Reining Futurity – the seedy underbelly of abuse to horses to win

“I am no longer willing to do to the horses what it takes to run at 75+ at a reining futurity?’ breeders, owners and some respectable trainers are saying about horse abusers.

Breeders and Owners connected with some of the top horses in the country are sick of the abuse and are backing away and some are even leaving the sport forever.

The wannabes and “excusestrians” are still justify ‘what it takes’ saying the horses are the most cared for horses in the world. So what are the people talking about when they say ‘what it takes to train a horse to run a 75?

As you sit back cheering and applauding horses at the NRHA Futurity, or any other major event, think of the horse’s life and experience before the Hollywood lights were turned on and the few moments in time define the public view of reining – big slides and fast spins. A trainer has a split second to define their place in the reining sport history, and the horse will make or break them.

For that reason, the futurities bring out the worst in people, and the NRHA is an association that has built nearly its entire existence around it. For reiners, it is the basis of every conversation, every breeding program, every trainer’s waking moment – competing in the futurity and winning. Doing whatever it takes to win.

The futurity is the event that takes winners to a perceived level of godliness to those within the sport. A right of passage that seemingly allows a person to do anything they want without question. A place where ego’s flourish and rule every decision. Ego is what the entire futurity and show system is about. It is like a drug that once sampled at the lowest of levels must be pursued at all costs to reach the top.

For the uninitiated, the rules are simple for the sport of reining. To rein a horse is not only to guide him but also to control his every movement. The best-reined horse should be wilfully guided or controlled with little or no apparent resistance and dictated to completely. Any movement on his own must be considered a lack of control. A lack of control is penalized by predetermined points, and they are out of the money.

So, you have an ego-driven dictator in control of a horse’s well-being. An ego that may take any action of the horse as disobedience that must be reprimanded immediately or as they say corrected immediately to stay in the money. The excusestrians have a field day with bizarre justifications of what is outright abuse, but then horse abuse is not their problem – they enable people to do it.

It would take a very mature person to manage the balance day-in-day-out to train these horses, and an ego would be the most dangerous tool to have.

Sitting on the fence 2am-4am in the morning during futurity week and you would be hard-pressed to find a mature person respecting the horse.

Winning all weighs on the horse. The horse, a simple creature that is rarely asked for his opinion or whether it is what he wants to do, is subjected to some of the most horrific things just to feed the futurity and show ego and win. The horse has no voice. Unfortunately, horses can take a lot of abuse before succumbing, and they are usually silent about it. The horse is ridden and trained to the point of helplessness. It must wait on the rider for every movement, its legs, head, body and be in total submission and control.

To get the results, you will not see big name trainers back off nor their wannabee underlings; the horse, will perform no matter what. They have invested time into the training, and the horse has no excuse – it must do it. The longer the animal has survived in training, the less tolerance the trainer has for any level of disobedience or movement on its own. A misunderstanding of a command can lead to untold pain and suffering for the horse. Of course, the trainer never made a mistake it is always the horse that is wrong.

Mention that pain and suffering inflicted by a trainer and the wannabes and “excusestrians” will be lined up behind them, worshipping their winning ways and trying to be just like them. It like spawning abusers. The excusestrains will ignore any sense of compassion and intelligence to be accepted in the inner circle of a trainer barn.

So what does it take to run a 75 at the futurity or major event?

For many horses, it means hours, weeks, months of drilling of maneuvers over a two-year period. The expression Drilled Numb sums it up. A drilling that is based on a desire for complete control and the horse to sacrifice its natural behavior and perform extreme and precise maneuvers on command every time. Living in a stable and worked in the same pen, day in day out for two years.

The horse that does not comply is faced with choices as the trainer, as much as some owners, are determined to make the horse do it. The trainer is living off the horse, so they will not quit anytime soon.

As the training program continues, the tolerance of the trainer for incorrect steps or actions is reduced, and the pain and suffering increase through:

  1. Excessive spurring to the horses to the point of permanent puncture holes to the sides of the horse. From high in the stands this is not seen, but bend down at the side of a warm-up pen, and you will see horse after horse go by with scar tissue, granularized marks and punch holes.
  2. When horses react to excessive spurring by swishing their tails which is a penalty on the show ring. No problems, block their tails so they cannot show signs of spurring and discomfort. The well-known cure is easily detected as the horse’s tail hangs lifeless streaming behind the horse. Back at the stall, the mares have their tail tied around with a rope, so they don’t pee in them. The staff continually clean dirty hind ends where they shit on themselves.
  3. Excessive jerking of the reins to correct the horse. Watch a rider hauling from side to side and importantly either leaning way back in the saddle for more strength pulling on the reining or climbing over the top of the horse to haul upwards with strength.
  4. Prepping the horse to soften it as some Neanderthals attempt to justify? Bit check or tie them around for hours. A common practice according to court documents presented by Top 20 Trainer Arno Honstetter. Go to a gym and ask your trainer if you should be asked to hold an extreme position for 30-60 minutes (god help the horses for hours) and see what response you get. This is a practice that shows the lunacy of horse trainers.
  5. Overbending of the neck for sustained periods of time. Scientifically proven many times over to be detrimental to the horses breathing and muscles and causes extreme stress. But trainers know better than science, don’t they? Why they love this is it takes away the horse’s ability to fight and flight. The ultimate control
  6. Drugging the horses. Supposedly illegal but many reiners talk of the random and low level of testing that goes on. It’s a gamble worth doing when there is so much money on the line, and they can usually talk their way out of it.Do you see fines for drugging – not really? They can use a cocktail of drugs or some old favorites like Reserpine used it to calm hot and anxious horses. It changes chemicals within the brain to alter the horse’s temperament. The side effects are shocking causing permanent brain damage. Fluphenazine a popular drug for causing horses to be reluctant to move. Perfect for trainers wanting a horse in complete control. Unfortunately, the side effects can range from depression to violent episodes of head tossing, frantic and manic Those won’t make the show pen.
  7. Hock Hobbles. Tying a horses bit to its hocks and lunging it to bring its head down and round its back up or so they convince themselves. Side effects, torn mouths, tongues and flipping over backward.
  8. Tying high. Again, a popular approach both at home and at shows. Tying the horse high in the stall to tire it out. Make it so tired it will wait for the trainer for every move. Now there is control.

