jump into their private groups and they talk of excessive abuse and cite things that leave you shaking your head. Those writers are fearful of speaking out or they will be out of the ‘family’. The people relationships being more important than horse welfare.

Reiners believe that the obsession with over bent head sets and hauling on reins is fine. As like the believe that constant spurring is fine. The running of horses from end to end of the warm-up until they are exhausted known as fencing. Some horses actually running head first into the wall. Their best excuses heard as the blood drips from the horses sides and mouths as they apply their ‘kind and masterful’ spurring and jerking. A quick bit of show ring preparation of rubbing sand from arena surface and a towel through the mouth before they enter the show ring.

Sitting high in the stands, are the crowd and judges, often unable to see the evidence from afar. They only care about the lights – show – action for a brief couple of minutes. The show stewards seemingly caring more about group acceptance than welfare.

What is seen is the show ring is polar opposites to what goes on behind the scenes and back home in the barn but the gullible believe its all loose reins and soft.

The argument is always ‘what is abuse’? Smooth talking trainers could talk their way out of any corner with a justification and often ‘baffle owners and non-pro’s with BS of what is or is not abuse. It would be a fool of a trainer that would actually stand there and say ‘hell yeah, I abuse horses’ instead they craft magical tales to deflect the obvious to person intend on believing anything but the truth.

The FEI, the international body governing horse events defines abuse simply.

Article 142 – Abuse of Horses
1. No person may abuse a Horse during an Event or at any other time. “Abuse” means an action or omission which causes or is likely to cause pain or unnecessary discomfort to a Horse, including without limitation any of the following:
– To whip or beat a Horse excessively;
– To subject a Horse to any kind of electric shock device;
– To use spurs excessively or persistently;
– To jab the Horse in the mouth with the bit or any other device;
– To compete using an exhausted, lame or injured Horse;
– To “rap” a Horse.
– To abnormally sensitise or desensitise any part of a Horse;
– To leave a Horse without adequate food, drink or exercise;
– To use any device or equipment which cause excessive pain to the Horse upon knocking down an obstacle.

The American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) and National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) also run world title events with reining. Their rules implicitly consider excessive spurring and jerking as abuse too.

The NRHA, however, believes all is good, and no changes have been made to rules to address this now worldwide epidemic of abuse again this year.

The definition of a reining horse is: The best reined horse should be willingly guided or controlled with little or no apparent resistance and dictated to completely. Any movement on his own must be considered a lack of control.

The dictation has gone too far but those saturated within the system cannot see the woods for the trees. They believe the Kool-Aid.

Sending horses to reining trainers can be a big mistake for many horses with an increasing number landing in the discarded yard.

Please click on our poll and vote for change to the rules. Now Closed.

© 2017  All Rights Reserved.

Only Old Women Care About Horse Welfare?

We sat and listened to a high profile NRHA judge & former western sport board member at a judging seminar states “only old women are really concerned about animal welfare”. Probably the most honest and discriminatory statement made when you see most abusers charged are men. But does it reflect the priorities of NRHA or just the opinion of a rambling old fool?

What we do know is there is no place on earth for that mentality toward any breed of horse (or animal). God help the horses.

Some high profile horse owners and breeders have also been battling hard to protect the horses, the AQHA 2015 Protect Them Coalition.

As one of the highest profile women in quarter horse, Carol Harris and Kathi Hansen lead a group of 20 women to change the welfare of the quarter horse.

This applies to any quarter horses in general and those horses that compete at shows. The NRHA is not excluded from being considered in these remarks.

“We who love Quarter Horses have allowed too many inhumane trainers to become judges who continually reward each other when they judge or show in our competitions.

These trainer/judges have been permitted by our Association to badly hurt our favorite sport by participating in conflicts of interest positions at our Quarter Horse shows and by refusing to listen to valuable advice and criticism that have been given to them for years.

If our leadership and our members do not know the difference between right and wrong, they should try to remember that there is “NO RIGHT WAY TO DO ALL THE WRONG THINGS THEY ARE DOING”. That is exactly what they have been continuing to force on our horses, our membership and our Association for countless years. They never seem to think it is necessary to improve or correct the continual mistakes.”

