Is This a Reining Sport Secret?

The reining sport authority says:

“All complaints filed with the NRHA are confidential, as are the decisions made by the committees in closed session.”

Well that keeps it all a secret does it not? – click here for a redacted copy of a letter signed by the National Reining Horse Association.

And the rules state you must pay $250.00 to file a complaint and you receive a letter saying that?

The National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) is a not-for-profit association, with a member elect Board of Directors. For many members they may not know this happens when one of their peers attempts to file a complaint with the NRHA; they receive that letter and the door seems to be slammed shut. The committees all meet in closed session from what we know at this time.

So how do the names on the disciplinary list in the Reiner Magazine get there?

Shhhhh

If all complaints get that letter, as it states they do, then could this be a perceived gagging order on members?

Sections of the membership are showing resounding silence across the globe when issues of abuse are raised. There are those that deny outright what goes on, those that indicate it is going on, and others that write about their experiences and what they have personally witnessed. Those speaking out often saying they are no longer members. Others saying they can speak now as they are no longer members.

Are the responses of denial verging on a culture where avoiding exclusion from the sport at the expense of horses? Read our article on Who is Protecting Reining Horse Welfare and the public comments.

There is some conjecture that if you lodge a complaint or speak poorly of the NRHA they will revoke or deny your membership as ‘a person not in good standing’. Seemingly they can revoke/not grant it without reason. If this is true, it could weigh heavily into the need for more transparency within the NRHA and its complaint handling procedures and membership rights. It is a not-for-profit membership and not a private company.

Legal Action

Kit Cosper, former NRHA Board Member and an Executive Committee member, is currently testing that clause with legal action against the NRHA after his lifetime membership was cancelled.

Click here to read the court document claim and click here to read the NRHA legal response to the claim. We do not wish to debate or comment on his individual claim and look forward to reading the court’s decision. We can say is that he is an active person in seeking transparency within the NRHA.

These are public documents available through the courts.

 

Now here is a dilemma

If the complaints are confidential as their letter states, then how do the names on the disciplinary list get there? From January 2011 to December 2016 – just 15 members globally had serious action taken against them (suspended/revoked) and just 11 placed on probation. We know two happened after the courts found them guilty of abuse; Arballo and Weston. One states unsportsmanlike conduct while the others remain a mystery as to why they are listed.

There is conjecture that these people listed are used to show affirmative action is being taken to satisfy the public and those members who are less informed.

Questions, Questions, Questions

We can all ponder how the NRHA are managing complaints but it would be best if you write to them and ask them to answer the questions, publicly?

What exactly does that confidentiality statement mean to a member?

  1. Do you not get an answer to your complaint because its confidential?
  2. Are the results of a complaint kept secretive to everyone, including other members and the person/s you complained about?
  3. What happens if a complaint is a serious abuse issue and the filer feels it just been dropped into the abyss?
  4. Where is the proof that the complaint is handled if it’s all confidential?
  5. Are only complaints filed by show representatives heard and made public?

The members own the NRHA and not the elected board members and staff !

More Questions

Members should be asking:

  1. How many complaints are actually received by the NRHA each year that are ‘locked under confidential’?
  2. How many complaints are found to be substantial and require disciplinary action but none is taken?
  3. What are abuse complaints measured against when the rule book dedicates just 4% of its welfare statement to animal abuse and the code of conduct is not enforced on trainers?

If there was ever a catalyst for the need for transparency and a more independent complaint handling procedure, this would be most likely part of it.

Have your opinion and vote on whether you believe changes are needed. Click here.

 

Customs Can be the Biggest Horse Abuser

 

The truth is that a person deemed as knowledgeable,

may well be the cruelest person that ever stepped into a horse pen.

Ask a reining trainer or clinician how they train their horses and they will have a mantra response that is palatable to most people’s ears. What they won’t talk about is the things they do behind barn doors; sometimes barbaric practices deemed tradition in the training of the reining horse.

They have learned skills passed on from generation to generation from people considered knowledgeable; the people that influence the sport today. Some of those people were good horseman and many others were barbaric in their methods. Those people having immense influence over members and enthusiasts of the sport whether good or bad. They are the masters of the destiny of reining horses as they are provided with full access and authority across the globe.

