reining horse loses balance showing signs of being drugged

Reining Extreme Maneuvers and Horses Suffer

With the emphasis on rining extreme maneuvers in spinning and stopping  – are reining horses now being pushed beyond their limits? You read about the human subscription psychological drugs being administered to these horses, and the off label use of other unprescribed drugs, and cocktails. The contraptions were added to their equipment in order to enforce behaviors.

Where do all the training methods appear – in the show ring as they compete to win the big dollars – at all costs.

Be warned: some people may find this video of reining extreme maneuvers distressing to watch, and it’s just a sample of what goes on. Are they drugged? Tired? It sure is not normal – or is it?

The horses in the video are ridden by top riders and million-dollar trainers. The last horse is interesting too.

Video of reining horses suffering from the extreme pressure applied by reining competitors.


This may well have been a training video for NRHA judges and members to understand what the penalty is applied for by innuendo of its title, but it was published to the public.

Are the rule-makers creating an epidemic of this style of training and showing of reining extreme maneuvers?

Does it happen that often now they had to add a clause in the rule book – a 5 point penalty for that single run? Reining people have no issue with this reining extreme maneuvers – this is what showing reiners is all about. Just watch their comments on Facebook justifying that horses are not under extreme pressure. 

A penalty score of 5 points is applied for this conduct. They may be out of the money on that run, but they are back in the next round pushing the horse to deliver the reining extreme maneuvers.

Is the NRHA living in the modern world where people don’t want to see horses suffering from extreme physical demands that show them suffering?

A well-managed association would be taking a more serious approach to rulemaking and the enforcement of rules. But maybe if the rules were enforced as members say ”there would be no-one left showing”.

Should collapsing on their knees be a suspension for six months and banned for it happening twice for over-riding or over-pushing the horse? Should it be an instant drug test? (These horses may not have been in the tiny sample of horses tested at the show that day. If they do test positive they usually get a smack on the hand. Trainers gamble their number will not come up. Reiners have the highest positive drug test results in FEI competition.)

Also, watch their tails and you can see which horses are using their tail to stop and those that lay flat-looking a lot like a tail block has been done.

If you care for the Welfare of Horses please vote on our poll now for change. Now Closed

Footnote: When Casey Deary’s horse went down he was applauded as a hero by the NRHA Marketing Machine as they moved quickly to respond to the claims of abuse. Deary himself releasing an NRHA PR styled response as the equine public reeled from what they saw. The horse was incapable of going on and questions are raised over potential drugging are yet to be answered.

Casey Dreary reining horse collapses exhausted in show pen

52 replies
    • Michael Notting
      Michael Notting says:

      You nailed it Sally. The horses have stopped momentum then collapse. Backing up on its knees and that paint horse is spaced out of its brain.

    • Gerard Reynolds
      Gerard Reynolds says:

      They want to be a big time sport. Then drug test before the shows – at the shows EVERY HORSE. If they cant afford it then get a new sport but this shit has to stop. Even the tails are drugged they are that desperate.

      • Pamela Thompson
        Pamela Thompson says:

        the abuse is that the horses are not trained properly, they are hopelessly on the forehand, so the hind quarters are weak and pushing, making them collapse when asked to carry the weight in these extreme movements. This type of work would take many years to train a horse properly. With correct progressive training the horse develops the strength to perform these movements safely. Today with the emphasis on making money, these movements are trained as tricks, the horse can do it but its not strong and well conditioned enough to perform this work without destroying its joints, these tricks will be trained everyday. There is your abuse.

    • Gareth Winder
      Gareth Winder says:

      Hey here’s a thought – why don’t the reined cow horses have this problem – they rein – do tougher patterns spinning straight after a slide, you don’t see it happen !! Reined Cow Horse are the triathlete with the highest level of training, speed and athleticism, that makes reining look tame. Stop drugging the reiners and learn to cowboy up and ride you low lifes.

