Who is protecting the reining horse’s welfare?

“Unfortunately we do have our share of abusive trainers in our industry that I consider a minority, and when identified, they should be removed, period. It is these individuals that attach a bad stigma to the industry” says Rick Dennis of Wind River in May 2015. A highly respected quarter horse performance breeder and competitor and author of many articles on horse abuse.

You do not need to look too far to find examples of extreme reining horse abuse. In 2013 reining horse trainer Kyle Ronald Weston, from Alberta, CA was charged with horse abuse. The photo on this page is the result of his excessive spurring of a horse at home in his barn. The mare’s mouth was reported to also bleeding badly.  The NRHA did not take any action against him until after he was charged by the law courts.

There are extremists everywhere in both the level of abuse and the animal rights advocates who don’t even want horses ridden. In the middle ground of treating a horse respectfully, there is a place for sound and logical welfare of the horses. Would you do it to a child? Then you should not be doing it to an animal as a constant measure. The oversight of horse abuse should not just be in the show arenas and warm-up pens, but back home at the barns. That is where most of the abuse actually occurs and where people have the most direct experience with reining trainers.

For their welfare, a middle ground must be struck where horsemen from other disciplines can evaluate and define what is reasonable, not just people that are indoctrinated into a way of thinking like the culture of the reining horse industry.

The problem is that the public, newcomers, and members are wooed by the photos of expensive barns with extensive breeding and training facilities and horses presented like rock stars. The glitz of the show entertainment, expensive advertising campaigns and the lure of big prize money. This glamourous image is a far cry from how most horses live and are trained by hundreds of people across the world proclaiming themselves as reining horse trainers. Behind this glamour are many tales of the physical and mental abuse of horses. It is not just limited to the horse under saddle, but how they are treated in their day to day lives. What happens away from the spotlight and public eye and seen only by people investing in having horses trained, whether they are NRHA members or not.

The truth of what happens can be seen with horses like trainers Weston’s and Arballo.


Reining horse trainer Mark Arballo, a repeat offender of being charged for horse abuse, in 2015 was charged again over the horrific death of Bella. Again, with full awareness of the matter, the NRHA is reported to have not taken any action against this person until after he was charged by the law courts.





The shocking attack at the major show, Reining by the Bay, in 2015 where three of Andrea Frappani’s horses were poisoned, and one had a U-Shape nail driven into his foot.staple-in-foot Horses at the top of the game were targeted by someone who was most likely more motivated to win than care for the well-being of horses. A person that was either personally motivated or paid to commit extreme acts of cruelty against those innocent horses; evidencing a potentially highly competitive ‘at all costs’ culture within reining.



For many people reporting horse abuse can mean the end of their involvement in an association.

An association they have invested heavily in, both in money and emotion. The few that stand up for the horses are quickly finding there are few avenues for complaints that are not met with criticism and denigration by trainers and their friends. Some complaints are pushed toward the courts as the only option, where outcomes of such matters are reported to be unlikely to succeed due to the lack of knowledge and priority of animal abuse in the court system. Weston’s case gives measures of extreme abuse and getting just a $4,000 fine.

For a complainant, trainers are often victimizing the person for speaking out as they see the person as turning in one of their own. Many trainers are quickly justifying their actions by saying the person knows nothing and vilifying the person by relying on the cult-like behavior of their followers to support them. You will see many social media posts where they victimize the person who dares to stand up for the horse’s welfare.

Unfortunately and very real is the fact that many people reluctantly condone the abuse, by remaining silent, as the fear of being ostracized for speaking out against someone is more penetrating on them personally than living with the knowledge of a horse suffering out of sight. They attempt to reconcile the abuse by closing their minds or moving to another trainer. They fear becoming a victim of social media keyboard warriors as uninformed, often very ignorant and closed-minded people make wild and often threatening statements against the abused reporter. People quickly protect the abuser due to their public persona and their desire to stay in the group, with little to no regard for the horse. The more the celebrity status of the trainer, the more likely this will occur.

Could all of that really happen to someone reporting horse abuse? Sure, it could, and it does and anyone active on social media will most likely have seen it first-hand.