Carol Haris of AQHA 2015 Protect Them Coalition writes: This email was sent to me a couple days ago by two Quarter Horse lovers, Betty Marshall and Liz Hickling. For some reason, it made me ashamed that I was not helping them like I used to try to, but a year and a half ago I was more or less asked not to write any more “On The Fence” articles because it disturbed the halter horse people too much. No telling who I will disturb this time, but the fact that people who don’t know the difference between right and wrong are still bothering me and should be bothering others the same way.

To read the rest of the article from AQHA 2015 Protect Them Coalition

Vote now for change. Now Closed.

© 2017  All Rights Reserved.


Professional Reining Horse tied very high to tire it out and make it submissive

Top 20 NRHA Reining Professional Busted for Horse Abuse at Show

Professional Reining Horse trainer takes action against the NRHA after being suspended for abuse.

This is a story that just keeps on giving. It starts as horse abuse protests and allegations, owners pulling horses and end up with the trainer saying he is unfairly treated and should be compensated. What about the horse Mr Reining Trainer should he be compensated for being in your barn?

It all starts with this:

Imagine seeing your horse in a stall at a reining show. At first, it may seem normal and then you realize, your horse breaks out in a sweat and becomes distressed after being hung high for punishment for hours. Is this unusual for reining training?

The world is abuzz with the story of a reining horse who suffered the torturous treatment of being hung, while at NRBC  (National Reining Breeders Classic) annual show in April 2017. One of the largest shows on the NRHA circuit.

To assist you to understand how it can all turn out for the horse, the image below is a recent snap taken at western trainer C. T. Bryant’s barn displaying what a horse can suffer when it gets hung and loses its footing after attempting to get free. Now back to the reining professional busted.

horse hanging from tie up with body on ground after collapsingThe sound of a thrashing horse could be heard across the facility. The thrashing noise was unbearable to listen to and many thought at first it was a cast horse. People talk about seeing others racing to where all the sound was coming from, ending up at a stall covered in curtains blocking any view inside. The curtains were pulled aside, and there is a horse that has been tied high now in deep distress and potentially could permanently harm or kill itself trying to get loose.

The allegations are the colt was hung by a Top 20 NRHA Professional trainer, but no one wants to speak of his name as he is one of the worshipped Top 20. It’s all hush hush unless you are in the inner circle, until now after his name has been finally published.

Questions are being asked “If this is what he does at a show, imagine what he does back home in the barn?”

Reining trainers, like some others, are renowned for tying horses with their head and neck up to an awkward level; leaving the horse to appear to be on its tiptoes. A mindless method used by many reining trainers to punish horses in an attempt to tame those that show any sign of resistance to their dominant training regimes that demand the control of every move the horse makes. Some horses are tied like this, away from food and water, all night. In severe cases, the horses will be left like this for 23+ hours. Some hang them on high walls, others from rafters in stalls and arenas. It is the secret that no-one in the inner circle talks about.

The suffering horses pull against the restraint, half-rearing and shuffling their feet, trying to ease their pain and suffering. The muscle cramps and tearing of muscles and ligaments are relentless on them. All the horse wants to do is drop its head down to relax the muscles. These horses are bred to have a low head carriage hung well outside their bearable comfort zone even for a few minutes.

Attempting to escape, the horse can lose its footing and then they are in serious trouble. Others just quit and submit to the helplessness in agony and silent distress. To move around can mean breaking their neck, others kill themselves with a severe hit to the poll while reefing on the tie-up. They can break legs, and hips and even smash teeth with the halter pulled through their mouth.

Some clandestine trainers and their bamboozled owners call it a necessary part of training. Most enlightened people call it abuse. The horse would call it hell.

Unlike the horse in the photo, not all horses reached the point of complete exhaustion and hang themselves, but many suffer severe muscle pain and muscle tearing and are expected to work as performance horses the next day. The trainer is believing they have dominated the horse sufficiently that it will do what is demanded of it instantly to avoid another tie-up session or further pain inflicted.

Most trainers using this technique also have a bag full of other torturous methods they apply to dominate the horse to the point of learned helplessness. Submissive and robotic fulfilling the trainers’ aim for a winning ride.

