With the emphasis on rining extreme maneuvers in spinning and stopping – are reining horses now being pushed beyond their limits? You read about the human subscription psychological drugs being administered to these horses, the off label use of other unprescribed drugs, and cocktails. The contraptions added to their equipment in order to enforce behaviors.
Where does all the training methods appear – in the show ring as they compete to win the big dollars – at all costs.
Be warned: some people may find this video of reining extreme maneuvers distressing to watch, and its just a sample of what goes on. Are they drugged? Tired? It sure is not normal – or is it?
WATCH THE ENTIRE VIDEO – 2.19 minutes
The horses in the video are ridden by top riders and million-dollar trainers. The last horse is interesting too.
This may well have been a training video for NRHA judges and members to understand what the penalty is applied for by innuendo of its title, but it was published to the public.
Are the rule-makers creating an epidemic of this style of training and showing of reining extreme maneuvers?
Does it happen that often now they had to add a clause in the rule book – a 5 point penalty for that single run? Reining people have no issue with this reining extreme maneuvers – this is what showing reiners is all about. Just watch their comments on Facebook justifying that horses are not under extreme pressure.
A penalty score of 5 points is applied for this conduct. They may be out of the money on that run, but they are back in the next round pushing the horse to deliver the reining extreme maneuvers.
Is the NRHA living in the modern world where people don’t want to see horses suffering from extreme physical demands that show them suffering?
A well-managed association would be taking a more serious approach to rulemaking and the enforcement of rules. But maybe if the rules were enforced as members say ”there would be no-one left showing”.
Should collapsing on their knees be a suspension for six months and banned for it happening twice for over-riding or over-pushing the horse? Should it be an instant drug test? (These horses may not have been in the tiny sample of horses tested at the show that day. If they do test positive they usually get a smack on the hand. Trainers gamble their number will not come up. Reiners have the highest positive drug test results in FEI competition.)
Also, watch their tails and you can see which horses are using their tail to stop and those that lay flat-looking a lot like a tail block has been done.
Footnote: When Casey Deary’s horse went down he was applauded as a hero by the NRHA Marketing Machine as they moved quickly to respond to the claims of abuse. Deary himself releasing an NRHA PR styled response as the equine public reeled from what they saw. The horse was incapable of going on and questions are raised over potential drugging are yet to be answered.
Do you know who? Would you know if any of the Reining Professional Trainers have records for convicted horse abusers or NRHA reports for horse abuse?
Right now, there is a person who is a repetitive horse abuser, charged in a court of law in recent years, is promoting his status as an NRHA Professional.
At the court hearing for horse abuse, witnesses came forward and told how they had seen this man over a number of different incidents, over time, cause harm and severe distress to horses on his property, even leaving them tied high without food and water for extended periods of time. The horse in questions showed severely gauged and blooded horse sides and mouth photos were sickening. Evidence from other horses were presented. He pleaded guilty to four counts of horse abuse.
That man now struts around promoting the badge of honor of being an NRHA Professional. He has a shiny website and a FaceBook page that tells a great story. He has the videos and all the trimmings. You would think you are booking your horse into one of the safest barns because he is an NRHA Professional. A highly promoted standard of the NRHA.
He appears at shows, and you could be unaware of his track record for abuse as only those in the inner circle may know, and they do not speak ill of their ‘family’. It is like horrible Uncle Bill, knowing he commits domestic violence but no-one interferes with many excuses as to why.
His fellow trainers and NRHA Professionals are slapping him on the back saying what a good man he is, knowing full well of his history. Probably thinking it is a shame he got caught. They welcome him and join him in the festivities before, during and after the shows.
Is a convicted multiple time horse abuser the standard of horse management they accept in the NRHA?
With first-hand knowledge of this person and his conviction, the NRHA has approved his membership, and he has passed the litmus test of the board being ‘a person in good standing.’ They have even gone on to approve his membership as an NRHA Professional Trainer.
