Reining horses hardly stand a chance

“A lot of reining horses eliminate themselves early on, even if they have the ability and the try, because they can’t hold up.“ – Timothy Bartlett, DVM, of Vincennes, Ind., has been actively involved in the sport as a president of NRHA and an NRHA judge.

An interesting view that it is the horses problem Dr Bartlett, not the trainers or the futurity system.

Half a century ago, when Robert M Miller, DVM was cowboying, he says “colts were started at four years of age or older. Once in a while, one might be started as a three-year-old. Despite some very hard work, barring accidents, those ranch horses were still sound and working into their 20’s.”

Today, more and more, with big money for futurities, these horses MUST be started as two-year-olds; and some are starting them as young as 18 months, thinking more riding will make them more competitive.

Because of this, many of these horses end up with bowed tendons, navicular disease, bone spavins, bone chips, stifle injuries, blown-out hocks, hairline fractures, arthritis, severe back problems, sprained necks and a myriad of other problems and conditions associated with the strain and stress to young developing bodies. Many horses break down in the first year and those that make their 3yo or 4yo end up with debilitating problems at only four or five years of age and live on anti-inflammatory medications and/or painkillers in their feed or through injections.

The sad fact is that of the tens of thousands of reining horses bred each year, only one hundred or so make it to the Futurity. [see footnote] The others are lost in the system, and many end up slaughtered as they are damaged beyond repair and have no value to this futurity driven industry.

The vets are now recognizing that reining horses have one of the highest incidents of breaking down next to race horses; and sadly the same fate.

Dr. Grant Miller, DVM says “we have established that repetitive trauma on the joint from the athletic performance can cause degenerative changes to the cartilage and bones. Race horses and futurity Quarter Horses that train heavily in the juvenile stage of their lives often show early signs of hock-related pain. Reiners commonly have hock issues.”

It seems this futurity driven industry that starts out knowing the pain they will inflict on these young animals actively deny the veterinarians research and evidence and continue their practices. Is this respect and compassion as promoted on the NRHA website?

The management of the reining horses can further exacerbate their health issues as most futurity horses are weaned at three months of age then placed on a high growth diet. They are kept in stables 22-23 hours per day as they are prepped for sales and/or go into trainer barns. Extended stabling time would be similar to you going into your coat closet and spending most of your time standing there. There are mental issues and physical suffering that comes with this confinement. Their joints stiffen at an early age, and they suffer similar pain and stress that we would suffer standing still for hours on end cooped up in a confined space. A life of standing in a barn and then being worked hard for half or a full hour – is that respectful? There are some trainers that provide pasture time for horses each days, but many don’t. They don’t have the room, the time nor the desire to have horses away from the barn taking longer to catch and increasing the work load.

Raise any issue of abuse or mistreatment with reining horse people, and you will be sprayed with comments attempting to justify they are treated like kings being stabled, rugged, fed, washed. They do not think of the horse’s mental welfare and the pain he/she suffers standing in an unnatural environment 24/7. They walk away to their comfortable homes, while the horse stands still.

The horse skeleton and muscle are structured for continual movement through grazing. They are designed to walk many miles each day.

Living in this abnormal stall environment conflicting with their structural make-up and being worked hard, too early, finds many reining horses live on a cocktail of drugs every day of their life to keep them going. The focus has shifted from producing physically and mentally sound horses to being knowledgeable in drugs to keep them seemingly sound enough to ride. The rule book is now saturated with drug testing commentary but little evidence of testing, and only randomly, at some large events. Like any drug testing, the providers are able to keep ahead of the tests much like you see in professional sports people.

Managing young bodies

Trainers rarely x-ray the horses they are entrusted with, and owners rarely demand x-rays until something has gone wrong. The use of blood tests to identify abnormalities or issues even rarer. If the horse looks in good condition and can be ridden, with or without drugs, all’s good to go, and the focus is set hard on the futurity. It has become a custom that horses are injected in the hocks and receive daily medications; never questioning why or changing their program. Many trainers believe they have knowledge beyond science and can just ‘know it’s ok.’ Often drugs are administered based on observational symptoms without validation of underlying causes. Some trainers inject horses without the owners even knowing as they attempt to keep horses in their barns.

The pressure, stress, and suffering of the horses all in pursuit of winning the big money at the futurity. Imagine if the horses were not allowed to be ridden for just one more year, how many more entries would there be? Imagine how those horses would be if they were kept and worked in a program that was more in line with their skeletal requirements. Imagine if the owners all started to demand x-rays and blood tests and were pro-active in their horse management.

Some may say only the best make it, but with the refined breeding programs and the number that breakdown early, you would have to question the program more than the breeding, wouldn’t you?

Winning no matter what?

Robert M Miller, DVM cites the story “One of my clients was a prosperous, educated couple. They were very congenial, and they owned three Quarter Horses. One day, they called me to come to their home to worm their horses and check them over and booster their vaccinations. When I arrived, I found only two horses, so I asked where the third one was. “Oh, he is in training as a reining horse, with ____________” (a successful and notoriously brutal trainer who also happened to be one of my clients). Then the wife said, “We know how cruel he is to the horses, but he wins!”


Do you believe the NRHA is standing behind their statement “We expect our members to consider the welfare of their horses paramount and to always treat them with dignity, respect and passion”?

Don’t forget to vote on the Poll for Change. Now Closed.

Footnote: NRBC enrolled studs, which are the top escalante of reining horses – 182- average 100 mares each a year 18,200 alone. Plus all the other studs that are not enrolled – and a bunch more of them should not even be studs. And that is just in the USA. Then there is Canada, Brazil, Australia and all the European stallions of which is there a very high number too and the list goes on. Tens of thousands is not an overestimate.