This clandestine trainer thinking occurs when the desire to win–or otherwise achieve training goals, overcomes the humane treatment of the horse. When they run out of intelligence and patience and their repressed anger takes over. The trainers in some cases resent the horse will not do as it is told and become aggressive toward the animal. As the futurity season is well underway, horses are exposed to bizarre and oppressive training practices to force the final performance in the hope of winning.

The horse’s owner has pulled all her horses from the Top 20 NRHA Professional barn and moved them to other locations. It is unknown if a protest has been filed as the NRHA lives in a world of secrecy when it comes to complaints and how they are handled.

What has the NRHA done about the incident and what standard did they set?  What did the stewards on the day do about this incident?

It has been a long wait. On a review of the disciplinary list for May 2017 through August 2017, the reining professional busted has not been mentioned. The September list was not published even though referenced in the index. However, the NRHA is renowned for not releasing all suspensions and revoked memberships. It often seems that just the occasional one makes it to the list; the ones that they cannot keep undercover.

Update: In the October 2017 disciplinary list, an alleged trainer, Arno Honstetter is finally published with just a minor three-month suspension. Did they charge him for hanging a horse or was this for another offense, as it has taken so long to appear on the list?

Well, the lawsuit that follows shows us that Honstetter is actually reported for another incident in January 2017 by Leading AQHA Horsewoman and NRHA Trainer, Karen McCuistion. A person who is competent in defining abuse of horses. It is alleged that he was caught bitting up/checking a horse in the barn at a show. The same practice that killed Bella Gunnabe Gifted at the hands of Mark Arballo – who was banned for life, only after the courts found him guilty of abuse. Read the full article here.

Honstetter denies the abuse and believes he did not get a fair process in how the NRHA handled the protest so he wants it overturned and a payment of $100,000 for his suffering. If only the reining horses could get as good a legal representation as trainers!

No longer is the matter about horse abuse – its all about the trainer being treated unfairly – the culture of reining shining through.

Arno Honstetter continues to market himself as a NRHA Professional which again questions the value of the NRHA Professional program. His lawyer has advised that Biting up horses is a standard practice in NRHA – so all reiners are being abused?

arno honsetter biting up horse


The National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) has a zero-tolerance policy on horse abuse, and recently immediately (within days) suspended a well-known high profile trainer for abuse of a horse at a show, even though the SPCA laid no charges. AQHA is reported to have a life ban on bitting up horses.

© 2017 All rights reserved.

two cowboys riding on arena

One of these Reining Professional Trainers is a convicted horse abuser?

Do you know who? Would you know if any of the Reining Professional Trainers have records for convicted horse abusers or NRHA reports for horse abuse?

Right now, there is a person who is a repetitive horse abuser, charged in a court of law in recent years, is promoting his status as an NRHA Professional.

At the court hearing for horse abuse, witnesses came forward and told how they had seen this man over a number of different incidents, over time, cause harm and severe distress to horses on his property, even leaving them tied high without food and water for extended periods of time. The horse in question showed severely gauged and blooded horse sides and mouth photos were sickening. Evidence from other horses were presented. He pleaded guilty to four counts of horse abuse.

That man now struts around promoting the badge of honor of being an NRHA Professional. He has a shiny website and a FaceBook page that tells a great story. He has the videos and all the trimmings. You would think you are booking your horse into one of the safest barns because he is an NRHA Professional. A highly promoted standard of the NRHA.

He appears at shows, and you could be unaware of his track record for abuse as only those in the inner circle may know, and they do not speak ill of their ‘family’. It is like horrible Uncle Bill, knowing he commits domestic violence but no one interferes with many excuses as to why.

His fellow trainers and NRHA Professionals are slapping him on the back saying what a good man he is, knowing full well of his history. Probably thinks it is a shame he got caught. They welcome him and join him in the festivities before, during and after the shows.

Is a convicted multiple time horse abuser the standard of horse management they accept in the NRHA? 

With first-hand knowledge of this person and his conviction, the NRHA has approved his membership, and he has passed the litmus test of the board being ‘a person in good standing.’ They have even gone on to approve his membership as an NRHA Professional Trainer.

Here is his handy work on a horse he was entrusted with to train and severely abused including a torn tongue and bleeding mouth. Is this how you train a reining horse?