Here is his handy work on the a horse he was entrusted with to train and severly abused including a torn tongue and bleeding mouth. Is this how you train a reining horse?
The question is “how many other horse abusers are out there promoting themselves as NRHA Professionals or Reining Professionals and the public are not being informed?”
How do you find out who it is? All the trainers and die hard reining enthusiasts chasing the lights, stick together and keep those skeletons hidden behind barn doors.
In fact, many equine victims and their owners are hunted off to the abyss away from the sport to remove all evidence as though they committed the crime not the trainer. We have many tales posted by the public of the horrific suffering that left the sport. Some NRHA members doing everything they can to deflect and whitewash the fact ‘a convicted horse abuser is accepted as an a-ok trainer for reining horses’. They even attempt to deny abuse is occuring and have become online trolls attempting to gang bash any one who makes a comment about concern for reiners.
Times have changed and these barbaric practices and guarding of the guilty are over. Society no longer accepts this attitude and any association or its members supporting such practices is as guilty as those who commit the abuse. Those bad apples need to be ejected from the sport, whether they are on the board of directors or in a barn out west.
Please click here and vote for change and improved transparency and accountability of reining trainers.
Wondered who it is and can’t find out elsewhere, click on the image.
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The trainer or non-pro is riding to win, but that dang horse’s tail keeps wringing. It is not a penalty but it detracts from the overall quality of the run, and the score goes down. There is a fix for that; tail blocking or nerving the tail. If you watch reining classes or are loping around in a warm-up pen, you will see a tail just hanging flat even in spins, slides, back-ups and fast circles.
Under the medications rule it is illegal, but have you ever seen someone being pulled out of competition for a lifeless tail? Most likely not. Are the horses drug tested – rarely.
The tail of a horse indicates its discomfort, pain, frustration or annoyance. The vision of a horse wringing its tail when spinning, lead changing, backing up could see you lose a ½ point or more in quality on a maneuver. Over a few maneuvers, those points can be slipping away quickly and out of the money. Is the risk of blocking worth it? For some, yes as they know they will not be pulled up by judges and stewards if they have the right friends and influence. You just have to look at the irregular application of fines and penalties.
Tail swishing is often linked to poor training methods, improper use of spurs, or to the horse being “ring sour,” i.e. burned-out on competition or being hammered day-in-day-out in their training program. If they have a horse that is a top contender, but the horse lets the world know its issues, then the line of ethical and unethical is confronted.
How do some reiners solve the problem; numb or nerve block the sensation of the nerve endings so the horse cannot move the tail.
Now the reining people will start shouting this down as that is how they manage all awareness of cruelty going on in their sport. Intimate, deny and bully. The more they shout, the more likely you have hit a nerve, so to speak.
A horses tail is part of its spine and plays and important role in their balance. While there are signals of problems with the horse, prior blocking, the issues increase ten-fold when they lose the function that is part of their balance to perform.
Tailing blocking is quite controversial because many seem to believe nothing is wrong with the practice and it can be done without a trace (sometimes). Like all cruelty, its justifiable to anyone who is over-trusting, stupid or gullible enough to listen. After all, many think it is only temporary. Wrong.
Trainers can nerve tails without owners even knowing, just to keep the horse in the barn or to win an event. Some get away with it time after time. It is only the physical evidence that tells the owner something is seriously wrong, if they visit the horse at the barn. If they care for their horse they will be seeking for justice, but the NRHA does not impose fines on anyone outside of a show event. Most tail nerving problems occur back at the barn before a horse gets a show. The barn is where the NRHA hides behind their (un)governed code of ethics for all trainers that is not enforced. Why have a code of ethics if its not enforced on those that signed up for it???