Hundred or so is a generalisation across many countries. The USA has a larger number whereas countries like Australia have micro futurity with just 10 all in.

© 2017  All Rights Reserved.

115 replies
  1. Sally Bodin
    Sally Bodin says:

    Excellent article. I understand they want to win money, but why put all the money on the futurity – could they not load the money to the Derby it would be just as spectacular?

    • LC
      LC says:

      Unfortunately The big money is in the futuritirs. If we could start them as 3 year olds & start showing them as 4 year olds, they would mentally & physically last longer.

    • Asset
      Asset says:

      It is an excellent article.
      Human ego has a lot to answer for here..
      Most horses i trim have back stifle hock issues.. silent sufferers bless them all..

    • Mstilyn
      Mstilyn says:

      This not reinning cutting and of the money horses. So sad most of them are finished 6 or 7 years. My horses never got started til were 3or4 like you said they will be around for long. My horses are part our family and treated as family members.

      • Cathy Wentworth
        Cathy Wentworth says:

        I agree with you. Our horses, no matter which discipline you choose to do, is still a family member and should be treated with the upmost respect and care. Training these young ones at an early age should be outlawed. I feel so bad for them. The picture above
        hurts me to know how these horses are taken care of. Really sad.

    • Tina Trenner
      Tina Trenner says:

      Just the simple act of changing the Futurity to the 3 or 4 year old’s and Derby for older horses would make a huge difference…Same with racing. Just simple greed puts the horses at risk. – the old ” That’s the way we’ve always done it” is why so many horrible practices continue… Stop using baby horses.. The industry must except responsibility and then fix it.

  2. Alan
    Alan says:

    I bred four beautiful babies that were sold at one of the futurity sales. They all got big money and I was pleased to see them go to what I thought were great homes. All four are now broken down and been a victim of the futurity mill. They had their hearts and bodies destroyed. I refuse to breed horses anymore.

      • Courtney
        Courtney says:

        You can’t possibly know if you aren’t aware beforehand, which I believe is the point he made and stopped when he found out. Heartless reply.

        • Monnie Lauren
          Monnie Lauren says:

          I commend you for quitting after you found out your beautiful babies were destroyed. People can put on such a facade, acting as though they’re really looking out for their horses best be have. A person could be easily fooled by a buyer. It’s time that neighbors and others in the industry set up and report to a disciplinary committee! If someone is abusing any type of animal, especially babies they should be stripped of their ability to compete! My horse follows me around everywhere and when I call his name he comes galloping in from the field! Nothing could make me happier when the rest of the horses just look up and then go back to eating. But by babies on his way in and is always happy to see me. I have never hit him or Yang Tim around! I believe that natural horsemanship that’s done with consistency is by far the best way to go! May God-bless all those beautiful little babies That are being abused for the Almighty buck. We all have to answer some day to our maker, and often times we forget that that just might include the beautiful animals he created for us to Enjoy!

      • Linda Morse-Robertson
        Linda Morse-Robertson says:

        Megan, I feel that is a little harsh….by stating that he refuses to breed horses anymore, alan has taken in a HUGE step forward in NOT subjecting horses to this….be a little kinder,,,he made the change while the industry has not.

    • Dave Duquette
      Dave Duquette says:

      What were the names of your horses Alan, ’cause that sounds like BS. This article was obviously written by a hysterical show horse hater, “Tens of thousands of reining horses” LOL, the numbers in the Futurity are much higher than 100. This is so stupid its laughable. Your statistics have no basis in reality. Sensationalized bullshit!!

      • Sue hooper
        Sue hooper says:

        And a stall is NOT the equivalent to a coat closet! Stalled show horses are usually given time to exercise besides training since that makes the training easier. But stalls are large and comfortable giving horses plenty of room to move around and to lay down all stretched out for a nap

          • allen
            allen says:

            Bullshit story! Any horse owner knows these horses have the greatest care. you people need to go rescue a tree!! Leave the animals with the people that really love them…

        • Bev Kahn
          Bev Kahn says:

          Stalls DO NOT provide movement for young horses to exercise adequately everyday! Young horses,1,2,3 years old especially need to be freely moving several hrs a day for bone, joint, tendon development

          • JT
            JT says:

            That what daily outside pasture time is for. My horses after being out , stand a the gate waiting to come back in , to what the feel is a safe home. And in terrible weather their much happier in their warm fluffy shavings filled stall.

        • Phyllis
          Phyllis says:

          Dave I totally agree with you. Owners of show horses A) love their horses B) Have major investments in these animals C) call the vet the second that horse may an off step D) yes more then 100 futurity horses(maybe that was for 1 show/class. LOL!! A coat closet, what a joke!!!! Who ever made that comment should be ashamed of themselves!!!

          • jde
            jde says:

            Owners of show horses need to educate themselves and not believe the BS the horse industry spews. There are some pretty hard and set FACTS stated here that are not open to opinion. Ignorance is excusable but stupidity seems to reign supreme in the horse world. Come on sheepeople open your eyes. These horses are being abused for money. All innocents seem to end up this way.

        • Theresa
          Theresa says:

          You may want to think about staying in a stall for a weekend and see how fun it is. Horses are meant to graze not stand still.

        • Lea
          Lea says:

          Bulldhit. Stop justifying. ” room to move around”. You mean turn around. It is completely the same as standing in a closet. Hell on their bodies AND minds.