Those same trainers and clinicians are conditioned to seeing and working with those barbaric methods and have no measure of the degree of abuse being applied. They justify everything with their longevity in the business and their prize winnings. A good prize winner or promoter seems to have a licence for unquestionable abuse, even when other horseman stand back and shake their head in disgust.

The twistedness of the trainers lack of skill and knowledge was captured in this US Patent for horse training equipment. The 1964 patent states:

Customary methods for training animals in general, and horses in particular, often are relatively very cruel. For example, in training horses to neck rein, one method involves beating the horse about the head with a wide leather paddle or bat several hundred times to train the horse to turn when the rider so orders. Horses trained in this manner to be cow horses usually are retrained after periods of two or three months, During each such training exercise the horse may again be batted about the head several hundred times. These training and retraining exercises often cause a horse to become extremely head shy.

Another training method used to train a cow horse to neck rein involves the use of sharp spurs as the rider wishes the horse to turn. This method often results in badly injured shoulders for the horse, often resulting in permanent injury. In addition, horses which otherwise were very good horses, though somewhat high-spirited, often were ruined for cow horse purposes because they could not be beaten into submission by either the hat or the spur.

Accordingly, it is an important object of this invention to provide a humane animal training device which is capable of more rapidly and more permanently training animals, such as the horse, than has been achieved by the use of prior art methods.

Another object of this invention is to provide an electric training rein for rapidly and efficiently training a horse, such as a cow horse, to neck rein without cutting, bruising, or otherwise injuring or undesirably shying the horse.

Wow. The electric rein was the improvement as it was a rapid solution and left no noticeable marks and the horse was not head shy.

I remember seeing a lovely Zan Parr Bar bred colt, in the late 70’s early 80’s, trained with electric reins. He shivered from head to toe in fear with his eyes rolling and his entire relationship with the trainer was reactionary to fear, and beatings for the wrong reaction. The trainer was deemed a champion and appeared on the front pages of magazines.

Move on to the 1980-90’s and watch some of the old educational videos; the videos actually published in that era and not the vetted versions available today. Some readers will remember attending clinics or spending time in training barns.

Those videos (and live demonstrations) demonstrate such barbarian treatment as:

  1. Barbed wire bits for hard mouth horses
  2. Reins tied from the bit to the hind legs snagging the horse every stride to soften its mouth.
  3. Metal cavessons to pull horses heads under – of course tied through the front legs
  4. Chains as nosebands and bits
  5. Shoulder spurring to the point of spur holes left in horses shoulders
  6. Wire bands over the poll being pulled taught in a war bridle
  7. Tying heads around tightly to the saddle for hours on end
  8. Tying heads high in the barn to weaken spirits and tire the horse
  9. Hobbling horses and beating them to teach them who is in charge
  10. Hitting horses relentlessly with poly pipe to spin faster

and the list goes on.

Several years ago, at a demonstration in front of hundreds of people, a prize winning legendary reining trainer informed the crowd that when he had too many horses to ride each day, he would use hardened black plastic pipe and beat on the horses to get them to turnaround. Not much going on in that man’s head for sure.

And yes, these methods still exist to this day. They are like a mother’s milk to some trainers. Occasionally when it happens like with the death of Bella (Gunnabe Gifted) it comes out of the closet what has been happening in trainer barns. Or the horse in Calgary spurred beyond any reasonable purpose. Others have died and suffered, but did not get the media attention as the owners were fearful of the consequences to them.

How the NRHA defines abuse through the eyes of a reasonably hands-on person in training and showing horses. In other words a trainer. The full statement is subject to copyright but can be read in their handbook on page 11 of the 2017 edition.

If the people chosen were raised on these barbaric techniques, and many have been, then the toleration would be very different to someone who was a good horseman with a fair hand and heal.