The list goes on, but that is enough for now. Now some or all of those things is a common journey to the flashing lights of Reining Hollywood where people believe its all roses and champagne for the horse.

The “excusestrians” say the horses are the best cared for in the world. They had shiny manes and tails and fed every day. Shiny coats and the trainer pats them at the end of a run showing how much they love the horse. The same thing a child abuser says about the children they abuse.

Abused TWH horse winning eventLet us share with you the comparative best of care in the world. TWH Gen has a shiny black coat and standing up tall. In this picture winning a major title, he has 8lb shoes on each front foot stacked high, weighted chains, sored legs (acid poured on his skin and into cuts), chains, tail blocked and tied high, horrific bit – Yep – that is love and care. The enabling abusers are standing by his side.

The Trainer/Rider and the Two Owners of the Horse – “Gen’s Black Maverick” – in THIS PHOTO are ALL serving USDA Federal Suspensions for the alleged SORING of THIS HORSE – “Gen’s Black Maverick.” A bit of makeup they say, and he is okay to show says the trainer.

Is reining becoming the new Big Lick Horse??? Some owners and breeders of L4 horses are very concerned.

 

 

What history is showing us is:

  • Winning requires extreme training to get the horse to run a 74+. Not all horses can do it, but many are pushed beyond their limits in an attempt to do so.
  • The first major win usually amplifies the likelihood of becoming a serial horse abuser as they attempt to repeat it and churn through horses to fulfill their dreams.
  • Winning lots of money means the likelihood of being abusive is high as the ego attempts to retain the top of the

As a closing statement: Hitler appeared on the front page of Time Magazine, as like those horse abusers that could appear on the front page of the NRHA magazine.

It is time for Hitler to be removed from the sport. Go to the Poll and Vote for Change and the improvement of the rules to protect these horses.

NRHA Members and Reining Enthusiasts are being polled

 

As the international body governing and setting the standards, the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) has a vital role in the duty of care to the horses that are crucial to the sport of reining. As an organization, they have the power to set and influence the welfare and standards of the humane treatment of horses that is acceptable to the horse community at large.

The NRHA state in writing they can only take action on what is written in the Rule Book (handbook). The 2016 Handbook cites the intent of welfare but is focused on medications only. It does not set out any standards in relation to training and unacceptable practices at events such as jerking reins, excessive spinning and spurring which occur in the warm-up pens as set by the AQHA . There are no statements for prohibited equipment outside the judging arena.

The NRHA Professionals Code Of Ethics Program states it is governed, however, the NRHA Professionals state they do not govern any statements in the Code of Ethics, as they do not appear in the Rule Book.

All protests are heard behind closed doors demanding confidentiality of outcomes. They are assumed to be being heard and judged by their peers and often friends. There is no result announced and no record available of penalties, reprimands or other actions to allow.

The NRHA Must Change and Be Accountable and Transparent in relation to the welfare of reining horses and how trainers operate themselves as NRHA Professionals.

The reining horse and horse community at large have growing concerns for the welfare of the reining horse. The welfare statements and actions of the NRHA are currently not curbing the problems beyond medication control. Their welfare statement is well below the standard of the respected American Quarter Horse Association.

Horses are suffering through excessive spurring, rein jerking, spinning in warm-up pens; an example of what also occurs at home. The show managers, stewards, and marshals are ineffective as there are no constructive and definitive statements in the Rule Book to hold trainers and competitors to account. They goodwill gestures at best and often good friends of those that may well be crossing the line of acceptable animal welfare.

November 14th, 2016:   The awareness of this poll is now public and will be shared with tens of thousands of interested people showing a priority need for the NRHA for change. The Poll will remain live until acceptable improvements are made for reining horse welfare and trainers are accountable for their conduct. We have over 2000 votes already showing a desire from Reining Enthusiasts and NRHA members that change is wanted. The comments on our FaceBook page tell stories of why change is needed now.

Click here to take the Poll for Change.

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

Tom McCutcheon must really hate this horse

USEF Equestrian of the Year and double WEG gold medalist, Tom McCutcheon, prepares before winning the gold at the inaugural FEI World Reining Final in Malmö, Sweden in May 2011. On lookers were horrified at the training techniques applied to this horse and the video shows just why. In the frenzy to be a winnner of the event the horses welfare became irrelevant as he focuses on making the animal completely submit through repeatedly spurring, jerking on a spoon bit and applying pain and suffering that non-reining horse people had not ever witnessed before. The expression ‘willing guided’ taking on a new deplorable meaning. The NRHA continues to this day to hold Tom McCutcheon as one of the Top 20 Trainers in the world. A standard of horsemanship that many others would hold in contempt of their welfare statement.

Click here to read what is considered as horse abuse, watch the video and you may to see the Reining Trainer Engima.

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.

This video is not available in some countries now you can watch on youtube at watch?v=Vh0cvIA8pk8