        • Maria
          Maria says:

          And Sue, would you like to love most of your life in a stable equivalent? Looked after by people who don’t really speak your language but think they know what your needs are? Living in isolation and very often harshly exercised? It doesn’t sound much like a life that is like to live, that’s for sure!

        • Connie Stoffel
          Connie Stoffel says:

          Just a stall for a horse is still cruel. They should have at least a large corral to move in. How would anyone feel if they were confined most of the time then worked too hard for a young horse just to be discarded when they break down. The mental turmoil on top of the physical demands imposed on them are irresponsible. These horses would definitely be better off not being born. So sad because horses want to please us. Misery is their reward. I’d sure like to see an expose’ about this and horse racing. When you think about how many horses over the years have endured this to make greedy folks rich it makes you wonder why it hasn’t been stopped or rules changed to give the horse a reasonably enjoyable life. I hope some of them do.

      • Phyllis
        Phyllis says:

        Dave I totally agree with you. Owners of show horses A) love their horses B) Have major investments in these animals C) call the vet the second that horse may an off step D) yes more then 100 futurity horses(maybe that was for 1 show/class. LOL!!

        • Stacy
          Stacy says:

          Bullshit, I showed aqha for many years, was qh queen, on congress youth team, been there done that without a trainer, all people care about did the money! The trainers certainly don’t care about the horses all they see is $$$$, half of the people don’t even see their horses till the day of the show!

      • Catherine Swain
        Catherine Swain says:

        Dave – I don’t know you, but know of you. Your few comments I’ve seen on social media seem to spew hate and venom. Hopefully, whatever makes you that way, you get over it!

        I don’t recall ever seeing our name at a reining show.

      • Animal Welfare
        Animal Welfare says:

        Well Dave, seems you are a celebratity in the world of slaugherhouses in Iowa for horses and often have horse meat on the dinner table. Shame they shut you down. You and Slaughter House Sue are quite the team with a long history of animal cruelty. Great to see people unknowingly support a person of your shocking reputation. BTW we are not against slaughter if it is done humanely before you pull that old tired line too.

      • Jennifer
        Jennifer says:

        Nice try Duquette. As the Slaughter King of America, you should be happy QH’s are over bred and get broken down at an early age, because it helps your argument for why you want to slaughter horses on U.S. soil.

      • Andrea
        Andrea says:

        Whatever the numbers may be, the point is, starring horses that young, that hard, is just plain selfish! They trust us and then we break them down? That is proven fact .

    • Joyce pollard
      Joyce pollard says:

      That is so sad to hear. I understand the pressure and prestige to make winners but I believe most horses need time to grow both physically and mentally. Maybe mine won’t go on to b big time winners in the fururities but they will stay sound to a ripe old age god willing

    • Karen
      Karen says:

      I am so sorry. This is why I pulled our son and his horse out of reining training. I did not like what I was seeing. I sent my son to the vet to talk to her about issues with reining training. The next session with the trainer, my son told the trainer he did not want that done with his horse. The trainer said he wouldn’t be our trainer then. Issue easily settled. We still have the horse and I am riding him. Son is in college and much smarter now.

    • Lori Lamboley
      Lori Lamboley says:

      I totally agree. I compare it to forcing a 2-year-old infant to run a marathon. Their bones are still soft and have alot of growing to do. It be the same as hooking up a 3 month old huskey to a dog sled and expect them to pull 50 miles. 2-year old horses are still babies and still growing. If they were wild, they would still be with their mothers.

    • Karen
      Karen says:

      Agree with you Alan. I too bred some and after finding one of my horses lying dehydrated and sick in the prominent trainer’s barn and having several injuries that somehow went unnoticed, I too quit. I ride my own and am happy to not breed anymore to go to the assembly line. They are all home, turned out and ridden daily and any that I send out to start are at places I know they get turn out when not riding and with good, kind horsemen./horsewomen.

    • Rebecca Parker
      Rebecca Parker says:

      So sad. And a good example of why this is not good for the industry in the longrun. Breeders who care are burnt out on having good horses used, abused, passed, around, neglected, and sent to slaughter. That leaves the irresponsible and callous breeders, which is obviously a problem.

    • Deborah Parmley
      Deborah Parmley says:

      I see that from what I just read. Saw a history civil war story in which the narrator stated war horses lasted 6 months and died. Guess we are no better than these people 150 years ago. People just don’t learn or care about their animals.

    • paulajj
      paulajj says:

      So now with this new series….this practice of brutality and cruelty will become even more popular….that’s just fkn wonderful….I’ll watch Yellowstone but not the horse cruelty macho shit show about reining

  3. Alicia
    Alicia says:

    We have two, now considered aged horses, 10 and 9. Both have done a tremendous about of winning after age 5. The 20 year old came from a high profile reining program and proved she wasn’t ready for the futurities. Thankfully she was kicked out to pasture instead of pressured on. After years of being hammered on, and now two years of our ownership, the 9 year old has just now found that it’s ok to think for himself without out fear of being yanked and jerked and pulled into the ground. Sad for sure.

  4. Cathy
    Cathy says:

    I don’t think there are “tens of thousands reining horses bred each year” and certainly more than 100 make the futurity…. there are generally under 3000 horses (granted I’m not taking the the time to check) enrolled in the NRHA futurity nomination program (they need to be enrolled in the program to show) each year and somewhere around 400 are entered in the big futurity; others may show in smaller futurities.

    I agree that many training programs focus on “winning at all costs” and both owners and trainers frequently see horses as expendable objects, but your column is overblown without the facts you need to make a case. The smart reining trainers transition those that won’t make it to the top level but are pretty movers and good-minded individuals to ranch riding.