One event, we observed a gelding being harassed, severely spurred and jerked hard continually in front of the show manager and other riders. It escalated to such a point the horse was in such a state of fear, and it was unable to function. Every move it made met with extreme punishment. The gelding urinated on itself then collapsed on the ground. No-one intervened, (except for us). Amidst a spray of language for intervening, the show manager, and riders responded ‘he knows what he is doing, and the horse can handle it, that horse just has a bad attitude.’ Justifying that level of abuse left us speechless. Customs can apparently out ride brains.

The image on this article is a wire wrapped metal cavesson, with a sliding gag and twisted wire bit. The string is a cavesson hanger to set it to the softest part of the horse’s face. This barbaric training item is deemed a solution to a horse with a problem and what was required to train a reining horse.

A knowledgeable (?) person may well be the steward overseeing the horses at your next show. Hardened to the point of not being able to see abuse when it is right in front of them. As the frenzy builds to have the horse completely submit, ready to run for +1 ½ scores the level escalates.

Improvements in the NRHA rules are needed and the litmus test of ‘horse public opinion’ for the treatment of horses. You do not need to be a reining horse rider to see abuse; you do not need to be a top level trainer to understand abuse. The two most common statements made to support any action of a reining horse person where the lines have been crossed. A good horseman can see abuse no matter what discipline they show or ride in. In the NRHA member logic, Buck Brannaman or Ray Hunt may well of been sidelined as being not a good measure of welfare as he did not show top level reining horses. I think not.

Let us know your thoughts and don’t forget to vote.

Always Remember:  You stick up for a horse abuser  –  it’s usually because your tribe is your vibe.

 

Do the NRHA Enforce Medication Rules?

With a massive 94% of the weighting for welfare and medications clauses sitting squarely on medications, not abuse, in the National Reining Horse Association Handbook, the questions need to be asked: “Have you had your horse tested at an official NRHA event anywhere in the world?” and “How often are they testing at official events?”

The National Reining Horse Association as gone to great lengths in their handbook to define their Animal Welfare and Medications Rules and Regulations within their Handbook. As we mentioned in a recent article “NRHA turns back on horses again in 2017” the reference to welfare is weighted heavily to medications, not abuse.

In fact, there are:

• Seven sections with 35 clauses and 36 sub-clauses for medications being 71 points, whereas
• Only two sections with mentions in four clauses for abuse outside of the actual show pen

That is a weighted ratio of just 6% emphasis on abuse and the balance on medications. Many would say that is just not good enough to manage and stop the abuse of horses that people write about observing in warm-up pens of NRHA shows across the globe.

Many questions can be asked about the medication rules.

The rule book states the testing can include physical examination, obtaining urine samples, blood testing or any other tests that an approved veterinarian considers necessary. All except the physical examination would have results post the horse competing in its classes. It raises the question does the horse still competes medicated or do they have on-site rush service for testing?

Some of the prohibited drugs can take effect in a matter of minutes or within the hour before a person enters the ring. How is that tested? The horse is being warmed-up ready to show, a quick trip back to the stable and they are ready to go with it looking like it was just a quick slick up ready to show. Those that use medications would be swift and secretive in how they give them.

The test of whether the NRHA enforces the medications rules would be in the rulings. How often are people seeing someone’s placing withdrawn after an NRHA event as they were found to be in breach of the medication rules? Do they discipline the person but the horse keeps its placing at the event even though it had an unfair advantage?

The big question is, has anyone been disciplined for breach of the NRHA Medication Rules? Surely they did not write all those rules because the problem does not exist?

Keeping it positive, if there were no convictions and the testing is happening, then there are the costs associated. The NRHA funds the medications testing and the costs should appear on the annual financial report to all the members. Are any members aware of the cost of testing in the last fiscal year (2015) or have an indication of what the costs were in 2016?

Reading the NRHA Handbook is an education in the application of drugs in the equine sport today. With the listing of drugs available in the handbook, some may see this an instructional guide more than a set of rules if they are not consistently testing.

Let us know your thoughts?

Don’t forget to go to the Poll on our website and vote.

NRHA turns back on horses again in 2017

The new 2017 National Reining Horse Association – NRHA Handbook is now available online

Unfortunately, they have let the horses down once again with their lackluster approach to animal welfare and no changes being made from 2016.