People are reaching out to Reiningtrainers.com, sending shocking stories of horse abuse and how they became victims for attempting to help the animal. Some have just walked away from the reining industry, and others have paid the price for speaking out and being pushed out. Moreover, an appalling outcome is the people that are attempting to live with the knowledge they let the horse (and more in the same barn) down by not speaking out.

However, what would happen if you all would send a loud and clear message to the reining horse industry that you will not tolerate horse abuse at any cost?

Consider the famous quote of Albert Einstein, who once said,

“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” Think about it and reflect on the horses.

It is the responsibility of the National Reining Horse Association and its affiliates to provide the tools and mechanisms to permanently weed out the abusive trainers and give members and the reining horse enthusiast public the confidence to report their concerns. Set a standard by removing peer reviews of complaints where subjectivity is rife and, agendas can be at play. Install independence to ensure complaints receive the balanced hearing they deserve. A place where the horse becomes the priority and actions are taken to filter out those that are abusing the animals and setting an underlying standard of acceptance in the market.

What do you think?

Are you concerned over a reining horse’s welfare  – send us the details via our contact page.

Please vote for Change on our Poll – the poll is now closed.

© 2016 reiningtrainers.com  All rights reserved.

27 replies
  1. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    Think you for this Statement ! I am an European Horse breeder and I went away from the Reining Sport because I did Not find a Trainer for may horses anymore, who would train them with patienace and feel.

        • Nancy Rebecca
          Nancy Rebecca says:

          Horrid. In every discipline or class, horses will be abused by some trainers. Walking Horses also. I’ve seen Grand Prix jumpers given injections not quite kosher to say the least.
          As long as owners pay big money to win, it will happen.
          The slap on the wrist this trainer got is typical and not just.
          The NRHA will not discipline it’s own, just as the TWHA has not. The government agencies have to act or our dear steeds will have no champion to protect them. Fear of retribution from the abusers is real and valid. Anyone who would do this would hurt a person or their horses.
          Anonymous reports protecting owners is important. Courage to turn them in is essential. Let’s support those brave riders and owners.

  2. Patout
    Patout says:

    For now, my Fisrt Dreams for reining horses, the futurity start 4 or 5 years old. Il dont have enought knowleges for reining trainers or industry.

  3. Nancy
    Nancy says:

    These are not spur marks! Something else was used on this horse and it is impossible to spur under the saddle where some of these marks are located. This is abuse, but looks more like fork marks than spurs!

  4. kumadee
    kumadee says:

    In every profession there are those cowards that use their job to inflict pain, suffering on something or someone helpless.
    It is the job of the public to identify them and shine a very bright light on what they do. They are bullies and cowards.
    Horses are sentient; they know nasty when they see it. Our job is to do the RIGHT thing and expose them publically for the losers that they are.

  5. Horst Ruetten
    Horst Ruetten says:

    I can only say “you are right!”. There are a lot of things went wrong in the reining sport and I avoid the word “industry” because reining horses should not a part of an industry but only of a sport. A lot of trainer lost their spirit from the beginning as a non pro by becoming an open rider and horse trainer under pressure of clients they want to see their horses win does not matter under what kind of circumstances. Especially a lot of younf reining “trainers” trying to reach the top and based on this forgett to use the brain and think about their way they going to reach that goal. Its more then good to read that out there are more people they care about the wellfare of horses and I say thank you very much for your efforts!


    I would absolutely stand up for the horses. We as owners have a duty to do such. If I personally ever caught anyone doing that to one of my horses that party would be begging for law enforcement to come save them.

  7. Daralyn Davies
    Daralyn Davies says:

    Thank you for sharing your post is being shared here in Australia we must become aware of what happens to our horses and stand up to protect them when abuse is added to the training .. I hope NRHA takes a strong view in discipline action against anyone Quilty of such behaviour

  8. Kathi Hansen
    Kathi Hansen says:

    Disclosure: I am not part of the reining world, never have been never will be but I am a large part of the horses world.

    As a horse trainer and a manager of a non-profit who produces horse shows I am well aware of the abuse and misconduct of many of our exhibitors and trainers. The reining discipline currently appears to be the worst and has been more than once called out. We do not offer reining at our approved AQHA shows for this reason. The warm-up arenas are overwhelmed with the jerking, spurring, stopping, spinning, for hour upon hour and then the show ring is a large group of exhibitors who choose to school again. This is a disruptive, abusive situation that the reining industry as brought to the horse show and to the public eye. One I/we do not choose to support or condone.