The question is “how many other horse abusers are out there promoting themselves as NRHA Professionals or Reining Professionals and the public are not being informed?”

How do you find out who it is? All the trainers and die-hard reining enthusiasts chasing the lights, stick together and keep those skeletons hidden behind barn doors.

In fact, many equine victims and their owners are hunted off to the abyss away from the sport to remove all evidence as though they committed the crime, not the trainer. We have many tales posted by the public of the horrific suffering that left the sport. Some NRHA members doing everything they can to deflect and whitewash the fact ‘a convicted horse abuser is accepted as an a-ok trainer for reining horses’. They even attempt to deny abuse is occurring and have become online trolls attempting to gang bash anyone who makes a comment about concern for reiners.

Times have changed and these barbaric practices and guarding of the guilty are over. Society no longer accepts this attitude and any association or its members supporting such practices is as guilty as those who commit the abuse. Those bad apples need to be ejected from the sport, whether they are on the board of directors or in a barn out west.

Please click here and vote for change and improved transparency and accountability of reining trainers. The poll now closed.

Wondered who it is and can’t find out elsewhere, click on the image.

©2017 Reining Trainers Enigma. All Rights Reserved

exhausted horse laying on barn floor with very poor bedding

Million Dollar Reining Trainer Gives Confessions of Sport Abuse

Million dollar reining trainer, 14 times world champion, two times NRHA futurity champion and one of the most respected people in the reining sport, with an international reputation, Craig Johnson has posted to his Facebook Page on May 29th, 2017 a confession regarding the reining horse sport. Craig writes – “I was asked the other day at an NRHA event by one of the other million dollar riders if I had retired. Umm.”

Craig responds:

“Maybe it’s because I’m no longer willing to do the things I use to, and things I’ve seen, in order to make a horse do what it takes.”

“Maybe I’m not interested until I find a better way. Maybe I’m home experimenting with a better way. Maybe I think we should take longer, wait on horses, and create something that is broke, sound, and happy for years.”

“Maybe I’m not as selfish as I use to be. Maybe I’ve decided it’s more about the horse and what it wants to be rather than what I need it to be.”

“No I haven’t retired, I have evolved.”

There are many other similar statements throughout his confession. A confession of major significance and confronts all those people that say that horses are not started too early, broken down, or forced to fulfil giant egos. You only need to read our other posts and people’s stories on our website and Facebook page comments on the atrocities that these horses endure to fulfil the dreams of desperate trainers and their limelight hunting owners wanting instant results and futurity glory. An association driven by making money from horses and lauding their positions over the small membership of just 11,000 odd people globally.

His intent may have been to promote himself to other equine disciplines like ranch riding, or maybe to distance himself from the now epidemic of abuse in the international reining sport. Only he knows the intent of his confession, but the statements made are loud and clear.

Yes, you may be evolving Craig Johnson, but the proof of how far you have evolved is when you use your status to change the rules of the NRHA and influence trainers to back off and put the horses before themselves and selfish limelight hunting owners. Maybe some others will follow in your enlightened example, and the abuse of these beautiful horses will no longer be acceptable at shows and at home at their barns. It will be interesting to see what other reining trainers will stand at your shoulder and what you do from here on.

One thing is for sure, the denial that exists from within the industry is now out in the open; exposed by one of their own. Those ego-driven and unenlightened people, living in the reining bubble are now shown up for their ignorance and/or denial as the horses are made to perform at the cost of their welfare and wellbeing.

His confession speaks volumes to the reining horse sport, the NRHA that defines it and those trainers that endorse what the horses now endure.

We have been asking for change, and the million-dollar reining trainer is confirming why we are right!

Please vote for Change on our Poll – Now closed.

© 2017 All Rights Reserved.





horse stopping with blocked tail scars

Are Reining Trainers Getting Away with Blocking Tails to Win?

The trainer or non-pro is riding to win, but that dang horse’s tail keeps wringing. It is not a penalty but it detracts from the overall quality of the run, and the score goes down. There is a fix for that; tail blocking or nerving the tail.  If you watch reining classes or are loping around in a warm-up pen, you will see a tail just hanging flat even in spins, slides, back-ups and fast circles.

