Outlaw Tail Blocking – Its Pervasive in Reining – its Cheating, Unethical and the Horses Suffer

Tail blocking is pervasive in reining events and members believe it is a necessity to win prize money.

There seems to be a “cheat to win” mentality that has become pervasive in the show horse industry1. Tail blocking is unethical for veterinarians and shows the decay in training programs when it becomes a necessity to get a horse shown.

It is a cosmetic procedure for the “show look” being used to disguise heavy spurring and sour minded horses. It can also disguise soreness in horses for some ailments.

Tail Blocking is painful for the horse when being done, and they suffer for months following. It must be outlawed.

Tail Blocking is disrespectful and abusive to the horse, and it is only done for the trainers and owners financial gain.

According to DR KATE HEPWORTH-WARREN, DVM, DACVIM – the Quiet Tail is “perhaps the most dangerous tail alteration procedure, which the AVMA defines as “numbing the tail to cause it to hang limply.” This practice is most often performed on horses competing in Western disciplines, such as pleasure or reining classes, where horses are penalized for wringing, raising or moving the tail side to side excessively. “

Read the Full Article from Kate Hepworth Warren on Tail Blocking and its effects on horses.

According to the American Association of Equine Practitioners:

Hepworth-Warren says “Because tail blocking is considered inhumane and unethical, it is not taught in veterinary schools. Thus, any individual who performs the procedure most likely has had no veterinary training and may have minimal knowledge of the anatomy and function of the tail. If it is performed by a veterinarian, it is unethical.”

It is a cosmetic procedure and if performed is done so for financial gain only by the veterinarian.

Click here to read the Veterinarian Board position on tail blocking.

Some veterinarians are cashing in on this condemned procedure.

These unscrupulous veterinarians need to be outed and penalized for doing the surgical procedure, whether shown as the procedure or not on the invoice. If they are the attending veterinarian to the training facility or property, they must be reviewed when a horse is tested positive for a block tail.

The Veterinarian Association has a duty of care to ban Tail Blocking with severe fines, if not barring where done excessively, veterinarians who conduct the unnecessary cosmetic procedure.

Associations soft handed approach toward tail blocking is seeing a rise to epidemic proportions. Often boards are run by trainers. They are compromised in their ability to enforce rules, with conflicts of interest between owning-showing-training horses and rule enforcement.

Independent Testing

This is a serious welfare issue that needs independent testing. Testing is provided by a 3rd party to ensure fair play in the show ring and the welfare of the horses.

Independent testing is the only pathway as boards are remiss in their duties.

Why Trainers Tail Block Horses?

Penalties are applied by judges for tail movement that put trainers out of the winners circle or top placings.

Because a swishing tail is penalized in some horse show events, particularly reining classes, handlers sometimes resort to methods, commonly called “blocking” or “nerving” that numb the tail or block the sensation of the nerve endings so it cannot move. Because tail-swishing is often linked to poor training methods, improper use of spurs, or to the horse being “ring sour”, i.e. burned-out on competition.

What is means for the horse’s welfare?

The tail is part of the horse’s spine. It is used for balance as it performs various manoeuvres. It is also used to remove flies and other biting insects from its sides for comfort. Tails can tell when a horse is suffering anxiety, frustration or indicate potential illness. It is a signal used by mares to the advances of stallions and used in herd (two or more horses) communication.

Blocked tails hang lifelessly, rather than swaying slightly with the movement of the horse. The animal has no way of lifting its tail to defecate and therefore defecates into its tail. For mares, they pass urine into their tails and often have bacterial issues in their uterine as the urine leaks in. This can lead to permanent breeding issues. Some trainers tie the tail around with string to their neck to save the constant washing.

In some cases, the discomfort of the injection leads the horse to move stiffly in the hindquarters.

In worst cases, the tail is permanently damaged and in severe cases, infection spreads into the hindquarters and tails can fall off.

A horse with a blocked tail cannot be left to pasture. They require full-time care to clean them each time they pass manure. Without the care, they are subject to fly strike (maggots under their tail) and other bacterial infections.

Horses naturally position themselves to urinate and defecate in such a way that it does not fall/splash on their legs. The mental frustration of not being able to do that continually messes themselves is torturous.

NRHA Action on Blocked Tails

Horses competing in NRHA reining events, particularly high prize money and title events like futurities are observed to have blocked tails, regularly. Watching the live stream of the recent futurity it was clear the problem is escalating. Members cited in 2018 up to 80%, if not more, of horses competing at the NRHA Futurity event in Oklahoma City, had altered tails.

The NRHA has a statement on blocked tails but there is no evidence of fines or suspensions being given.

Action Being Taken

As the NRHA is not effectively managing the rules, the matter is now for public input through petitions to veterinarian associations and lawmakers. This is an inditement on the sport and a sad state that those that should be protecting them have abandoned them. The members are fully aware of tail blocking and do nothing.

As some say, this is no different to the self-regulation applied to the Tennessee Walking Horses Big Lick, which is undeniable suffering for the horses.

Sign the petition On Change.org today to stop Tail Blocking by clicking on this link

1 – Dr. Messer is a Professor Emeritus of equine medicine and surgery at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine and a member of the AAEP’s Professional Conduct and Ethics Committee

24 replies
  1. Michael Notting
    Michael Notting says:

    So everyone knows the other person is a CHEATER and that makes it OK – Disgusting Sport – STOP TAIL BLOCKING YOU BASTARDS

  2. Monica Wallace
    Monica Wallace says:

    Sickening alright and the vets should be ashamed of themselves. There is no circumstance this is OK – its all just about being money hungry grubs.