    The statement that is quoted from Einstein more than sums up what is occurring throughout the horse world from halter to Gran Prix levels, By extreme example Hitler was never the real problem, one corrupt man; the real problem was those that remained silent through all the years leading up to the final atrocities. It takes a lot of strength and determination to stand up for what is right. Because there are many injustices played out in our world one must choose the one in their world that needs change. The reining world needs to face its enemies, they are not me, they are some of those you have chosen to represent you and your world.

    It is long past time for all of us to step up and speak for the horse and his protection from greed and ignorance. Kathi Hansen Protectthem2015

    • Animal Welfare
      Animal Welfare says:

      Thank you Kathi for your comments. The work yourself and Carol Harris have been doing with the AQHA has inspired all of us and we hope too we can make a difference and clean up the NRHA from these abusive trainers and their clients. Not just what is seen at the shows but also what is happening behind barn doors. We are getting many emails via the contact us form advising of complainants being intimidated and threatened with lawsuits for speaking up. Someone has posted an open comment on their experience and it is disturbing. The NRHA and its affiliates need to become a transparent and accountable organization like any other company or not-for-profit business. Reining Trainers Engima

  9. Too intimidated
    Too intimidated says:

    I was threatend with removal from the NRHA and private law suits l cant afford to defend when i wanted to report things after watching a show full of abuse and cheating. I loved the idea of the sport but will never recomend it to anyone again.
    You even have to pay to complain about abuse its so wrong and its there to put people off reporting it so it carries on behind closed doors or in warm up pens with no one watchig them, having to watch grooms rub hand fulls of sand in a horse to stem blood flow and tying nose bands down over ported bits and pulling so hard they have to stand up and its called a sport….. by deffinition thats clearly not what i have seen so id rather not bother doing it if thats what juges want done for high scores to be awarded.
    I have never watched it in the US so I can only speak as I find about European countries.

    • Animal Welfare
      Animal Welfare says:

      Thank you for your note. You are one of many talking of the same experience and it is rampid across many countries.We are compiling information and will share it soon keeping people anon where requested.

    • Martin
      Martin says:

      Therefor I reported Kyle to the spca and the rcmp if needed. Instead of going to the nrha. This way they took legal action immediately.

  10. Janet
    Janet says:

    I saw this abuse at first hand when visiting from Europe at a top top training yard .Was so shocked at the abuse – I knew it went on but could not believe how bad it was . Muzzles tied shut by cord so they could not open their mouths when the shank/port came into play. Bleeding sides caused by spur abuse. Constant spinning until they fell to the ground. Being slammed into walls when trying a run down for a sliding stop. Violent use of the bit – constant shanking, pulling and remember horse’s mouth tied shut so pain must have been unbearable!! Reins tied to their stirrups on one side whilst waiting to be “trained”. Horses left in “stables” no wider than themselves. could not turn round. lie down or move. facing a wall. 24 hrs a day and being charged for being at this “trainers” facility. Horses looking dead in their eyes with no hope left for them . And this starts at 2 years old. Abuse is also seen at shows “behind the scenes” and nothing is done. A secret camera needs to be left at this yard and plenty of others and the sad sad thing is that this reiner was passing on his “knowledge” to younger people who thought this was the way to train. Money, sponsorship and prestige at the NRHA is put above the welfare of the horse. Will not watch reining anymore . Cruel. Barbaric training methods.

  11. Karen
    Karen says:

    Who comes up with these senseless, unnatural ways to treat a horse? Sliding to a stop with sliders strapped to their back hooves and an egomaniac in the saddle. It needs to stop. It’s abuse, just watching it makes me cringe.

  12. Rebecca Gardner
    Rebecca Gardner says:

    Thanks for explaining that abusive horse trainers need to be weeded out by the NRHA. I want to learn more about how I can support horse protection since I recently became aware of how they’re mistreated. Your article explained the role that different national associations should have in the process, so I appreciate you sharing this info.


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