      • Audrey Wood
        Audrey Wood says:

        Gareth, I agree with you. There has been an every increasing exodus out of the NRHA, and this year may mark a turning point, as many choose to transition into different arenas of competition. The big money is weighted in the higher level 4 at the NRHA Futurity. Yet everyone, even me as a Level 1 Non Pro, pays the same $2,500. nomination fee. Owning horses is a privilege, and I believe that treating our equine partners fairly and with respect, is mandatory. When money becomes the ultimate goal, some people will stop at nothing to win. Many people have decided that they want to enjoy their chosen sport as well as have some reasonable expectation of covering at least some of the expenses. A winner in the NRHA NP Level 1, stated that he didn’t even cover his expenses, and has not rejoined the Association since. The Ranch Horse competition is growing, as it more closely resembles the actual tasks on a working Ranch. It speaks to the heritage of the American Quarter Horse and the other Stock Breeds. NRCHA is indeed the triathalon of Performance Horses. When you add the unpredictable element of live cattle into the competition, is is truly a challenge. I predict that the new filmed for TV ‘Run for the Millions’ NRHA Show, where the top 20 Open Riders were invited, may not prove to be the promotional platform that they anticipate. Do the Show promoters expect that an audience of tourists and gamblers in their Los Vegas venue will be automatically drawn to become involved in Reining? Will the general public watching the show on TV jump off their sofas and Google the nearest Reining horse trainer? Somehow, I don’t think so. Reining is already considered somewhat of an elitist sport, Some Affiliate Clubs are struggling to keep going, other Regional shows are seeing fewer entries and costs especially the ‘extras,’ keep going up. Many NRHA members, especially the Non Pros who make up the highest percentage of the membership, are voicing their disappointment at being hampered by prohibitive costs which exceed their budget. The times they are a changing.

        • Joan
          Joan says:

          I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m a non pro/rookie and I’m honestly at a cross roads right now as to whether I will continue to rein. I LOVE the sport but the cost and the tings I see going on have me questioning if I will go back. I took this year off, bred my reining mare and am focussing on barrel racing this year. It’s sad when I can go to a local barrel race and place 2nd in the 4d on my colt and win more in that one evening jackpot than I do ALL summer placing consistently in rookie level reining. These 3 year old futurities are horrible and I’m very disappointed in the Nrha and there focus on the top 5%. I’ve also seen nrha and aqha slap hands for so called abuse on young and green riders while at the same show I watch the pros do things that make me cringe.

        • Beverly
          Beverly says:

          One of the things that really bothers me as well is the classification of some so called non pros. Seriously Mandy McCuthcheon who has won two million dollars is a non pro? The big trainers kids showing on their Futurity horses from a year or two ago? how is this even competition? If I don’t show my horse until he is 5 and then I have to go against a 6 year old whom has been shown in every derby, Futurity etc is utter crap. This is also what is killing the sport. Pretty soon it is going to be just one group of elitist riders and their show children. I don’t have 75000 and up to buy a horse pay a trainer to abuse it and then go in the show pen paying the same entry fees until to lose. I love the sport, even when i suck lol, it was fun….watch the last cowboy it is everything that is wrong with the sport. Trainers who care more about the paycheck then the sport. Love the horse first, the sport second I think a lot of them have lost that and that is truly what saddens me.

    • Felicia Auttonberry
      Felicia Auttonberry says:

      Just was telling my husband, that can’t be good for the horses joints, maybe, that’s why the horses hang their heads, they r drugged up, saw a competition and a high ranking pay and rider was on a horse, that dude was too fat to be on that small horse,, he needed to be on a fricking Clydesdales, he was so fat!I swear, you could see the horses back bending,, 😡😡

  1. Andrew Owen
    Andrew Owen says:

    Ridden into the ground. This never used to happen so I call ‘drugged!!!’ as that never used to happen either. Horses kneeling down after the momentum of the maneuver is completed. Get off cowboys and hang your head in shame. (#2 horse excluded – that was the only real misfooting) A ranch would sack you for treating a horse like that.