The Animal Welfare and Medications Provisions is focused on medications demonstrating they believe they have a greater drug problem than abuse. All we can say is the drug problem must be astronomical as the abuse is extremely noticeable in warm-up pens across the globe.

Some interesting extracts from the handbook are:

  1. The Show Steward should be knowledgeable of accepted reining schooling practices and should take necessary action should he/she witness or be made aware of misconduct or abuse on the show grounds.

There remains no documented standards that need to be abided to as like in the American Quarter Horse Association rule book. If the Show Steward accepts that excessive jerking, spurring, fencing and over spinning is all part of the training process, then they immediately condone the behavior and set a self-belief standard at any event.

  1. The Show Manager is required to receive complaints from NRHA members related to cruel, abusive, or inhumane treatment of horses on show grounds.

Once again, nothing is documented so how is cruel, abusive or inhumane substantiated. A knowledgeable person does not mean they are sufficiently emotionally intelligent enough determine this. A quick look back over some training videos by the greats stands testament to that with wire nosebands, tie arounds and many other barbaric methods. It is an ambiguous statement that is open to interpretation to benefit trainers, not horses.

  1. New Professionals members must complete a Code of Conduct and submit it with the membership form and fee.

There is no other mention of the Code of Conduct, and it remains totally unenforceable as they only take action on what is set out in the Handbook.

 

The questions need to be asked:

Q1:  Is the National Reining Horse Association tolerant of abuse?

!2:  Is the National Reining Horse Association reluctant to make changes as they may upset their primary money-making source – trainers bringing horses to shows?

The American Quarter Horse Association are able to define more about welfare of reiners than the reining association itself. Extract below.

Please vote on our pole for change located on the website.

aqha-rules

 

Did the NRHA Abandon Their Welfare Statement?

In March 2016, the NRHA abandoned their welfare statement, and all other statements contained within their Code of Ethics for NRHA Professionals. The program designed to govern the standards of reining trainers and a compliance requirement that remained the same since 2011. What caused this major change in their position on the Code of Ethics and regulation of trainers?

Typically, a Code of Ethics sets a standard that both members and the public can rely upon in their dealings with an association and its members. Companies, Not-For-Profits and Associations published codes to provide the public and fellow members with confidence and a recourse if they feel unfairly treated in dealings with a member. A place to hear their concerns independently and fairly.

Many companies and associations are judged by how they respond to their Code of Ethics. Accounting firms, legal firms, realty and other services like veterinarians ask their members to subscribe to their membership and code of ethics/conduct. Public using a members services are invited to lodge complaints where they believe the service provider has failed in their duty of care. But not the case with the NRHA.

NRHA Professionals Card Application & Code of Ethics States:

We, the members of the National Reining Horse Association Professionals in carrying out our role of providing service to the Reining horse industry, recognize the need to do so in a professional manner, and to represent the sport of reining in a professional manner with the highest degree of integrity. Therefore, we have set forth the following code of ethics, which shall govern our endeavors in the industry.

By signing this application, I agree to be bound by the rules of the NRHA Professional Code of Ethics. I understand that in order to participate in this program, I must maintain a continuous individual membership with NRHA. As a member of the NRHA Professionals, I will:

  1. Adhere to the professional standards of the NRHA and work to further its goals and objectives.
  2. Ensure that the welfare of the Reining horse is paramount and that every horse shall at all times be treated humanely and with dignity, respect and compassion.
  3. Conduct my affairs in the sport of reining with integrity, sincerity, and accuracy in an open and forthright manner.
  4. Act with integrity in my dealings with reining clients, other NRHA members, and the public when representing the sport of reining. In this regard, any horse shown by my spouse, client, or child will be economically owned as prescribed by applicable NRHA rules.
  5. Handle my reining horse business in a manner in which promotes the image of the Reining horse industry.
  6. When representing the reining horse industry avoid conduct that could to discredit the NRHA or its membership

NRHA Professionals program has members in some 24 countries across the globe. The public can readily access and are reading the statement on their website application form.

Something happened in March 2016 and they added an extra line to the application form. It says:

The NRHA does not endorse or recommend any trainer or professional and is not responsible for action or inaction of any trainer or professional.