    • Animal Welfare
      Animal Welfare says:

      Across the world there are tens of thousands bred. Not all are registered for futurities. Many break down before being paid up. Many paid up don’t arrive – they are scratched. If the number is 500 entries the odds are still appalling. Ranch riding has been their savior but that is only a relatively new event.

      • Cathy
        Cathy says:

        You are very very misinformed. Foal nominations–US and European–are easily accessible in an NRHA database. They are nominated as foals–$300 fee. This is before the actual payments for the futurities take place. There are probably around 1000 that begin being paid up in the NRHA futurity. I agree that most horses have no business competing at that level of competition at that age, but you are not only getting acts wrong but misquoting industry professionals. You have no credibility whatsoever.

  5. Connie Stoney
    Connie Stoney says:

    Proposterous ramblings by a hater targeting reiners from amoung the show horse world. Obviously limited experience or working knowlede of the industry. Never worth debating with fanatics

    • Animal Welfare
      Animal Welfare says:

      Thank you for your ignorant statement. We are actuallly reining horse people sick of the horses being broken down. Please remember to vote for rule changes.

        • Animal Welfare
          Animal Welfare says:

          Sadly my dear, we are a group of people across seveal countries that own, breed and show reiners. We believe in showing and we believe in rules that make the NRHA accountable, the trainers accountable. The bad apples and closed minded people that are living in a by-gone era of animal welfare are best pushed out of the industry – not supported or praised. We raise awareness of issues and information to create conversation around the need for change that improves the sport. The voting is showing a clear demand for change.

          • cindy Schexnider
            cindy Schexnider says:

            Yes – Thank you for that clarification! I think that the breed registries need to play a part here too. Doesn’t matter if it is AQHA, Thoroughbred, or T Walkers. Registries are making big money breeding at an outrageous artificial rate and take no responsibility for how the animals are used (or abused). Thanks for your knowledgeable response and for taking the effort to make the sport accountable and make us feel good about participating and supporting.

    • Beth Gordon
      Beth Gordon says:

      I’ve personally seen DRUGS DRUGS DRUGS from Flirida to Georgia to North Carolina and everywhere in between. I rode hunters as a kid and I to my 40’s. Never rode a drugged horse. I’m sure weird things happen in the upper levels but they’re heavily tested. To say zero testing goes on in regional reining futurities is not an understatement. These novice horses are all drugged! For temperament, ailments, whatever. I know what I have seen. I know which individuals do it. It’s sick. The NRHA Really needs to test at these events.

  6. Joline King-Pebley
    Joline King-Pebley says:

    This is total Bull! Do your research people. Don’t take your horses to trainers that don’t care about horses. This is just pure hate For out Sport! I’ve been a professional Horsemen for 34 years! 3 Generation. I’m also a carded judge and Coach many riders.

  7. Fromthetoptobottom
    Fromthetoptobottom says:

    I think there are success stories and failures in all things. But I know there is more truth to this tale than most want to admit. Does it make reining completely bad as an industry? No not necessarily, but in an environment where winning is the goal things can be toe an ethical line. That being said not all barns are set up with this mentally, but some definitely are. In general the horse industry as a whole has its dark areas, but there can be a lot of good too. I also think the debated that gets raised the most is what are horses really? Do we consider them livestock or pets? The difference in that question alone breeds tons of discussion and I think helps you understand the extreme difference of perspective these welfare questions raise.

    • Debbie
      Debbie says:

      I don’t have enough knowledge or first hand information to take on the NRHA on their policies, but I did pick up on your question of are they livestock or pets. I don’t think that should make any difference. The fact is that they are living creatures that feel pain no less then we do, so what gives anyone the right to treat them like they don’t? I have never been able to understand why our pets are so protected against cruelty and yet a farmer is allowed to do the most horrendous things to livestock without anyone questioning it. Every animal deserves to be treated decently no matter if it lives in your house or in your barn.

      • cindy Schexnider
        cindy Schexnider says:

        I agree with you in theory. I think the “stock” argument can become an excuse to be irresponsible – sometimes… I disagree with you on farmers though – farmers are held accountable. There may be a few bad apples – but very few, and they are subject to animal abuse laws. They may not consider them pets but they are an investment at the least and most I know take very good care of their animals. A lot of problems come from well-intentioned people who are naive about the needs of different types of animals – livestock, wildlife, etc. They are not dogs and do not want to be treated like one.

  8. Jo-Claire
    Jo-Claire says:

    So veterinarians don’t know what horses need, about their anatomy nor their mental needs? Of course Dave Duquette, slaughter king and Sue Wallis’s former lackey would be defending cruelty…. that helps feed the slaughter pipeline.

    Pushing horses hard at young ages causes break downs … facts. The racing industry and now the reining industry have proven this. Overbreeding for that futurity champion has led to a glut of horses being dumped into the slaughter pipeline a convenient place to dump breeders and trainers problems.

    Those are all facts, and those owners don’t care about the horses.

  9. john j hannan
    john j hannan says:

    This is an unfair generalization of the reality of futurities owners an trainers rely on keeping horses sound it serves no purpose to push them to the point of ruining them.Having been involved with reiners and thorobred racehorses good trainers take many precautions ,xrays,ultra-sounds,bone density tests etc.,the ones that don’t make it generally have more to do with confirmation issues and might have issues if you started them at 4 or 10.

