On Nov. 19, the Fédération Equestre Internationale announced, as part of a summary from the FEI General Assembly, that it had terminated its cooperation agreements with the American Quarter Horse Association and the National Reining Horse Association.
According to the FEI statement, “The Secretary General informed delegates that the U.S.-based Reining bodies are in breach of the terms of their cooperation agreement with the FEI. In order to ensure the integrity of the discipline and maintain a level playing field for all athletes competing in FEI Reining, the agreement with these two bodies has now been terminated. Both the AQHA and NRHA have been informed that a binding commitment to implement the FEI rules on anti-doping, stewarding requirements and the age of competing horses are prerequisites for any future cooperation.”
The AQHA released a statement asserting that its officials do not feel they have violated any terms regarding age divisions, reciprocity and stewarding, or drug regulations, and the association is open to continued discussions with the FEI.
The AQHA statement addresses the following concerns, “Pursuant to the Cooperation Agreement, all events specifically organized for horses 7 years of age and older are to be held under the jurisdiction of FEI. AQHA does not offer a class that is specifically organized for horses 7 years of age and older. At AQHA events, American Quarter Horses in the open division compete in junior reining (ages 5 and under) or in senior reining (ages 6 and older).
“With respect to the welfare requirements addressed by the Cooperation Agreement, AQHA’s regulations and practices, in particular those associated with stewards and drug testing, are consistent with and meet such requirements. Simply put, our top priority as an association of horsemen is the health and welfare of our sport and of this great animal.
“The Association has taken and will continue to take the appropriate measures to ensure the safety and welfare of the horses competing at AQHA-approved events.
“AQHA actively implements measures to protect American Quarter Horses competing in reining and all disciplines. AQHA began drug testing in 1973, establishing itself as a leader in welfare among equine breed associations. The drug-testing program is designed to ensure that horses competing in AQHA-sanctioned competition are doing so in a manner that will promote the safety and well-being of all horses competing and ensure the enforcement of fair and equitable rules and procedures. In each instance that FEI has notified AQHA of a penalty imposed by FEI as a result of a drug violation, AQHA has afforded reciprocity.
“In addition, the AQHA stewards program plays an important role in advocating for the horse and helping to safeguard fair competition. Stewards help to ensure that legal tack and humane practices are used and appropriate conduct is displayed at AQHA shows and events. AQHA stewards are trained and tested to protect these athletes and, most importantly, to protect the breed, advance animal welfare and ensure the integrity of the competition, including reining.”
The NRHA also released a statement, which clarifies that the FEI and NRHA are parting ways after months of discussions regarding a continuation of the original 2014 cooperation agreement. Under this agreement, any competition specifically held for horses 7 years old or older was required to be in line with FEI regulations.
According to the NRHA press release, “This would mean all NRHA reining classes held specifically for horses 7 and older would also need to be FEI-approved, run under FEI rules, and be held in accordance with the respective National Federation. NRHA Vice President Mike Hancock further explained the impact, ‘After discussions with show management teams, we discovered how complex and expensive this would be for them. In the end, we felt it would be more detrimental to the growth of older horse competition to move forward with this concept. However, we are hopeful to discuss other opportunities for future growth and mutual benefit with FEI.’
“Other provisions included but were not limited to FEI stewarding requirements, medication regulations, and that any FEI penalties imposed on horses, owners, officials, riders, etc., be accepted and enforced by NRHA (even if they disagreed with the FEI penalty determinations).”