Under the medications rule it is illegal, but have you ever seen someone being pulled out of a competition for a lifeless tail? Most likely not. Are the horses drug tested – rarely?


The tail of a horse indicates its discomfort, pain, frustration or annoyance. The vision of a horse wringing its tail when spinning, lead changing, or backing up could see you lose a ½ point or more in quality on a maneuver. Over a few maneuvers, those points can be slipping away quickly and out of the money. Is the risk of blocking worth it? For some, yes as they know they will not be pulled up by judges and stewards if they have the right friends and influence. You just have to look at the irregular application of fines and penalties.

Tail swishing is often linked to poor training methods, improper use of spurs, or the horse being “ring sour,” i.e. burned out on competition or being hammered day-in-day-out in their training program. If they have a horse that is a top contender, but the horse lets the world know its issues, then the line between ethical and unethical is confronted.

How do some reiners solve the problem; numb or nerve block the sensation of the nerve endings so the horse cannot move the tail.

Now the reining people will start shouting this down as that is how they manage all awareness of cruelty going on in their sport. Intimate, deny and bully. The more they shout, the more likely they have hit a nerve, so to speak.

A horse’s tail is part of its spine and plays an important role in its balance. While there are signals of problems with the horse, prior to blocking, the issues increase ten-fold when they lose the function that is part of their balance to perform.

Tailing blocking is quite controversial because many seem to believe nothing is wrong with the practice and it can be done without a trace (sometimes). Like all cruelty, its justifiable to anyone who is over-trusting, stupid or gullible enough to listen. After all, many think it is only temporary. Wrong.

Trainers can nerve tails without owners even knowing, just to keep the horse in the barn or to win an event. Some get away with it time after time. It is only the physical evidence that tells the owner something is seriously wrong if they visit the horse at the barn. If they care for their horse they will be seeking justice, but the NRHA does not impose fines on anyone outside of a show event. Most tail nerving problems occur back at the barn before a horse gets a show. The barn is where the NRHA hides behind their (un)governed code of ethics for all trainers that is not enforced. Why have a code of ethics if it’s not enforced on those that signed up for it???

What horses suffer from tail blocking

There are many cases where tail blocking is permanent, and more than people may realize. The tail is left damaged, hanging limply with the horse defecating all over itself cause it cannot move the tail to the side. The mare is peeing down herself. The horse cannot flick flies away. The horse becomes an invalid, requiring frequent daily attention to wipe the manure and urine away. Without manual cleaning, the horse can become flyblown. Mares can become infected in the uterus and become problem breeders or barren.

Another complication that may occur is a temporary inability to defecate and/or urinate due to paralysis of the muscles that control the rectum and bladder emptying. This requires veterinary care to assist the animal to defecate and urinate. In extreme cases, especially if the alcohol injected migrates from the tail to nearby muscles and skin, damage can be so severe that necrosis can set in. Another damaging outcome is the development of a form of body paralysis due to nerve damage in the hindquarters.

These can be problems for a few weeks or months, but many have permanent damage with owners sending them to the slaughterhouse.

How is the tail blocked or nerved?

The tail can be blocked by veterinarians, much like nerve-blocking to a leg. However, more often it is done using alcohol for the cheap, untraceable, behind the barn version that no one is to know about. The bad trainers and owners preferred method.

The major nerves of a horse’s tail are injected with alcohol to stop the horse’s ability to lift, or even move its tail. The results of injecting can be the introduction of an infection to the tail. Tail circulation is poor, and injuries are slow to heal, and infections can persist and spread into the leg, into the back, etc. Worst case, you have a dead horse on your hands.

While simple local anesthetics could be used, such medications can show up in drug tests.

Conversely, grain alcohol acts locally and degrades the myelin sheaths of the nerves so that the horse cannot move its tail. Injections are usually applied directly to the tail at a certain point at the base of the dock. If the wrong point is used the problems of infection escalate. Some inject slightly down from the base of the dock so that the horse may appear to carry its tail in a natural manner, but only for the first few inches, and the animal still cannot move the entire tail structure. This is often undetectable, though injections can sometimes leave white spots above the tail dock like the horse in the image or the sliding horse with obvious tail marks in the main image. These are often treated with hair die to cover the evidence at shows.