  10. Holly Dun
    Holly Dun says:

    I believe there is some merit to what this DVM is trying to say. Horse show hater or not–one cannot deny that horses are subject to human programs for human egos. I have owned and shown horses most of my life and still have three in the barn. I believe that many of us recognize what is respectful care of our four-legged family members; however, I find its predominantly people with lots of money who force their horses into hard cruel training at young ages all so they can win. I have never understood this and don’t see the personal gratification in this practice other than ego. This is not to pick on “rich” people but just think about it..most of us cannot afford to send our horses to the top. I agree that exercise is important and not being kept in a stall is ideal but I also recognize that some of us live where it snows so heavy we can’t get our horses out safely and some do continue to keep their horses stalled but balance with exercise and grooming and have very nice facilities to accommodate this. Starting to ride horses at 2 years old and in heavy training is likely going to cause a breakdown later on and this is not a restricted practice of the NHRA— many disciplines and breeds are just as guilty. Finally, x-rays and blood work–vets–are expensive! They are bank-breaking for some of us. The expensive practice of equine health care leads to horses not being treated properly for a plethora of issues because the average owner cannot afford it. This to me is a larger problem than the rich blowing their money on the promise of someone else riding their horse to the winner circle…

  11. Francesca
    Francesca says:

    We have more show horses aged 8+ years than under 7years in the barn this winter. I have a “win” photo of 6 of our show horses, all bred or trained by us, aged 16 yrs +, still competing with a total age of more than 115 years! Whilst I am not a huge fan of 3yr old events I do them if I think the horse is ready both physically and mentally. Alll of the aged horses in the photo showed as 3yr olds…. I believe It very much depends on maintaining them properly, being sympathetic to theirs needs and planning their show careers realistically. I do not know if any trainer/breeders weaning at 3minths etc to get “ahead” with their horses, despite having bred, ridden and shown Reiners for 25years, so it greatly saddens me if others have done this. Our older horses have done so much for so many, and I look forward to seeing the team of 17+ year olds out again this year in FEI competition, drug free and sound ?

  12. Kristi Rose
    Kristi Rose says:

    You should be deeply ashamed for misquoting Dr. Tim Bartlett. He would be the first to disassociate himself from your ridiculous propoganda, calculated to jerk uninformed heart strings. Indeed Dr. Barlett is a well respected and deeply loved member & supporter of the reining community. He is unable to remove himself from your Trollmanship due to the disabling stroke he suffered years ago. He is wheelchair bound and remains unable to speak. How manipulative and twisted of you to misuse a heavily edited portion of his words against him. You are without ethics or facts. How many people that read this article will go home and take their grade or high school age children to sports practice tonight? Will a few have injuries? Of course. Will there be a few poor coaches and trainers that use destructive techniques? Of course. Will most of them treat the children in their care correctly? Of course! Don’t judge the sport of Reining by a few bad trainers at the bottom of the industry.

    • JayJayRey
      JayJayRey says:

      You’re comparing apple and oranges. Children can actually express themselves. Horses can’t talk for themselves, yet they do but hardly any horse owner ever cares to truly learn their language.
      If you haven’t worked within the system but only visited you don’t know any facts either.

    • Chelsea
      Chelsea says:

      If you read for nuanced comprehension, you will note that the author is not using Dr. Bartlett’s quote as positive support for their article. The author is actually critiquing the quote by hold it up as an example of the erroneous theory that underlies the standard practices of the industry.

  13. Connie
    Connie says:

    I have bred and raised horses for 57 years and NEVER started a horse before they were 3 to 4 years old. Absolutely no sense in it at all. Their bodies need time to develop and grow. These futurities are a bunch of CRAP. If you truly have a love of horses , you don’t abuse them. Riding under developed animals is cruel and unnecessary. Our horses live on natural pasture, not in a barn or stable. They don’t get grains unless it’s a treat after they are ridden. They look wonderful and ride for years.My 26 year old mare is still very ride-able not that she gets ridden anymore, but could be with no problems. This is just so sad. Where did the love and true care of the animals go? It makes me sick every time I see someone riding a baby. We don’t have to give injections or medications to our horses, they are healthy and strong in their minds and bones. Having a herd of 18 with one on the way , gives us a lot of time to see how nature has them develop and live. We evaluate the shows and do show. My gelding of 16 years went high point in 2 clubs last year. In fact he went high point in pleasure and in games. He also drives and is great with children. Well rounded and a wonderful mind. We should always put their welfare before ours. Fancy barns with all of their problems, ya know like the SMELL and to many in to small of an area, isn’t the answer unless you like burned out lungs , stiff joints, weavers, wind suckers etc. Let them be horses, let them grow up and be strong. Let them develop their mind. That’s when you will truly get to know and ride a great horse. Just my thoughts.

  14. SLK
    SLK says:

    Great article. I purchased a finished Reiner 7 years ago. He was coming 5. He competed in the futurities, had a great go. What I didn’t see then in his video was the anxiety this horse showed. His unwillingness to ‘hesitate,’ which was man made. He was with the then, the 2nd best trainer in the world. What I found out after I brought him home and started to show, was that he was completely blown mentally. I spent 4 years backing him down and moving slow. He was doing great, but as soon as we moved to the bigger shows, asking for more speed his issues came flooding back. He was a product of pushing too fast and too soon. He couldn’t handle it and they tossed him aside. You can buy a blown Reiner from Flarida for $25-$30k. I was told that at least 300 horses are presented to Shawn every year. 3 maybe make it to the futurities. The others breakdown mentally and/or physically.

    I went back through my horses history and found his breeder. She admitted knowing where he was sold to was known for severe abuse, but she ‘had to give him a chance as a stallion.’ He was sold as a yearling for $75k. Smaller breeders have the chance to present their horses to these big time trainers, if their horse makes the cut, they’re set for life.

    My ex-reiner now has a new job, he’s loving it and winning.