What horses suffer from tail blocking
There are many cases where the tail blocking is permanent, and more than people may realize. The tail is left damaged, hanging limply with the horse defecating all over itself cause it cannot move the tail to the side. The mare is peeing down herself. The horse cannot flick flies away. The horse becomes an invalid, requiring frequent daily attention to wipe the manure and urine away. Without the manual cleaning, the horse can become flyblown. Mares can become infected in the uterus and become problem breeders or barren.
Another complication that may occur is a temporary inability to defecate and/or urinate due to paralysis of the muscles that control rectum and bladder emptying. This requires veterinary care to assist the animal to defecate and urinate. In extreme cases, especially if the alcohol injected migrates from the tail to nearby muscles and skin, damage can be so severe that necrosis can set in. Another damaging outcome is the development of a form of body paralysis due to nerve damage in the hindquarters.
These can be problems for a few weeks or months, but many have permanent damage with owners sending them to the slaughterhouse.
How is the tail blocked or nerved?
The tail can be blocked by veterinarians, much like a nerve blocking to a leg. However, more often it is done using alcohol for the cheap, untraceable, behind the barn version that no-one is to know about. The bad trainers and owners preferred method.
The major nerves of a horse’s tail are injected with alcohol to stop the horse’s ability to lift, or even move it’s tail. The results from injecting can be the introduction of an infection to the tail. Tail circulation is poor, and injuries are slow to heal, and infections can persist and spread into the leg, into the back, etc. Worst case, you have a dead horse on your hands.
Conversely, grain alcohol acts locally and degrades the myelin sheaths of the nerves so that the horse cannot move its tail. Injections are usually applied directly to the tail at a certain point at the base of the dock. If the wrong point is used the problems of infection escalate. Some inject slightly down from the base of the dock so that the horse may appear to carry its tail in a natural manner, but only for the first few inches, and the animal still cannot move the entire tail structure. This is often undetectable, though injections can sometimes leave white spots above the tail dock like the horse in the image or the sliding horse with obvious tail marks in the main image. These are often treated with hair die to cover the evidence at shows.
Needless to say, with an untraceable drug used; tail blocking can, and is, happening more than one cares to believe.
While promoters of the practice claim that most grain alcohol injections eventually wear off, if done carefully, a poorly done injection can cause abscesses or permanent nerve damage. Sometimes normal tail function never returns.
Read the story of Gator, where a trainer convinced an owner it was just the done thing to inject tails. Gator went from a world champion paint contender to a long-suffering, then ultimately a pasture horse.
Next time you see a reining horse flying down the pen with a flat tail – you are most likely looking at a blocked tail. Take note if the judges or stewards do anything about it on the day. Were drug tests being done? Most likely not according to the low number of horses tested. Does the person appear in the suspended list?
Don’t forget to vote on our poll for change to improve the regulations to stop this happening.
“A lot of reining horses eliminate themselves early on, even if they have the ability and the try, because they can’t hold up.“ – Timothy Bartlett, DVM, of Vincennes, Ind., has been actively involved in the sport as a president of NRHA and an NRHA judge.
An interesting view that it is the horses problem Dr Bartlett, not the trainers or the futurity system.
Half a century ago, when Robert M Miller, DVM was cowboying, he says “colts were started at four years of age or older. Once in a while, one might be started as a three-year-old. Despite some very hard work, barring accidents, those ranch horses were still sound and working into their 20’s.”
Today, more and more, with big money for futurities, these horses MUST be started as two-year-olds; and some are starting them as young as 18 months, thinking more riding will make them more competitive.
Because of this, many of these horses end up with bowed tendons, navicular disease, bone spavins, bone chips, stifle injuries, blown-out hocks, hairline fractures, arthritis, severe back problems, sprained necks and a myriad of other problems and conditions associated with the strain and stress to young developing bodies. Many horses break down in the first year and those that make their 3yo or 4yo end up with debilitating problems at only four or five years of age and live on anti-inflammatory medications and/or painkillers in their feed or through injections.