Needless to say, with an untraceable drug used; tail blocking can, and is, happening more than one cares to believe.

While promoters of the practice claim that most grain alcohol injections eventually wear off, if done carefully, a poorly done injection can cause abscesses or permanent nerve damage. Sometimes normal tail function never returns.

Read the story of Gator, where a trainer convinced an owner it was just the done thing to inject tails. Gator went from a world champion paint contender to a long-suffering, then ultimately a pasture horse.

Next time you see a reining horse flying down the pen with a flat tail – you are most likely looking at a blocked tail. Take note if the judges or stewards do anything about it on the day. Were drug tests being done? Most likely not according to the low number of horses tested. Does the person appear in the suspended list?

Don’t forget to vote on our poll for change to improve the regulations to stop this happening.


© 2017 All Rights Reserved.

horse lying down looking dead

NRHA: Dead Horses and Free Speech?

Does the NRHA draw a parallel between a dead horse and free speech when revoking a membership? One man is going to find out.

Shrouded in confidentiality throughout their rules – you are now getting a rare look at what is going on behind the locked doors of the NRHA?

In the District Court of Oklahoma, reining enthusiasts are getting a firsthand behind the scenes look as a lifetime membership is revoked. Typically, revoking membership is for the most heinous of crimes like killing a horse, but one man is fighting the NRHA for what some may describe as free speech.

The man taking legal action against the NRHA is Kit Cosper, claiming that by revoking his lifetime membership, the NRHA has failed to comply with its own Disciplinary Procedures of the NRHA’s 2012 General Rules and Regulations. According to the lawsuit, the letter [click here to read the actual letter] did not state any reasons or allege any misconduct as the basis for his membership revocation.

Who is Kit Cosper

Cosper, the son of Monica Watson of Double Run Farm, who breed the famous NRHA Hall of Fame and $9 million reining sire, Wimpys Little Step. He is a life member of the NRHA since 1999, and has served the NRHA in several different significant capacities, including but not limited to: (a) member of the NRHA’s Executive Committee, (b) Vice President of the Reining Horse Sports Foundation and (c) a member of the NRHA Bylaw committee. Since 2013, Cosper operates the FaceBook page ‘Take back the NRHA’ which is a closed group for reining enthusiasts for the discussion of By-Laws, Rules, and Policy. This group exists for the open, frank discussion of these issues. Matters that are important to members.

In the NRHA’s response to his claim, among many points they state:

The point goes on to cite a Facebook post. To read the full court document response and their assertions, please <<<<click here>>>>.

The NRHA has failed in their bid to have the matter thrown out. The matter is before the courts, and you can read all courts documents by <<<<clicking here>>>>. Everyone will be watching to see the outcome of this case.

In a society where giving opinions, vigorous debate and opposing opinions have become the norm through social media, why did the NRHA take action against a member? Who else has fallen victim to the same fate but did not have the experience to stand up and fight?

Who else has been suspended or revoked but is hidden from the membership?

Interestingly, Cosper’s membership was revoked in May 2016, but that fact never appeared in the Reiner Magazine Disciplinary List. It raises the question of how many others members have been revoked or suspended, but the information kept a secret? How many trainers are suspended but no one ever learns about it as it’s all kept confidential. Imagine your horse is with a multiple-time offender and you have no knowledge of it! The board of directors has the right to elect whether they will publish the information. It’s not a compulsory list.

What are your thoughts? By taking this action are the NRHA fundamentally saying that you cannot have an opinion or discuss issues about the NRHA if they do not agree with the NRHA, its staff, and the NRHA Executive Committee? What are they inferring with this claim defence? Do you agree there needs to be increased transparency and stop the secret society of a member-owned organization.

Are the secret society By-Laws and Rules unique to the NRHA?

Delving deeper into the By-Laws and Rules and Regulations you can find some interesting points that you will not find in the NCHA (National Cutting Horse Association) and AQHA (American Quarter Horse Association), two of the related entities grounded in the showing and breeding of performance quarter horses. The NRHA is the smallest general membership group of around 12,600 members worldwide.

The NRHA references numerous times “Confidential.” You will find it under Section 5. Investigation Review Committee points 9 and 12. Section 6. Hearing Body point 12. It appears four times in their handbook. Whereas, a quick scan of the NCHA Handbook and AQHA Handbook and the word does not exist.