    I have purchased a baby by Pale Face Dunnit. When I bought her I told the seller that I will not futurity her, and that’s if what she wanted for her future then I wasn’t the buyer she wanted. I told her my plans were to start her later so I would have a solid Reiner for life. She took comfort that I was going to let her grow up. She said it’s too hard to push these horses for ONE show and they disappear. She would rather see her horses have a long career and win over time. The breeder has had horses with Craig S and had them breakdown and have to put them down. I guess she got tired of seeing it happen.

  15. Aimee
    Aimee says:

    I never understood the appeal of the stupid futurities and why there was so much more money offered for them than in other classes. Why would I want a horse peaking at the top level of a sport when it is still a baby?! And now it is even worse since there is factual evidence that most of these horses are crippled when they reach the typical “prime of life” age.

    I grew up riding western and have ridden a few reiners in my life (amazing athletes and a total blast to ride!). I feel like, if only the big money was in the Derbies for older horses rather than Futurities (more like no-future-ities) longevity would win out.
    Can someone please explain why (aside from $$$ purses) Futurities are such a big deal?

  16. kathy sanguinet
    kathy sanguinet says:

    I wish they would change it at least 4yr. old futurity but my guess is many trainers will still start them at 2 so if they make it that long they have that much longer to drill those manuevers into then. Probably will see more mental issues along with the current.

  17. Lee
    Lee says:

    Very sad for all of our equine friends. Greed had no boundaries in the horse world. Sadly those who profess their love for these great creatures are the worst abusers.

  18. Trish Anderson
    Trish Anderson says:

    Instead of screaming that this is a hate scheme, why don’t you look at your industry and see if there is a way to make it safer and more long lasting for the animals! A horse is not made to stand in even the nicest box stall for 99 % of its life! They are a dynamic animal and half of the blood circulation to the hooves is from the pumping action of walking! See if you can’t make a go of this business with horses that are a little older, give them more time to mature. Take the trouble to X-ray the growth points before you start working them hard! Have some love of the animals, what their life will be like as 7 to ten year olds! Car that they will still be sound and usable! You know perfectly well that there will be thousands bred towards the futurities, of those thousands how many actually will make the grade? Of those how many will break down due to the physical and mental stress? As a true horseman, ask yourself ” How can I contribute to the health and well being of the horses so I have a sport that truly cares about them?”

  19. JayJayRey
    JayJayRey says:

    I used to work for such trainers and I had seen it happen. They don’t even lie to you. They tell you to break them in every day. I wouldn’t stay. I knew this wasn’t right in anyway. Winner or not. Horses are not instruments for a cause. Horses can be partners for life. Anyone willing to give them a chance will be gifted with a deeper sense to life. I bought a reiner too. Three actually. One that was supposed to be trained for futurity but he was one that wouldn’t last mentally through the training. He wasn’t broken, but he got angry. We got him before he was really bent. He’s now the best horse to trust with any task. He will never let you down nor buck and will carry you. Then there’s the mare. She had been broken. Since she couldn’t handle it mentally, she’s been sold saying for ‘breeding cutbacks’ …as if. She’ll panic in the ring or when she thinks she’s been shown to be sold. We’ll never give her away anymore, because when she knows she’s save to stay, you can ride without anything on her. No saddle, no bridle. She’ll listen and love it. she won’t do it because she’s that broken. Because when I first got her and you would ride her with loose reins, she’d run for her life. So moving slow and calm without anything to pull her back, is a huge sign of trust from her side. And last but not least, my beloved Nelly. She was supposed to be a futurity champion with the breeding line she carried. I bought her as a foal and I did so with no intention for the futurity. She was the best partner one can find in a horse. She was playful and smart and she was never afraid of anything. Because I showed her that the process of learning is fun. She never bucked and never Kicked. It was never a step back with her only forward. sadly, I’m saying past tense here, because due to a tragic accident in the barn, she broke her leg. It was devastating. Please love your horses. Think through what any bit will do when you pull it. Maybe switch bits for better results. Try inventing training new. You can still train an athlete with fun! My mare was packed, but she’d wait for me at the gates everyday for a new lecture. Because we did it as partners. We did it for fun. I’m sure if I had the chance to show her, it wouldn’t have been with pressure, but just for the fun. For anyone asking…she only was 4 years old when I had to let her go. Thanks for reading and think twice before you accept every riding method presented by the ‘big numbers’.

  20. Heather B
    Heather B says:

    A Horse is a majestic creature! Beautiful and intelligent.
    Most of the comments I read are written by people that are going thru life with blinders on!
    OK, a small might not be a mini closet but lock yourself up in a bedroom for a while and see how you do jogging down your driveway or around the block.
    And common sense should tell you a young horses bones are not set for heavy training.
    Most of all the big jumpers are well into their teens when they are “making it big”
    I would say a parent wouldn’t make their young child to lift 100lbs…but in this society, with children being sold, molested and locked in basements…. Who knows. Alot of owners only see $ signs. . Nothing else. And show horses are treated badly in every aspect from QH western pleasure to TWH celebrations.

    • KT D
      KT D says:

      This article is the biggest line of crap I have seen in a while.Obviously written by someone who dose not check facts . “Tens of thousands reining horses bred each year” No… “Only one hundred or so make it to the Futurity” very false… Poor trainers are in every discipline, you as an owner choose who trains your horse so don’t put them with one of those bad eggs. What these naysayers don’t tell you about are all the wonderful trainers and people are in this industry and all the things they do to make sure the horse comes first. I have many reining horses and all of which are a products of the futurity and derby world, all are very sound and never have had any problems. Before make false accusations maybe they should educate themselves and spend some time in the industry with the people that hold this sport so close to their hearts. You wouldn’t have to look very hard to find one and that’s a fact.