You can view the current copy on their website here.

Furthermore, the NRHA (the owners of the NRHA Professionals Program) are limited in their authority to discipline someone except by the very limited and abstruse rules contained in the NRHA Handbook on non-medication and welfare. In fact, Code of Ethics points 2-3-4-5-6 do not appear anywhere in the NRHA Handbook nor is it even mentioned.

So who governs and ensures the NRHA Professionals abide by their Code Of Ethics at it states should happen?

Members and Reining Enthusiast Public need to really start asking questions about this association. Questions like:

  1. The Code of Ethics implies it expects trainers to abide by rules that affect their behavior away from events in dealings with the public and horses. How are you governing trainers and ensuring they abide by the code?
  2. Why are they asking people to sign the code of ethics if there is no recourse against them? Is this a marketing gimmick to get more people involved?
  3. How would you judge an Association that has a disclaimer of no responsibility on their Code of Ethics and not referenced in their rule book?

What other questions do you think the reining trainers and NRHA should be answering?

Let us know what you think and if anyone knows why they changed their position in March 2016, please let us know.

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 mares 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 is a constant measure. The over sight of horse abuse should not just be in the show arenas and warm-up pens, but back home at the barns. That is where the 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 horseman 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 of the 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 of the horses live and are trained by the hundreds of people across the world proclaiming themselves as reining horse trainers. Behind this glamour are many tales of 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.

bella-wider-shot

 

 

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 that 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. For some complaints, they 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. Westons case giving measure 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 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 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 through 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 abuse reporter. People who quickly protect the abuser due to their public persona and their desire to stay in the group, with little to no regard to 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 the victim for attempting to help the animal. Some have just walked away from the reining industry, others have paid the price for speaking out and been 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 a underlying standard of acceptance in the market.

What do you think?

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

Please vote for Change on our Poll – click on the link.

© 2016 reiningtrainers.com  All rights reserved.

NRHA Rules Score a Minus 1 ½

The issue of animal welfare is high on the agenda of competition associations as they work to clean up their public image to meet the modern day informed standards and social media scrutiny. Welfare statements and importantly their management can define an association in the eyes of the general public and those interested in sports.

Some associations are pro-active and progressive whereas others, like the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA), are just failing to deliver in their rules.

For many people, a horse show is a place where they see competition horses in the few minutes of showing under the judge. They see the big slides and fast spins and get enthralled in hype and entertainment; never seeing the alleged abuse that creates those circus tricks. With little access to the behind the scenes and the journey to the show ring, hiding the real experiences horses endure to become entertainment and instruments of success to the rider.

During discussions on the management of horse abuse at National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) official events, it became evident that this is an association evolving to meet the welfare demands of horses. The discussion raised some serious contrasts between NRHA and NCHA and being miles apart.

On reading their respective current rule books, it became apparent that the NCHA write in a positive tone to ensure the improvement of their sport and image with precise definitions and responsibility. The NRHA seemingly reliant on vague statements fraught with gaps to protect trainers and their staff from conviction.

While both NCHA and NRHA rules state they apply to ‘the show arena or on the show grounds,’ the NRHA rules fall well short when set beside those of the NCHA.

A couple of the major notable differences are:

NRHA Rule Book states Section 3. Abuse. (1) No one shall abuse or mistreat any horse in any manner whatsoever on the show grounds. Abuse is defined as an action, or failure to act, which a reasonably prudent person, informed and experienced in the customs, accepted training techniques, and exhibition procedures, would determine to be cruel, abusive, inhumane, or detrimental to the horse’s health. (2) Individuals will be subject to the disciplinary procedures if it is determined that there was a willful abuse of the horse.

There is a reporting process with a $250.00 fee attached and the said complaint, with all required evidence, is heard by the NRHA in their hearing process. That process to be reviewed at another time.

The NRHA is using vague statements and has many loopholes that can be taken advantage of. What is a reasonably prudent person, informed and experienced in the customs, accepted training techniques? Based on personal observation and what is seen on video in warm-up pens posted on our website. The excessive spurring, jerking reins with the full strength of the upper body of riders, continuous over bending, stopping and spinning starting or ending with the techniques above, then acceptable practices is an endless statement that embraces just about everything that otherwise is considered abuse outside of the reining culture.

