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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.

 

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.