Correspondence produced by NRHA to members and non-members references “Confidential statements” – how far and wide that is used is till being uncovered.

What is so confidential at the NRHA? Why do other similar associations not need to be reliant on such clauses?

Is it a case of ‘dictated to completely’?

To remain a member of the NRHA is a vital part of breeding, owning and showing reiners. To lose a membership can be devastating to a person that has invested time, money and passion into the sport. But how risky is that investment when it comes to retaining your membership?

The By-Laws, it states “Membership is a privilege and not a vested right. All memberships are subject to the approval of the Executive Committee, which may approve, reject, suspend, or revoke the membership of any Member at any time at its discretion. The Board of Directors retains final authority regarding all aspects of membership, including conditions of membership, eligibility, qualifications, approval or rejection, suspension, revocation, processes, types, dues, and interpretations of the provisions of these Bylaws relating to membership, and the decision of the Board of Directors shall be final and not subject to appeal or review.”

Looking at the Cosper case and reading the rules, could this be the reason why we see comments on FaceBook of ‘I am no longer a member so I can say……’.

With increased transparency, much of the conjecture can be removed as people will be informed of what is really happening behind the scenes of the NRHA.

Share your thoughts and please be respectful of each other’s opinions.

We are Polling for Change at the NRHA for more transparency. Click here to vote. Voting Now Closed

The revoked membership for a dead horse is Mark Arballo. <<<<Read the story here>>>>

© 2017  All Rights Reserved.

Image of poll for reining horse welfare

NRHA Members and Reining Enthusiasts are being polled

As the international body governing and setting the standards, the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) has a vital role in the duty of care to the horses that are crucial to the sport of reining. As an organization, they have the power to set and influence the welfare and standards of the humane treatment of horses that is acceptable to the horse community at large.

The NRHA state in writing they can only take action on what is written in the Rule Book (handbook). The 2016 Handbook cites the intent of welfare but is focused on medications only. It does not set out any standards in relation to training and unacceptable practices at events such as jerking reins, excessive spinning and spurring which occur in the warm-up pens as set by the AQHA . There are no statements for prohibited equipment outside the judging arena.

The NRHA Professionals Code Of Ethics Program states it is governed, however, the NRHA Professionals state they do not govern any statements in the Code of Ethics, as they do not appear in the Rule Book.

All protests are heard behind closed doors demanding confidentiality of outcomes. They are assumed to be being heard and judged by their peers and often friends. There is no result announced and no record available of penalties, reprimands or other actions to allow.

The NRHA Must Change and Be Accountable and Transparent in relation to the welfare of reining horses and how trainers operate themselves as NRHA Professionals.

The reining horse and horse community at large have growing concerns for the welfare of the reining horse. The welfare statements and actions of the NRHA are currently not curbing problems beyond medication control. Their welfare statement is well below the standard of the respected American Quarter Horse Association.

Horses are suffering through excessive spurring, rein jerking, and spinning in warm-up pens; an example of what also occurs at home. The show managers, stewards, and marshals are ineffective as there are no constructive and definitive statements in the Rule Book to hold trainers and competitors to account. The goodwill gestures at best and often good friends of those that may well be crossing the line of acceptable animal welfare.

November 14th, 2016:   The awareness of this poll is now public and will be shared with tens of thousands of interested people showing a priority need for the NRHA for change. The Poll will remain live until acceptable improvements are made for reining horse welfare and trainers are accountable for their conduct. We have over 2000 votes already showing a desire from Reining Enthusiasts and NRHA members that change is wanted. The comments on our FaceBook page tell stories of why change is needed now.

Click here to take the Poll for Change. (now closed)

© 2017  All Rights Reserved.


Weekend Warriors Could be Silent Abuse

Could this be abuse Big Fella? Lugging excess weight is really putting pressure on the horse, say the scientists. The horse suffers just to satisfy the weekend warrior.

You have to ask “does the warrior consider all the factors of animal welfare or just focus on getting a winning run?”

