Why the Secrecy from 2023 and beyond NRHA?

No other western sport has rules of secrecy like the NRHA has in their medications and welfare policy to be implemented from 2023 and beyond.

The decision-makers reviewing violations of rules for medications and welfare:

  • AQHA – The Executive Committee – published members
    • American Quarter Horse Association
  • NRCHA – The Executive Committee – published members
    • National Reined Cow Horse Association
  • NCHA – The Medication Control Committee – published members
    • National Cutting Horse Association
  • NRHA – A secret group of people, and if a person becomes known to the membership as on the Committee, they are kicked out and replaced.
    • National Reining Horse Association
  • PRCA – Director of Rodeo Administration – published member
    • Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association

While the NRHA is boasting about their great new penalties, are they just distracting members and the public from the fact that there is no accountability for whether violations are acted upon? History says, most unlikely. Some members say it’s just more of the same ‘mushroom syndrome’. [The practice of being supplied with little or no information and often instead intentionally supplied with misinformation]

With the track record of the NRHA board members since 2015 on policy and enforcement, how will any member of the public know what is really going on – it’s all secretive.

You can read summary details below or check out each association’s rules book and policies.


Can You Trust the National Reining Horse Association?

With the outcry of allowing horses to be conditionally sedated 30 minutes prior to competition with Sedivet, the spotlight is square on the NRHA’s conduct. The American Equine Practitioners Association has written to the NRHA stating the drug should not be used, but it remains in the policy.

Even more astonishing is the NRHA’s admittance of failing to take action on horses testing positive for banned drugs, allowing members to keep their prize money and awards. Did a futurity winner get paid? A derby winner? No one will ever really know except those in the secret inner circle.

The NRHA Futurity is just a few months away, and new rules don’t start until next year. So how do the public and members know which horses are drugged?

Did you know:

  1. AQHA spends more than $1 million annually to test for evidence of controlled substances and/or tail alteration in horses competing in AQHA-approved events.
  2. In 2021, the NRHA spent approximately $158,000 whilst boasting prize money in the millions.
  3. NRCHA – positive drug tests, all prizes and awards are immediately removed, and set penalties to apply
  4. NCHA – have on-the-spot fines for horse abuse at shows


Dig a little deeper to read more about the association policies.


NRHA Medications Hearing Panel – The Secret Society

The NRHA Medications Hearing Panel is comprised of individuals whose names are to remain strictly confidential to the NRHA membership. The individuals who sit on this panel may be veterinarians, NRHA stewards, NRHA professionals, NRHA non-professionals, etc. The NRHA Board of Directors approves the Medications Hearing Panel. Should a member of the hearing panel be known by NRHA members for holding that position, he or she will be removed and replaced by the NRHA Board of Directors.



VIO505. DISCIPLINARY AND APPEAL PROCEDURE. Executive Committee Jurisdiction: The Executive Committee is the forum within AQHA that, initially or ultimately, hears or reviews evidence of alleged violation of rules and regulations by members or non-members, decides all matters pertaining to registration of horses, and hears appeals from other committee action. A majority vote of the Executive Committee shall determine guilt, and its decision and action shall be final and binding on all parties.

AQHA spends more than $1 million annually to test for evidence of controlled substances and/or tail alteration in horses competing in AQHA-approved events


(1) Presence of such medication or drug in a horse participating in an NRCHA-approved event shall be grounds for the Executive Committee to take the following action if it is determined that the use of said drug or medication was not within the guidelines set forth in the Therapeutic Medication Addendum following subsection (j) of this rule:

(A) The horse shall be disqualified from all classes in which it participates at the show and all awards and monies must be returned and horse will not be allowed to be shown for a period of 90 days.


1) In a first offense, in addition to the above, the responsible individual(s) will be fined $500 each. Responsible individual(s) will be suspended until payment is made and reinstatement fee determined by the board is paid.

2) For the second offense, in addition to the above, responsible individual(s) will be fined $1,000 each. Each individual receiving a second offense will be suspended for a period of 3 months and will not be reinstated until payment is made and reinstatement fee determined by the board is paid.

3) For the third offense, in addition to above, responsible individual(s) will be fined $2,500 each and suspended until review by the Ethics Committee and NRCHA Board. At that time, the NRCHA Board will determine the length of suspension. The individual will not be reinstated until payment is made, the suspension time served, and reinstatement fee determined by the board is paid.



NCHA Medication Policy

Any horse found to have a prohibited medication residue will be referred to the NCHA Medication Control Committee. This Committee is to consist of six persons, being NCHA general manager, two NCHA directors, two NCHA endorsed veterinarians, one NCHA member/trainer.

  • The NCHA Medication Control Committee will determine whether an offence has been committed and what penalty shall be imposed.


Additional Points of Interest with NCHA:


1) Training equipment (rings, tie-downs etc.) applied to a horse in the contest area, warm-up area or loping pen Fine: $150

7) Excessive pulling, jerking or spurring of your horse at an affiliated NCHA event. Fine $500

8) Any abuse of an animal on ground which causes an animal’s mouth, nose or sides to bleed. Fine $500

9) Slapping or hitting an animal forward of the wither. Fine $500.


© 2022 Reining Trainers Enigma


American Association of Equine Practitioners Says NO to Sedivet

In a Formal Letter to the NRHA – The American Association of Equine Practitioners warns of the dangers of using Sedivet for horse and rider and its analgesic effect of the drug is performance enhancing. Read the full letter below.


Remove NRHA From Management of Drugs and Penalties

With an ongoing acknowledged poor record of performance by the Boards of Directors and Executive Committees placing horse’s welfare at risk and enabling an unfair competition landscape, immediate changes are required to who manages the drug rules and penalties.