    • Aaron Miles
      Aaron Miles says:

      They now are using tight rubber bands and heavily weighted tails as that is not cruel like tail blocking according to them. So they hang a few pounds of weight in the tail and put a rubber tie on the tail fora few hours before the class. Tail is numb and heavy. The horse cannot move its tail. Wretched sport.

  3. Richard Marshall
    Richard Marshall says:

    This has been going on for years and they just get rewarded for getting away with it. The judges won’t say anything – they started the trend and are doing it their own horse too. Judges and committee are trainers – so its stinks from the top down.

  4. Cindy Waltenbury
    Cindy Waltenbury says:

    Three Cheers for Hollywood – glorifying cruelty. #paramountstudios #hollywoodanimalabuse #thelastcowboy #Runforamillion #yellowstone

  5. Pete Douglas
    Pete Douglas says:

    I left the sport as I could not stand what they do to the horses to make them win. When your watch the ‘big names’ rubbing sand on the horses sides where they drew blood spurring just before they go in the pen, you know its dirty. Horse comes out and not a thing is said.

  6. Karen Kingston
    Karen Kingston says:

    Nothing would surprise me with this group of people. They never have and never will be concerned about horses. Its all money and ego. The NRHA play sharades. The rules look good but their is no compulsory testing of drugs or anything. Just random on the guy they want to see lose.

    • Julia K
      Julia K says:

      The Board don’t want the horses tested – they own them !!!! They know you can only win if the tails are blocked (or cut if their are real a@*&holes and their ears are done – Yes you heard it – they also cut their ears – where is that in the rule book !!!!

      • Christina
        Christina says:

        That’s so sad … super sad that people don’t have a spine to stand up to this bs! That this is allowed to go on and hurt the noble horse who has done nothing wrong … absolutely nothing!!!

  7. Richard Fotheringhame
    Richard Fotheringhame says:

    Its about 5am here and just watched #runforamillion Our eyes may be blurry but we all reckon Matt Miles horse tail was done,Franch Bertolai was done, Jason Vandlandingham was numbed and weighted, Craig Schmersal numbed, Casey Dreary numbed or more likely injected from the second vertebrae and Abbey Lengel heavily weighted. Respect the Horse – We think not. Not bad 6 out of 12 competitors with questionable tails.

    • Suzanne Peters
      Suzanne Peters says:

      Your being generous Richard – they cant get a horse shown without it being drugged with a tail cut or injected. Common knowledge that all top horses are done.

  8. BobMayhew
    BobMayhew says:

    Pete, I seem to remember things are done, as to blood on flanks or mouth, maybe not enough though. A nick on the sides could be accidental, though not often! But a difficult rule to write so that minor offences accidentally aren’t categorised in the same box as sheer brutality. It could be done, but will NRHA do it……
    Surgically altering tails etc, general use of drugs as seen to be norm, should carry a very stiff penalty…..maybe a ban for life????? But at least a ban from showing for 12months to 4 years, the same as Athletics etc !!????

  9. Laura Mankin
    Laura Mankin says:

    WOW WOW WOW – I cannot get over the Reining Trolls on FB saying this website is the problem – No its not – YOU REINING PEOPLE NEED TO STOP KNOWINGLY ABUSING YOUR HORSES AND GIVING THEM SOMETHING TO WRITE ABOUT – Good on you RTE keep the biggest spotlight possible on these horse abuses.

    • Ellie
      Ellie says:

      It’s because swishing is a sign of discomfort, and annoyance. Reining horses should be willingly guided but most just abuse them until that have to.

  10. Holy Hell Busted
    Holy Hell Busted says:


  11. Robyn Johnson
    Robyn Johnson says:

    Once again people are trying to control a symptom and not fix the core problem. If each association’s rules were written to not penalize a horse with an active tail then there would b no reason to block or.alter tails or hang fake tails.

    No penalty, no blocked tail! Think about it people

  12. Merrianne Rodgerson
    Merrianne Rodgerson says:

    All show horses are abused in some way. The judges shouldn’t ask for things the horses can’t help doing. Like swishing their tails. Having to live totally inside. Never have a mark on them. No sun burned hair. Could name off a lot more and all show horses are involved. Let horses be horses and don’t judge on things they make up themselves.

  13. M. Elliston
    M. Elliston says:

    While they are making tail blocking illegal, how about docking. I thought docking was illegal but many many draft horses still appear in the ring with docked tails.

    • Animal Welfare
      Animal Welfare says:

      This is a site dedicated to reining horses – who don’t have their tail docked. We request all comments stay on the subject of reining horses. Thank you.

  14. Kathleen Ann Rickard
    Kathleen Ann Rickard says:

    Poor Horses! Some people are the WORST!
    Anything to get a stupid ribbon or a trophy that collects dust.
    Horses are pretty just the way they are. Happy Gaits that aren’t mutated into a Demented Turkey Trot and Swishy Tails that move with the horse.
    Anything that messes with a horses gait and tail movement should be outlawed.

  15. Kathleen Ann Rickard
    Kathleen Ann Rickard says:

    Poor Horses! Some people are the WORST!
    Anything to get a stupid ribbon or a trophy that collects dust.
    Horses are pretty just the way they are. Happy Gaits that aren’t mutated into a Demented Turkey Trot and Swishy Tails that move with the horse.
    Anything that messes with a horses gait and tail movement should be outlawed.


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