An owner of a racehorse puts a jockey on the horse. The jockey has weight restrictions on them and thoroughbreds typically run on the basis of 10% weight on their backs, including saddles. They are deemed under heavy stress when they carry more than 143 pounds or 65 kilograms. And only a rare individual can win major races with that weight aboard. That are the rules for racehorses that are working at the top of their game with extreme fitness galloping over distance.

Consider the reining horse. It not only has to gallop, but they also stop hard, spin hard and may well have more stress and strain on them than a racehorse. Some are not even sufficiently prepared in fitness for the weekend runs.

In research presented in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, and published throughout the world as a benchmark and leading research paper, the weight carrying ability of a horse and its effects on them uncovered the degree of stress and soreness they experience.

The average weight of a quarter horse reiner standing 15hh weighs around 1000 pounds or 450 kilograms. Scientists say the correct weight carrying capacity of those horses is 15-20% of their body weight. With a saddle weighing an average of 55 pounds/25 kilograms, this allows for a rider weight of just 143 pounds/75 kilograms at a 20% ratio. The more intense the work required by the horse, the less weight it must carry.

The big heavy reining rider in this photo is an example of what some reiners are expected to carry. You can see the pressure over the horse’s kidneys and back with the downward curve in the horse’s loins. It’s not a photo angle, in fact, it looks worse than this from different angles.

We were informed this person is approximately 6 feet tall, and can potentially weigh 286 pounds/130 kilograms, if not more, plus tack. According to scientists, he should be riding a horse weighing in at 1550 pounds/700 kilograms. That would usually be a horse standing over 16.2hh with a solid build; like a warmblood. Or maybe not on a horse at all.

Should this person be riding futurity horses in a pen?

Big and/or overweight men and women, riding reining horses (and horses in other events) are causing consistent and maybe for some severe pain and suffering according to the researchers. While most healthy horses can easily carry a rider and saddle, they do have their limits, particularly in extreme reining maneuvers and all the time spent in the warm-up pen.

Researchers identified a threshold for when a rider is too heavy for a horse to comfortably carry them in normal riding. These researched horses were tested undertaking just walk-trot-canter, and not extreme moves of the reining pen. The additional stress of spinning, stopping and working at speed adds, even more, stress. The other allowance not considered is the stress on their legs hauling to and from events.

Reining horses are renowned for having the highest levels of hock problems and carrying excessive weight is just adding to this problem.

In the research, the heart rate was monitored, and plasma lactate concentration was determined in jugular blood samples pre-exercise, immediately post-exercise, and 10 minutes post-exercise, with serum creatine kinase activity determined at the same times as plasma lactate concentrations, with additional samples collected at 24 hours and 48 hours post-exercise. Muscle soreness and muscle tightness scores were determined using a subjective scoring system 24 hours before and 24 hours after exercise.

Heart rates remained significantly higher when the horses carried 25 and 30% of their body weight. Plasma lactate concentrations immediately and 10 minutes after exercise differed when horses carried 30% of their body weight compared with 15, 20, and 25% weight carriage.

Horses tended to have a greater change in muscle soreness and muscle tightness when carrying 25% of their body weight, and a significant change in soreness and tightness scores was found in horses carrying 30% of their body weight. Add extreme maneurvers and you have a horse that is suffering in silence, particularly when put back on the trailer for the trip home.

Interestingly, this research from the Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute has concluded with the same weight guideline as to the US Calvary Manuals of Horse Management published in 1920.

Should there be a weight limit on those ‘Big Riders’ showing (even riding) reiners that are well over the limit?

Animal welfare or animal abuse is defined as using the horse to perform behaviors that cause physical or mental harm to the horse whether intentionally or not.

The weight a reining horse carries in warm-up pens and competition can greatly affect its health and welfare; there are limits to what a horse can carry.

Next time you look at a ‘big sized’ person aboard a reining horse, consider the stress and silent abuse the horse experiences while these people entertain themselves.

We are polling for change at the NRHA, don’t forget to vote here. Voting Now Closed


A late footnote: Overweight English Riders are Asked to Dismount at a Show  – click here to read the article.


Reference: Evaluation of Indicators of Weight-Carrying Ability of Riding Horses : Debra M. Powell, MS, PhD Karen Bennett-Wimbush, MS, PhD, Amy Peeples, AAS, BS,  Maria Duthie, BS. Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute, Wooster, Ohio