    • Marianne Clifford
      Marianne Clifford says:

      Well I just read a comment on the Facebook post by one of the drug testing guys. THEY SEDATE THEM, YES SEDATE THEM, TO SHOW THEM. He states it is happening in the alleys at all the major shows and everyone is just going – yep that’s right. Trainers need the horse dictated to completely !!! They have problems when the horses are a little hot (their excuse) so they are hitting them up with elephant juice. Learn to ride you PREDATORS> Your a disgrace and as John B Clarke says – GRUBS. This was a wonderful sport now being wrecked by money hungry ego centric predators.

  2. Charissa Schmidt
    Charissa Schmidt says:

    I left the sport of reining about 15 years ago due to the pervasive use of inhumane practices in the show circut. I saw too many horses break down and injur. I couldn’t bring myself to push my horses to the point of injury just to stay competitive. It is sad to see that a sport has a history rooted in solid horsemanship has devolved into something so unnatural.

    • Jordan Michaels
      Jordan Michaels says:

      Reining is like Western Pleasure. Those doing are saying its perfect. Those looking over the fence are cringing. Both spurring, jerking, drugging and blocking tails cause its so natural. Both could not ride to save themselves but think mastering a pattern or rail class it the top of the world in equine. The old timers that did the sport are crying out for change and stop the crap with the horses and the young ones are saying ”go away you don’t know what you are talking about’. The entitled are ruining both

  3. LeeAnne Tomlinson
    LeeAnne Tomlinson says:

    This is a crime against these horses and just one of the many punishments they are subjected to. This sport is putrid and run by money hungry b*&^D*# with no care factor.

  4. Lynda Lafontaine
    Lynda Lafontaine says:

    So many of us who have been away from the horse world for awhile thought this cruelty was diminished but as we become more involved it seems to have gotten much worse. The saddlebred world was terrible but other breeds/disciplines are just as bad. Money has taken the place of caring and real pleasure with our horses. The show pen is such a bad place and the blame all falls on the shoulders of the judges, rule makers and the big money. More of this should go public. Spectators just have no clue what happens outside the show arena. They only see the placings and are led in the wrong direction. Sure hope something is done about this abuse and cruelty.

  5. Leon Powers
    Leon Powers says:

    I have watched the video and quietly read all the Facebook comments including the shares – I am concerned. I am a third generation rancher and started-trained many horses including competition reiners. You sort get to know a bit over time. My concern is the people that cannot see what is going on here with these horses. They are fatigued and some drugged. Their blindly attacking everyone with stupidity and inexperience with horses. It is sad that they feel the need to be Tough on the Horse and don’t put the horse first and consider why does an animal quit and get dragged back to its feet. Some stupidly comment as they only watched the first horse (benefit of doubt) others are either stupid or numb and have just not been around enough to know. Facebook certainly gives inexperience a loud voice. This association needs to get some horseman at the top that are not directly involved for the money and glory and clean this sport up. As to your question on scoring – Zero – 3 strikes and your out for 12 months. Pretty simple really.

  6. Jean Maloney
    Jean Maloney says:

    What you don’t see are the horses that never make it to the show ring, because they have suffered serious injury during training. I was given a mare sired by Top Sail Whiz whose career never got off the ground due to a stifle injury. They take two year olds, work the hell out of them, then mourn the fact that their well bred prospect broke down. Learn to take your time with these horses. Otherwise you’re going to lose some good ones.

    • Audrey Wood
      Audrey Wood says:

      Jean, and many other concerned horsemen/woman commenting here, make very valid points. You are correct about the huge number of horses that aren’t seen in the Show pen. I am an Equine Welfare advocate and work, pro bono, to help rehome and transition horses, that through no fault of their own, find themselves in the feed lots and k-pens. This year has been particularly overwhelming, with the high number of horses being sold off and too often sh[pped. There was a group of 2 dozen Thoroughbred Yearling shipped by a Breeder to a TX feedlot, headed for their ‘end game’. There have been all ages and Breeds of horses, Thoroughbred race horses off the track, OTTB’s, BLM branded Mustangs and Burros, Minis, experienced riding horses, old and young, injured and healthy; even Registered Quarter Horse broodmares, heavy in foal. One gelding even had his custom halter with the name Letano on it. I bought one of the neglected mares in foal myself. This side of the industry is heartbreaking. The incentives for big prize money and fame, have encouraged overbreeding and too often horses that don’t meet the Owner or Trainer’s expectations, are sold off, as there are always more. I have seen horses in feed lots that I even recognised by known Sires, and some that had competed at Shows. The Performance horse industry is at a tipping point. With the devastation of crops and major flooding in the Heartland of the Country, potential shortages of feed and hay can only make this situation worse. I truly hope that horse Breeders will consider this reality.

  7. Genevieve Marshall
    Genevieve Marshall says:

    This is not pushing to the extreme or misfooting – they collapse to their knees because of the predator on their backs that is relentless in attacking them. The damage was done over months and they have quit under show pressure. The horse is quitting. My family has ranched & rodeo’d for 2 generations and worked some of the harshest ranches – never had a horse quit like this. If we did we would have got a whoppin. Drugged or predator – either way I would like my husband to have 3 minutes with these scum riders out the back of the barn.

    • Colby McClain
      Colby McClain says:

      Ma’am. You are right on the money. Your family would have heard of the Running W – a piece of tack tied to their feet and used to pull them down – used in the movies for those fall over scenes in old westerns and for bad carriage horses that wud’not stop. Never thought I would see the day when it would be used again. These horses are drugged and beaten to submission. We will join you at the bcak of the barn to help adjust these young fellas thinking.

  8. Clay
    Clay says:

    Them horses are giving there all and trying there hardest I’m not gonna say they ain’t drugged but some times a horse gets so wired up and trying they fall and slip and stumble it happens it’s nobodys fault things just happen get over yourselves you freaking crybabies.

    • Colby McClain
      Colby McClain says:

      Take it from an old timer who has been there and done that and rode many a good and bad colt. Those horses are brutilized and drugged and if you can’t see that then you better get riding some more stock so you can give an opinion with a bit knowledge behind it. The only soft people are those that can only ride in the arena beating up kind minded bred ponies saying its training.

  9. Ginger
    Ginger says:

    Let me tell you that all reining trainers are NOT abusive. There are some out there that are and most of those pictures posted are from the abuse of Mark Arballo who killed a horse and ended up paying for it in the long run (not as much as I believe he should as he only got a year or so in jail and house arrest after)) but he will never be a horse trainer again. The good trainers in the reining industry are not abusive to a horse that KNOW what they are doing. It’s mostly the ones that don’t know how to train a Reiner. I’ve had several good reining horses, and in training with several different trainers through the years – there are some that are pretty rough but for the most part most of my experience over 25 years of showing reiners I seldomly saw abuse. Those pictures are from a horse that Mark Arballo killed a while ago and he is banned from ever stepping foot on NRHA grounds or any NRHA approved events. And it’s always pointed towards the reiners – no one seems to see that dressage, jumping, cutting, reined cow horse, eventing, etc. has abusive ways within the disciplines- always blaming the reining industry instead. Why??

    • Animal Welfare
      Animal Welfare says:

      Ginger – it is an epidemic of abuse in reining with blocked tails as standard procedure to hide spurring and pen sour horses, drugging them to get them shown so they can be controlled in every move – and the NRHA members talk openly about that happening in reining specific forums. Hardly call that non-abusive – y’all just so used to it you don’t even know where the abuse line is – your conditioned to accept it. Time for Change.

    • Colby McClain
      Colby McClain says:

      Ginger – I don’t wish to be disrespectful but your dreaming & someone is making good bucks out of you for sure or you just ain’t far enough into the sport. I’ve been working horses for 50 plus years and let me tell you, those horses in the video falling to their knees are ridden in a Running W. These cupcake new age kids are putting them on the horses pulling them legs out from under them. That one backing on its knees is a dead giveaway. Only the lord knows why they think it will help them win. The knee damage will be the tell tale in time who did it the most. The ones losing all control are on pyscho drugs and how do I know – I have cowboys that ride em all day telling me. Its a rotten sport at the top and its getting bad further down.