      • Animal Welfare
        Animal Welfare says:

        Maybe you should check your facts. NRBC enrolled studs which are the top escalante of horses – 182 that average 100 mares each a year 18,200 plus all the other studs that are not enrolled – and a bunch of them should not even be studs. And that is just in the USA. Then there is Canada, Brazil, Australia and all the European stallions of which is there a very high number too and the list goes on. The number that make it to the futurities is minute compared to the number being bred. The accusations are only false to those drinking the Kool-Aid and not to the people that have broken down stock in their pastures. Its a churn and burn industry and those that say its not are often the churners.

        • KT D
          KT D says:

          I would like to know where you got your stats on NRBC enrolled studs and the fact that on average they breed 100 mares a year please.. I like to learn and if I’m wrong I’ll be the first to admit it. I will stand by the fact that if you have a broken down horse standing in your pasture that you did not purchase that way, the state they are in is just as much your fault as the trainers. You as an owner put them in that situation, as an owner you should be active in what’s going on with your horses and know how they are being treated.

          • Animal Welfare
            Animal Welfare says:

            Count the currently enrolled studs on the NRBC website, then go the AQHA register and see all the foal registrations.Takes time but those studs are sure money making machines in the breeding shed.

  21. Lexi H
    Lexi H says:

    So the only thing I can really agree on here due to the lack of statistics is that the age needs to go up. Every good horse owner knows it’s risky to ride a two year old because if the knees aren’t closed, then they are going to break down. I don’t ride a horse younger than 3 unless there have been x-rays taken of the knees. Also.. come on people, a stall does not give a horse room to stretch its legs. There is a reason horses can get “stocked up” standing in a stall. I’ve never walked onto a property with 100+ horses that had very spacious stalls. Now at home yea we can have some really nice big 20 by 16 stalls or whatever, that’s still nothing compared to a pasture. Anyways, I believe there should be a rule that horses cannot be ridden before 3 years old, unless x-rays have been documented of there knees. I feel like that is fair to say. And it’s not like you cant train a horse without being on their backs, after they are about 2 , we start weekly training till someone is on there back and the horses have so much trust at that point they usually rarely even buck. Only problem is there is no way to regulate and enforce the rules expect for in a show where you would have to provide x-rays as you registered for classes. Every event has their flaws now. Look at the Arabian, the highest point of the horse should be the poll, now they want it to be the crest of the neck, and now of you think that is anywhere near natural or not bad for their breathing and neck muscles, shame on you, but every event has their flaws, especially in this day an age.

  22. cindy Schexnider
    cindy Schexnider says:

    Thanks so much for the courage to post this – well done. Regardless of those who will defend the actions to these young horses, money always talks the loudest and anything can be justified in some minds – that does not make it “right”. I used to be an assistant trainer for thoroughbred and QH racing. It was sickening to see what happens to these babies and they are broken down and used up about the time they should be getting started with a healthy working life (5-6 years). And all good horse people KNOW IT! It is just not dared to be discussed – you get shot down in a split second. It is no different in the reining circuit. I had to leave it – couldn’t bare to see anymore young horses (babies really) standing in casts in pain. This is an example of the hypocrisy I have found with the big money horse industry these days. I am not a big breeder by all means – barely even considered small. I have had 3 foals in my lifetime. QH with good pedigree and minds – a lot of thought and research goes into whenever I decide to breed – a horse I would want to keep myself. I only sold one of them and then I wouldn’t let the new owner take possession until the foal was a yearling and during the spring so the horse could adjust to a different climate. I researched the new owner, called neighbors, googled their place and still stay in touch to make sure that horse I took responsibility to “create” is living a healthy happy life. This year I had a foal and lost my mare that I also had from a foal, trained her myself. She was a wonderful companion and great in the cow pen! A happy healthy QH! She died from a ruptured main uterine artery during foaling. Heartbreaking to loose my special girl. The colt has the GREAT confirmation of his mama and the great mind of his sire. AQHA would not let me register him without digging up my mare who is buried on our property – and I have the sire. It was absolutely ridiculous and I have heard many similar stories. This was NOT the first time I had registered a foal from my bloodline. This is a picture perfect QH baby – no kidding – built like nobody’s business! They can keep their damn papers – I already jumped so many hoops for them and then they wanted me to desecrate my mares grave and body months after she died. It was hard enough to cut off some of her tail before she was buried. Back to they hypocrisy – if AQHA is so concerned about the integrity of the breed – they need to look beyond the money and look out for the health and well-being of the great American Horse! How many big breeders’ foals are broken down, unwanted, and sent to kill? Do they even know or care – no? They don’t want to know. BUT if members have lots of money, lots of foals (most artificially), pay for mean trainers, and win in the circuit – that is what it is about these days. I am no longer an AQHA member – I am sickened by the abuse of these loyal majestic animals for money and self-importance. Not what I am looking for in my life. I will have happy healthy horses and play with those of the same frame of mind.

  23. Joy masencup
    Joy masencup says:

    You are really brave to take a stand against this problem … I agree 110% … the big money should be in 4yr olds or older, in every equine discipline … it’s a horrible site to see horses loaded up from a kill pen… people don’t care… I’m not a big animal rights activist, I just don’t understand how a horse is so disposable… thank you !!!!

  24. Michael Brennan
    Michael Brennan says:

    Dr Bartlett is not misquoted – the article is all about the injuries that happen to reining horses due to conformation and the pressure they are under for reining. The article is also not saying start them at 4yo. It is saying that is how it used to be – the focus on longevity not just one event. Great article.