To the opposite, the NCHA Rule Book states:

Any act which the general public would perceive to be a violation of 35b. This includes such acts occurring not only in the show arena but also those occurring anywhere on the show grounds–the warm-up area, practice pen or any other location. A. If show management or judge at any NCHA approved or sponsored event discovers inhumane treatment or abuse of a horse, they should immediately bar the responsible party and horse from further competition in the event and the judge will give a score of zero.

They have a $50.00 fee for filing complaints post events.

How gratifyingly proactive is the NCHA for these two primary reasons:

  1. The NCHA take action, at the event, immediately banning the responsible party rather than waiting weeks or months. A strong message of non-acceptance.
  2. The NCHA apply a measure of accountability of any act the general public perceives as a violation. A transparent and accountable process, ensuring the welfare of horses.

To go that extra step, the NCHA actually document what abuse is:

  1. Abuse includes excessive jerking, cueing, whipping, slapping, use of lip wire or similar device, or any other act intended to cause trauma or injury to a horse. Any act of abuse, or intent to abuse a horse, in the show arena or on the show grounds which could also potentially endanger the safety of other persons or animals will be dealt with in the strongest possible manner.

On attending both official events to see this first hand, the difference is apparent. The NCHA Show Manager is active in overseeing the warm-up pens and event walk-in, passing stern looks and guidance on what is not acceptable at the NCHA events. They are monitoring, better termed policing, with vigor to ensure the rules are abided to, and the welfare of horses is the highest priority through their actions.

To the contrast at the NRHA event, the Show Manager was concerned with other duties of the show and animal welfare seemingly was low on the agenda as there were no active signs of policing or monitoring occurring. No rider was spoken to [disciplined] at the time of the incident to stop it, and there were many instances where intervention was required. The lack of documented abusive practices became apparent and reliance on vague statements being inadequate.

When is the NRHA going to install rules that deliver immediate and measurable accountability to all those trainers, competitors, and their help teams? Why do they continue to rely on ambiguous statements that make defining abuse of a horse a near impossible task for any complainant?

These are the questions that should be put to the NRHA.

What is the NRHA Hiding?

In a world where transparency of sports performance is a public expectation, the global body known as the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) are seemingly defiant in meeting those expectations.

For sports people involved in racing, football, baseball, cycling, Olympic events to name a few, their performance is measured, reported and public scrutiny is par for the course. Their wins and excellence publicized, as like their breaching of rules in relation to drugs, bad behavior off the field, court or track. Their governing associations hold members to account to ensure the image and conduct of the sports develop in line with modern public expectations, ensuring the growth of their sport.

Over the past two decades, the racing industry has evolved with stringent rules and regulations for the conduct and the welfare of horses both off and on the course. A sport that draws a high level of public attention and scrutiny, they hold trainers, jockeys and horse workers to high standards. Any breaches are public knowledge and recorded. They understand that entertainment cannot be at the expense of the animals or the minority allowed to fester bad conduct and horse abuse.

The American Quarter Horses Association is making slow but steady inroads into stemming the issues surrounding the public perception of some of their events, particularly western pleasure which draws enormous public resentment toward the style and welfare of those horses. The transparency demonstrated with suspended trainers and individual public record along with drug violations. There is affirmative action with public statements regarding disqualification of members in welfare matters. They are becoming more pro-active in addressing animal welfare.

The NRHA states they are “an organization dedicated to the promotion of the reining horse. It serves as the standard setting body for the sport of Reining worldwide.” They publish welfare statements and codes of conduct for trainers, but what is the real truth behind these declarations?

The NRHA response to complaints on conduct and welfare matters is seemingly one of secrecy to the point that complainants are not advised of outcomes. There is no known accessible public record of complaints being handled, and no publically defined complaint handling procedures. In fact, it seems that they default all complaint handling to the courts, as seen in the case in Mark Albro and Kyle Weston. A process that it is out of the reach of many individuals and one that fails animal welfare cases on many levels.