The sad fact is that of the tens of thousands of reining horses bred each year, only one hundred or so make it to the Futurity. [see footnote] The others are lost in the system, and many end up slaughtered as they are damaged beyond repair and have no value to this futurity driven industry.
The vets are now recognizing that reining horses have one of the highest incidents of breaking down next to race horses; and sadly the same fate.
Dr. Grant Miller, DVM says “we have established that repetitive trauma on the joint from the athletic performance can cause degenerative changes to the cartilage and bones. Race horses and futurity Quarter Horses that train heavily in the juvenile stage of their lives often show early signs of hock-related pain. Reiners commonly have hock issues.”
It seems this futurity driven industry that starts out knowing the pain they will inflict on these young animals actively deny the veterinarians research and evidence and continue their practices. Is this respect and compassion as promoted on the NRHA website?
The management of the reining horses can further exacerbate their health issues as most futurity horses are weaned at three months of age then placed on a high growth diet. They are kept in stables 22-23 hours per day as they are prepped for sales and/or go into trainer barns. Extended stabling time would be similar to you going into your coat closet and spending most of your time standing there. There are mental issues and physical suffering that comes with this confinement. Their joints stiffen at an early age, and they suffer similar pain and stress that we would suffer standing still for hours on end cooped up in a confined space. A life of standing in a barn and then being worked hard for half or a full hour – is that respectful? There are some trainers that provide pasture time for horses each days, but many don’t. They don’t have the room, the time nor the desire to have horses away from the barn taking longer to catch and increasing the work load.
Raise any issue of abuse or mistreatment with reining horse people, and you will be sprayed with comments attempting to justify they are treated like kings being stabled, rugged, fed, washed. They do not think of the horse’s mental welfare and the pain he/she suffers standing in an unnatural environment 24/7. They walk away to their comfortable homes, while the horse stands still.
The horse skeleton and muscle are structured for continual movement through grazing. They are designed to walk many miles each day.
Living in this abnormal stall environment conflicting with their structural make-up and being worked hard, too early, finds many reining horses live on a cocktail of drugs every day of their life to keep them going. The focus has shifted from producing physically and mentally sound horses to being knowledgeable in drugs to keep them seemingly sound enough to ride. The rule book is now saturated with drug testing commentary but little evidence of testing, and only randomly, at some large events. Like any drug testing, the providers are able to keep ahead of the tests much like you see in professional sports people.
Managing young bodies
Trainers rarely x-ray the horses they are entrusted with, and owners rarely demand x-rays until something has gone wrong. The use of blood tests to identify abnormalities or issues even rarer. If the horse looks in good condition and can be ridden, with or without drugs, all’s good to go, and the focus is set hard on the futurity. It has become a custom that horses are injected in the hocks and receive daily medications; never questioning why or changing their program. Many trainers believe they have knowledge beyond science and can just ‘know it’s ok.’ Often drugs are administered based on observational symptoms without validation of underlying causes. Some trainers inject horses without the owners even knowing as they attempt to keep horses in their barns.
The pressure, stress, and suffering of the horses all in pursuit of winning the big money at the futurity. Imagine if the horses were not allowed to be ridden for just one more year, how many more entries would there be? Imagine how those horses would be if they were kept and worked in a program that was more in line with their skeletal requirements. Imagine if the owners all started to demand x-rays and blood tests and were pro-active in their horse management.
Some may say only the best make it, but with the refined breeding programs and the number that breakdown early, you would have to question the program more than the breeding, wouldn’t you?
Winning no matter what?
Robert M Miller, DVM cites the story “One of my clients was a prosperous, educated couple. They were very congenial, and they owned three Quarter Horses. One day, they called me to come to their home to worm their horses and check them over and booster their vaccinations. When I arrived, I found only two horses, so I asked where the third one was. “Oh, he is in training as a reining horse, with ____________” (a successful and notoriously brutal trainer who also happened to be one of my clients). Then the wife said, “We know how cruel he is to the horses, but he wins!”