  10. Jill Bradley
    Jill Bradley says:

    I showed Reiners for years and the trainers need to stop drugging. The higher up you get, the bigger named trainer, the more drugs are used. They know what will test and what won’t test. My trainer stated “if we don’t drug the NP horses, NP’s couldn’t ride them” I’d love to see a strict drug rule enforced. The trainers should be fined, they’re the ones that call the shots. Most owners follow them around as if they’re god and believe everything they say. Open your eyes NP’s, trainers are only out for 2 things – to win at all costs and to line their pockets with your $$.

  11. Misty
    Misty says:

    And then, after the horse collapses from exhaustion/lack of physical ability to perform such an extreme request, yank its mouth apart with a big shank bit to make it get back up. Make it back up to China in a hyperflexed position to show it who’s boss. That’ll teach him!

  12. Cyndi
    Cyndi says:

    All true, abuse happens as soon as u make it a competition especially if big money is involved. It really can’t be helped. If u don’t join in , why go to the competition. Costs just as much to lose as it does to win so if your not gonna participate and be as competitive as the rest of the trainers at the top, you really dont have a reason to go. The problems with abuse that we see are a product of big ego, zero breeding regulation, and participating judges, breeders, and trainers. This will never change, after all it took over 60 years to make a single change in the walking horse industry. Having trained, groomed, and been a horse owner for over 50 years, believe me…its only gotten worse.

  13. Janwindsong
    Janwindsong says:

    I despise western writers dressage riders equitation riders all of you with your damn hands in the horses mouth whether by tiedowns or severe bits or whacking them on the poll to make his head down you got a horse his power is not in his ankles or his hocks ir his knees you know where their power is if you don’t get the heck away from the horse

  14. Lester & Robyn Dumm
    Lester & Robyn Dumm says:

    All but one had arena reining footing issues. Professional reining horse arenas are manicured to allow for long, flowing slides. They have a rolled, hard clay under surface with 3-4 inches of sand on top. They are slippery on purpose. The horses are regaining their balance when the hind feet get too far under them or if a spin goes out of control because the pivot foot looses traction. The second horse stepped on his tail. They are all in great shape and trained well and have not been abused as far as I can tell in the show pen.

    • Peter Cain
      Peter Cain says:

      Ignorance is bliss. You sure dont know much about the nasty side of training- your trainer must have some real good alixir he feeds you to believe the crap. Owners want horses to win and trainers will do anything to win. a combination that stinks of horses suffering. Let me tell you, those horses are drugged, sedated with pyscho drugs, ridden with every device on them you could imagine and the crap knocked out of them on every ride. How do I know – because I had the displeasure of taking up a job working for one of those top fellas and left after 8 weeks – and left reining. He worked the quieter ones during the day when people were around and then came out at 1am and got stuck into them when no-one was around.

  15. Mike
    Mike says:

    Just my opinion, they have trained the horses to carry their head unnaturally low. These horses center of gravity is so low when they stop all their momentum is going downward, they just lose their balance.

  16. Theresa Brummett
    Theresa Brummett says:

    Ok I’ll jump into the muck here. I’ve been involved with horses my entire life. Started competing professional 35yrs sgo. I always wondered why top trainers consistently won on many different horses. Imagine my shock when I was told, “they drug them”. Wait, WHAT? How the hell are these horses not getting blood pulled at USEF rated shows? What drugs are they doing? I’ve had 3 drug tests over the years & all came back clean. My results speak for themselves, Silver Medalist working on Gold, a Unanimous World Title, Multiple WORLD Champion etc. I don’t understand how these horses aren’t drug tested? And btw my horses go onto Amateur riders that constantly win & keep the horses I train till the end. Money is the reason I guarantee you.