In the recent NRHA Futurity where Casey Deary young 3yo horse, ARC Gunna Mark Ya, collapsed to the ground after backing up so hard its legs gave way. There was immediate outrage around the world and the NRHA spin doctors went into overdrive to stop the meltdown as the video went viral. The trainers statement plausible to those who needed to believe it and laughed at by others who had experience with horses.

There are other videos of what is deemed by horse pub ic and the general public as horse abuse at the highest level of competition. The videos show grown men and women aggressively spurring and tugging their horse’s mouths to such a point that onlookers cringe. In 2011 it caused a global outrage when videos appeared of leading trainers at an international FEI event in Europe. The image with this blog is of Craigh Schmersal at that event. The video was so graphic it was taken down by YouTube. The image being one of the only still accessible.

The NRHA is noticeably silent, the trainers or riders common response being that people are uninformed. What those trainers and riders fail to understand is that people do understand and the pain and suffering caused when >100 pounds of pressure being applied to a horse mouth through reins being jerked or sawn through a mouth, or spurring that leaves dents on their sides like pulverized steak. The bending of a neck that is scientifically proven to induce pain and suffering. One can only imagine the treatment of these horses away from the lights of the show pen if this is them on their best behavior. Those same riders are held up as legends of reining by the NRHA to this day.

It begs the question “Are the reining trainers a protected species by the NRHA?”

With over 19,000 members worldwide and ever increasing public outrage on the treatment of these horses, questions need to be asked of the NRHA. Their clandestine approach to what are important matters of public information should no longer be accepted. Members and the public should demand a halt to the surreptitious conduct and the NRHA adapt to modern society and scrutiny. They should publicly honor the statements made on their website and attached files through affirmative public action, transparent for everyone to see.

The Reining Horse is a seemingly sad story, much like that of the Tennessee Walking Horse, and the cruelty those horses endure to perform like circus animals in a show ring. Five decades later there is now only action being taken by welfare groups bringing about federal legislation to ban their practices. Those practices underlying in their associations and welfare statements but no affirmative action taken. What horses must suffer for the entertainment of a small few.

If you have lodged a complaint with the NRHA and not received a public response, we would like to hear from you. We can assure you we will keep your name anonymous.

 

 

NRHA’s newest unofficial ambassador: Clinton Anderson

Clinton Anderson describes training techniques for a reining horse and children

NRHA has a new self-appointed ambassador of reining, Clinton Anderson of Downunder Horsemanship, a constant of the North American clinicians circuit in recent years. Anderson is taking his thousands of followers on the journey of training his NRHA reining futurity prospect Titan (aka Telling White Lies) and providing his opinion on training and horse management and all things imaginable for children and people.

He states “if your definition of an asshole is someone who tells the truth, speaks their mind, and is direct, then yes I’m a complete asshole”

Mr Anderson explains in part 4 video of Titan, released in June 2016, that it is right to

‘knock the shit’ out of a male teenager or horse to remind them there is a pecking order; regularly.

He goes on to share his opinion by ridiculing segments of society and shows contempt for other people. All this delivered in a narcissistic ego filled video under the guise of him telling it how it really is.

Click here to watch the interview slide to about the 9 minute mark and listen, or read a transcript of the media release.

With over 53,000 views of the video this is creating a social media storm.

As a member of the NRHA, in their welfare statement, he is expected to

care for and treat [a reining horse] as a member of the family, and that relationship is the essence of a members involvement in Reining. An interesting perspective of family is held by Mr Anderson.

They [NRHA] further state,

the NRHA promotes and stands by the wellbeing of the mind, body and spirit of the horse at all times. We expect our members to consider the welfare of their horses paramount and to always treat them with dignity, respect and compassion.

It is understood by horse people, [and parents] all stallions [horses and children] need boundaries but how you establish them is important. Firm and fair is a horseman’s approach to each individual situation. Is the video of his opinions way over the top to how he actually managed the stallion? After listening to all the video and/or reading all the transcript, would you say this is respectful and the way to treat a member of the family?

We can say that some people seeing Mr Anderson out and about, may want to give him a big warm down under holler and say ‘gidday arsehole’ and that is not for his horse management.