The Final Straw: With the board of directors and executive committee (BoDEC) approving the continued off-label use of Sedivet on horses on the premise of tougher penalties, we look closer at what is really going on. The membership and public are outraged.


On close review of the rules and policies, it becomes very clear that most likely the new penalties will have little to no effect on those horses testing positive and will continue as business as usual. Read on to find out why that is the most likely outcome and the repercussion on the BoDEC.

Table of Contents

  • Rumours of Years of Drugging Confirmed
  • Horses returning positive tests for prohibited substances retain titles and prize money
  • Penalties Are a False Positive
  • Why the NRHA Animal Welfare and Medications Policy Will Continue to Fail
  • Is the Revised Policy Flawed – you be the judge on the fine print?
  • Is the BoDEC meeting its fiduciary responsibility?


  1. Rumours of Years of Drugging Confirmed

Reining is an industry with many rumours constantly swirling around it for years, of excessive drugging of horses to win. The President has now openly confirmed that drugging has been a problem for years and remains a problem.

The President, Rick Clark, released an open letter to members attempting to explain their decision.

In a surprise admission, he stated, ‘we did not have the support to go to no allowance for Romifidine (Sedivet) at this time. It is as simple as that.” So Clark publicly admits horses are being sedated to be shown – so much for their mantra of willing guided.

  1. Horses returning positive tests for prohibited substances retain titles and prize money

Clark further admits, “If a horse tested positive, their name was never publicized, and they got to keep their title, purse money, and prizes. So they essentially got away with a slap on the wrist, and no one would know.”

On review of the rule books of the past few years, the option to take action was at all times available by the medications hearing committee, but Clark’s statement demonstrates they elected not to take action as set out in clause (0). E. Animal Welfare and Medications Provisions Applicable to all NRHA Events.

          (o) The owner or owners of a horse found to contain a forbidden substance or any metabolite or analogue thereof may be required to forfeit all prize money, sweepstakes, added money and any trophies, ribbons and “points” won at said event by said horse and the same will be redistributed accordingly.

The released former policy in the open letter clearly states in all areas ‘pending hearing committee review’.

  1. Penalties Are a False Positive

Further in the rule books, there are a number of clauses concerning the management of horses testing positive. The penalties are at the discretion of the medications hearing committee. Section 1I. 8 and E. Animal Welfare and Medications Provisions Applicable to all NRHA Events. (N) (O) (P)

          (p) Said person responsible may be fined and may be suspended from all participation in NRHA approved events as outlined in the Animal Welfare and Medications Policies

Section 1I, 11 (b) and (f)

          (f) When a member is disciplined or sanctioned, the Hearing Body’s findings and determination will be presented to the Board and the Board may cause information regarding the discipline or sanction to be published on an appropriate disciplinary list.

Whether the penalty was $250 or $250,000 makes no difference, as the most fundamental step of publishing their name on the disciplinary list was not taken. Publishing positive drug tests for banned substances is often thought of as the greatest punishment, more than money and suspensions. Therefore, to be a known drug user to compete and have titles removed is a punishment and would be fair competition; an expectation of the membership.

The penalties are not the issue – the process of managing rule breaches and who is involved is the problem.


  1. Is the Revised Policy Flawed – you be the judge on the fine print?

The Revised Animal Welfare and Medications Policy Revised August 2022 contains the same flaws that have seen horses shown drugged and competitors and owners win prize money uninterrupted.

The policy sets out a process:

  • The NRHA Board of Directors approves the members of the Medications Hearing Panel and can remove members of the panel.
  • [the panel] shall have the discretion to (i) affirm the penalties, (ii) modify the penalties, or (iii) revoke the penalties.
  • [if there is an appeal], the Executive Committee have the right to (i) affirm the penalties, (ii) modify the penalties, or (iii) revoke the penalties. The Executive Committee’s decision is final.

The Board of Directors and Executive Committee are ultimately remaining as the management of the welfare program. This same process has existed since 2015 and has failed the horses.


  1. Is the BoDEC meeting its fiduciary responsibility?

The fiduciary responsibility of any board, in summary, is:

  1. The Duty of Care
  2. The Duty of Loyalty
  3. The Duty of Good Faith

The current and past BoDEC are responsible for protecting the horses’ welfare and providing a platform for fair and honest competition.

However, Clark’s letter of August 2022 has outlined that this was not the case, even in the light of hard evidence of positive drug tests. In providing his factual account and attempts to change rules he says “hopefully never find ourselves in such a dire situation again“.

Notably, Clark advises the changes will be taken in baby steps and provides no timeline for resolution for what is the most heinous experience for horses and matters of Animal Welfare in an equestrian association. This is unacceptable.

The members of NRHA, and the general public, expect more than they have experienced to date. Members are against drugs, particularly Sedivet, on mass by the commentary in private reining groups. Questions over the fees paid for drug testing and the validity of that spending are also high on the member’s agendas. It would be fair to say, the board does not represent the sentiment of a large proportion of the membership based on the online surveys in those groups

The thoroughbred industry battled with self-regulation for many years, and it is now law that HISA manage their medications and rulings. An independent body was created to ensure the welfare of horses and clean competition.

The NRHA cannot be trusted to manage the rules and penalties based on past performance, and the fact that 67%+ of the current board voted to retain an off-label drug for use by competitors raises alarm bells for many members and the broader public.

The members need to take action to change the rules or be seen as complicit in supporting what can only be described as a dirty sport.

© 2022 Reining Trainer Enigma. All Right Reserved.