    • Janet McCann
      Janet McCann says:

      According to Megan Linquist in one of her ‘I know the answer to everything moments”, ex NRHA staff, the draw is done before the show and the people picked as to who will be drug tested. Gosh do you think that does not leak out into the market before the show. And they only test a couple here and there due to the cost. Meanwhile members are charged for drug testing on entries. Its a racket to keep up the mantra of the sport of looking after horses. Everyone knows they are drugged to the eyeballs but no-one does anything or they would be out on their ear too. BTW they got busted by USEF failing the second highest rate of drugs of all events.

    • Gillian K
      Gillian K says:

      I am telling you, that horse of Cade McCutcheon in the million dollar run was drugged. I sat there and watched it – over calm and dictated to. When it came back in the pen, for awards, they led it in and it could not get it is fifth leg out of the way. It walked a fair distance before finally sucking it back up and he was unclear in his direction. When they got on, he leaned well over to the wall.

      Draw – no – a definite case of drugged and could not go back in the pen to show.

  17. Jonny Quiggen
    Jonny Quiggen says:

    Is there not a law about giving drugs to animals without a licence – you know a VET! Or are the vets in on this as well making mega bucks out of horses they are suppose to protect. Uppers and Downers for horses – what next. Vicious cycle that will just get worse until someone has the balls to stop it. Maybe the board will improve the rules. Hahaha enough humor – the board are all probably drugging them too. When are these people going to learn to ride !

    • Linda Larson
      Linda Larson says:

      I would like to say to everyone about the greed in all aspects of showing, may it be horses or the dog showing world. People have changed over the course of time altered the way a horse performs, being too heavy as in halter horses too please the judges, having the trainer of reining horses using a bat on a horse by a national snaffle bit champion I personally witnessed, when he thought no one was around out in the arena. 40 plus years ago when I myself showed Quarters in California, the Western Pleasure horse didn’t have the exaggerated canter to where it looks like the horse can barely move or his head set which is almost touching the ground. All this has changed so much to appease the judges. In the dog world the same. The German Shepard now looks like his hind quarters when he is running around the circle for the judge too see him or when asked to pose for him the dog has a perfect show stance. If you go back and look at Roy Rogers dog Bullitt, you do not see his back side look like he’s about to lay down. The same with the flat nose breeds of dogs such as the Pekingese, Boxers and so on. Because the judges I guess think it’s cuter to see that really flat face but who can barely breathe if they need to do much physical movement.
      Point being that animals owned by humans that are in the showing aspect will go to great lengths to destroy the natural ways of so many of them. We have to be their voice, they have none. I have been in Texas for years and live right smack in the Reining world. You will meet your maker someday, good luck to answering why you destroyed perfectly healthy animals for your own personal gain.

  18. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    It’s distressful to even watch!
    Either the horse is being over ridden and/ or drugged(??!!) Who knows?! But something is clearly very wrong here!!
    In these “performances” the horses should have been immediately drug tested, assessed by an attending ( is there even one??!) Equine veterinarian. The rider should have been imediately disqualified-If any abuses uncovered; then permanently removed from future shows!
    Breed Associations!!!: Wake the Fuck up and protect these animals you are supposedly representing!!
    I agree with the above comment:
    I would have just stayed down! Again, disgusting!

  19. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    As judges: you as a constituency have the most influence to change many of the abusive breeding and training practices in the equine, canine, etc
    Industries. Please, please consider your influence as a judge.

  20. Steve
    Steve says:

    I trained barrel horses, reining horses and even jumpers, it was fine 20 years ago, but what they do to horses now days is cruel, but look who is the new cowboys or cowgirls 95 % of them have family or themselves are affiliated with police or some other form of government. None of them have ever been a real cowboy.

  21. Steve
    Steve says:

    I have trained in many countries, as a trainer I always teach not to push beyond what a horse should do, reining, jumping, barrel racing, and any other horse racing has gotten completely out of hand and should be stopped NOW.

  22. Neville K
    Neville K says:

    For the Love of God – a video showing penalties applied to in many instances is outright abuse. They should be banned for life not penalised. The penalty makers obviously ride the same way to think this is okay


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