Does the NRHA condone Clinton Anderson’s behaviour?

In fact, the NRHA promotes Clinton Anderson as a corporate partner. An interesting partnership on the basis of their welfare statement.

 

A late note to this blog

Seems Clinton Anderson has been taking this approach for some time. Here is a snippet from his newsletter published by deserthorseinc.com. He is not misquoted as some say- he means every single word of it.

http_deserthorseinc.com_blog_category_horse-abuse_page_2

What actions are considered horse abuse? Click here to find out more.

Have some news or video of reining horse abuse? We are building a case for reform on trainers and your contribution can assist. Click here to send us information.

Does self-regulation of animal welfare and abuse work?

Many associations, like the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA), take an approach to managing animal welfare through self-regulation by trainers and the case study of the Tennessee Walking Horse tells everyone, that it fails.

soringOver the past half-century, the treatment of the Tennessee walking horse has increasingly become more inhumane as they attempt to achieve higher stepping horses known as the ‘big lick’. The trainers and owners have reached a point where now, these poor animals endure vile practices in which caustic chemicals, chains, hard objects, cutting, and other gruesome techniques are used to injure the horses’ front legs and hooves and force them to perform an artificially high-stepping gait known as the “big lick.” This sort of calculated, appalling cruelty should never be tolerated. The trainers self-regulate and the outcome is horrendous.

Like the NRHA, the Tennessee walking horse has a welfare statement within its rules, but that has certainly not protected these beautiful animals from barbaric treatment easily identified on horses attending a competition.

In competition, trainers are looking for that winning edge and across all disciplines you see people stretch the boundaries of welfare with the desire to win; some becoming animal abusers as they justify their actions to themselves. The horse no longer a priority as winning has become their image, their livelihood and there is always another horse waiting to enter the barn.

In reining warm-up pens across the globe, you can watch trainers as they push the boundaries and subject the horses to unnecessary pressure and pain in preparation for that moment of winning. Often sanctioned by others around them and creating a benchmark for other trainers also to push their horses to the limits at all cost to the animal. With medical evidence of the damage being caused by some practices, the trainers are defiant and attempt counter arguments against scientific facts.

Owners may lack the knowledge, and some the heart, to understand the pain and suffering of their horse as they buy into the story promoted by the trainer as ‘how things are done to train show horses.’ The trainer, a perceived expert, using their position of influence on the owners to their own gain in justifying their conduct. Trainers, farriers and owners are indoctrinated into the idea that those is how you must treat the animal to achieve a high level competition horse.

Is reining heading in the direction of the Tennessee walking horse?

Are the boundaries now being pushed with the increasing rise of excessive spurring, jerking of reins, more aggressive bits and rollkur increase in the show pen? The wastage of reining horses increasing as animals are quickly thrown aside that will not submit to the excessive demands of the trainers techniques. The videos of the European FEI and just recently a video taken in the US demonstrate that it is becoming more epidemic and accepted.

For the Tennessee walking horse, mainstream horse industry groups and veterinary organizations such as the American Horse Council, American Association of Equine Practitioners, and American Veterinary Medical Association have

tried to work with and encourage the walking horse crowd to bring about change from within – but more than a few stubborn horse owners and trainers continue to think they are above the law.

The US lawmakers now state the current system of self-regulation is still hopelessly broken, and nothing short of significant reforms will fulfill the intent of Congress and break the cycle of cruelty that is so endemic to the big lick walking horse circuit.

With the awareness of the Tennessee walking horse plight and how they got there, is the NRHA going to move from self-regulation to a system of transparency and improvement that ensures the reining horse does not follow in their path?

What actions are considered horse abuse? Click here to find out more.

Have some news or video of reining horse abuse? We are building a case for reform on trainers and your contribution can assist. Click here to send us information.

Sound familiar – the reining horse is bred for his natural athleticism and shown willingly guided:

The Tennessee walking horse is bred for its smooth, natural gait—the running walk—and The HSUS supports the many owners and trainers who use humane training methods to showcase this natural gait, while also working to end the abusive practices often used to create the exaggerated high-stepping gait that has long been associated with soring.