  25. Andrea Petersen
    Andrea Petersen says:

    The best of care – Go and stay in a 5 star hotel with everything but don’t leave your room all day, all night, day in day out except for a 30 minute gym work-out. No TV – just your bed made, shower and fed. See how you go. You will be stir crazy in a week.Call it a big closet. That’s why horses have stall vices of crib bitting, weaving, kicking walls. etc. Only a really dumb person would think you can lock an animal in a 15×15 stall and that’s fine. Even the race horses get a better deal with morning work and then in the afternoon 30 minutes walking or a swim or something to stretch again. Ignorant fools – this article nails the irony of stupidity and what people will do to horses for money and glory.

    • Ava Williams
      Ava Williams says:

      Totally agree with you. A lot of people have no sympathy or empathy for living things. They justify their cruel behavior so they don’t feel bad. It takes people standing up and talking about it for changes to occur. I applaud the people who treat their animals with respect and kindness, and without abuse. I’m glad this article opened up debate.

  26. Jane Cheuvront
    Jane Cheuvront says:

    The AQHA has gone to hell. Its not the same organization I used to belong to years ago. I would never be a member of the AQHA ever again.
    They are a fund for profit organization and horse’s, mares with foals and mares in foal are disposal.
    The American Quarter Horse Association has turned into a ditch horse organization.

  27. M Fay
    M Fay says:

    It isn’t just reining horses. There is a horse in my barn that was a big beautiful 2 year old. He was pushed for the 2 year futurities and jumped as a 3 year old. At 6 he has kissing spine so bad, nothing can be done. OTTBs are very susceptible to kissing spine due to being pushed as 2 year olds. I have seen western pleasure horses broke down mentally and physically by the age of 5. I have a QH yearling that is already 14-2. She won’t b started until she is 3. Drop the 2 year futurities. Pull the money and things will change. It is all about the money.

  28. Margaret Frost
    Margaret Frost says:

    I have 2 Reiner and at 11 yrs are both suffering with lameness one with hocks and the other with front feet . I was very green when buying and had no idea these poor horses are broken and showing at 3 yrs carrying mostly heavy saddles and overweight men.i she keep mine as pain free as possible but was an expensive lesson to learn.

  29. Sherry
    Sherry says:

    Excellent ! I would love to see ALL breeds of horses be allowed to fully mature before they enter the competition arena. Age 4 yrs and up should be the standard which allows their bones & minds to mature, Greed causes their humans to push them too early. The accidents on the racetrack would shrink if people would use their common sense.

  30. Kathy
    Kathy says:

    The same thing with cutting horses. But until the associations change and the people who promote the futurities change, this will continue. But my thought is even if they changed the futurities from 2 & 3 year old to 4& 5 year olds, the trainers would still start these babies at an early age. But even if they did, at least they could start them slower and hopefully not push them as hard.
    I’ve always said that a horse turned out is a healthy happy horse. My horses are out in the pasture 24/7 365 days a year. They wear turnouts in the winter, eat good hay free choice from round bale feeders. They are happy and healthy. These trainers are in it for the money and prestige, not for the horses health and happiness.

  31. Kathy
    Kathy says:

    These breeders that breed to hopefully get that one in a thousand foal that will go on to win is ridiculous! It’s as bad if not worse than puppy mills! Reigning, cutting, halter and both thoroughbred and Standardbred racing are the main problem in the over breeding and over population of horses that are eventually ending up in the kill pens and slaughter houses! This industry needs to be investigated and regulated! If we keep bringing awareness to the issues of the treatment, health issues and the future for these horses and the horse slaughter industry, we can change the laws like we did with the over population of dogs and cats.

  32. Kathy B
    Kathy B says:

    You really can’t compare reining to a race horse, as regardless of the minimum wt of a jockey, the majority of the strain is the intense running on a way too young horse for racing. A 2 or 3 year old horse is barely ridden on….(no younger than 2 ) in western and English…they are just getting wt on them. Their bones are still growing and muscle still developing and are putting wt on. Race horses in my opinion should not be running these long hard races at this age, regardless of minimum carried weight of their mount. They aren’t finished growing at 2-3 years old.m

    But I agree that reining can be hard on them for sure… with such heavy riders on them

  33. Bex
    Bex says:

    If you dont have turnout for your horse then dont get a horse! They roam miles a day grazing and need to be eating for most of the day! There are not designed to be in a stable.
    This is basic anatomy you should know about horse. Maybe people should educate themselves before getting a horse.
    My show horse is a black and white cob and he lives out!

  34. janet
    janet says:

    my big yearling will be allowed to be a baby and grow. we will show in HIH and late next year start riding him. for now he is in and out and long lining 1 to 2 times per week. want him to be sound for years to come. he is very well bred and plan to keep him a stallion

  35. Erin
    Erin says:

    Horses are nothing more than a commodity just like hogs and cattle. They give everything there Is to give and then they are sold to the killers or euthanized for insurance. Humans are such a blood thirsty species.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] “A lot of reining horses eliminate themselves early on, even if they have the ability and the try, because they can’t hold up.“ – Timothy Bartlett, DVM, of Vincennes, Ind., has been actively involved in the sport as a president of NRHA and an NRHA judge. An interesting view that it is the horses problem Dr …  […]

  2. […] reasons? I happened across this article on a reining blog and it made me think of this thread. Reining horses hardly stand a chance – Reining Trainers It used to be that I loved to compete and thought horse shows and dog shows were going to be a […]

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