Do you believe the NRHA is standing behind their statement “We expect our members to consider the welfare of their horses paramount and to always treat them with dignity, respect and passion”?
Don’t forget to vote on the Poll for Change
Footnote: NRBC enrolled studs, which are the top escalante of reining horses – 182- average 100 mares each a year 18,200 alone. Plus all the other studs that are not enrolled – and a bunch more of them should not even be studs. And that is just in the USA. Then there is Canada, Brazil, Australia and all the European stallions of which is there a very high number too and the list goes on. Tens of thousands is not an over estimate.
Hundred or so is a generalisation across many countries. USA has a larger number whereas countries like Australia have a micro futurity with just 20 all in.
These confronting images are how a man finds his horse after being in training with a high profile Australian Reining Trainer. Badly spurred with spur tracks down her sides and shoulders and even a spur tracks near her eye. He reports that the horse also had a torn tongue on both sides. It was reported that the trainer could not get the young mare to do flying lead changes; she was just two and half years of age. A young mare that is just starting out her career under saddle.
A reining enthusiast, has been concerned about putting this out in the open until now after seeing how much abuse goes on. Like many, he would consider his case to be unique, but people are quickly learning about other victims of abuse of their horses too.
Seeing the promotion of reining and select trainers, through marketing clinics and events, this man may have felt a degree of comfort from all the marketing, and the high profile individual marketed by the association.
So Who is the Trainer?
We are withholding his name at this time with the expectation it is the Reining Association or other reining trainers responsibility to ‘out’ the person.
However, researching online, the trainer states he is a multiple futurity champion, with many national awards too. Promoted by the association as one of the leading trainers in their country, this trainer travels the country giving clinics on training and horsemanship under the “Reining Trainers Professional” banner. An NRHA member competing in the show ring and a professional trainer. A known abuse offender being openly marketed and endorsed by the associations in that country.
Appearing on an NRHA affiliate website the trainer is endorsed as Professional Trainer with the following statement:
“Reining Professionals is an industry body establishing and governing standards for professional reining trainers in Australia. Members agree to uphold ethical treatment of horses in their training programmes and undertake continued education in the form of clinics, seminars and overseas studies to improve their service to their clients and develop the reining horse industry in general.
A Reining Professional’s primary responsibility is to provide the highest quality service to their clients. They are to operate in a professional manner and at all times act with the highest degree of integrity. The list of Professionals below hold full financial membership and agree to be bound by the rules of the Reining Professionals ‘Code of Ethics’.”
The standards of this Reining Professionals certainly need to be questioned if the person training this mare is one of their best in the land down under. The public in Australia should be careful and prudent if selecting or using a Reining Professional trainer based on the evidence presented to us.
The reining enthusiast says he is expecting threats against him personally by the trainer for posting these images but informs us that he is not concerned. Typical behaviors of trainers and their friends that we wrote about in our article ‘Who is looking after the welfare of reining horses’.
Reining Trainers Enigma has people contacting us that were concerned about the repercussions of speaking out but now are gaining confidence to do so, to stamp out abuse. Their stories are disturbing as to what is really going on. Only when this is out in the open will changes be made to the standards of Professional Reining Trainers and the NRHA Rule Book.
Reining Trainers Enigma is about stopping horse abuse. If you would like to report an incident and photographs or video of the damage, please send it to us via Facebook or our website.
Please do not forget to vote on Polling For Change.
Latest Media and News
- Reiners Discuss The Drug Pandemic At ShowsNovember 15, 2020 - 7:00 pm
- NRHA Members Call Out Professionals Code of EthicsAugust 7, 2020 - 11:19 pm
- Report Horse Abuse and Your AttackedJuly 12, 2020 - 3:39 pm
- The Reining Tail ObsessionJune 21, 2020 - 3:39 pm
- Equine Practitioners (AAEP) sets out Horse Abuse GuidelinesApril 12, 2020 - 2:21 am
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