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AQHA Approves New Welfare-Related Recommendations Regarding Tack and Equipment, Fines and Penalties, Judges and Stewards

Filed under: Breaking News,Featured,Health & Training |     

AQHA Publicity

Logo courtesy of AQHA

Logo courtesy of AQHA

The American Quarter Horse Association Executive Committee has approved animal welfare-related recommendations regarding judges, stewards, equipment, and fines and penalties from the AQHA Animal Welfare Commission.

The Animal Welfare Commission met in August in Amarillo. What follows is a bulleted list of the commission’s recommendations that were approved by the Executive Committee:

  • Revise the first line of AQHA’s mission statement to read: “To record and preserve the pedigrees of the American Quarter Horse while maintaining the integrity of the breed and welfare of its horses.
  • Add a fifth objective to the mission statement that reads: “To ensure the American Quarter Horse is treated humanely, with dignity, respect and compassion, at all times.”


Commission members discussed a concern expressed by many exhibitors that AQHA judges are placing horses that aren’t being shown according to AQHA rules. The commission’s recommendation is to let the AQHA Judges Committee address the concern during the AQHA judges workshops that are coming up at the end of 2013 and in early 2014.

Commission members also encouraged representatives from the Judges Committee to discuss with AQHA judges the issue of schooling in classes at shows.


These are the commission’s recommendations related to AQHA stewards:

  • Request that the AQHA Stewards Oversight and Selection Committee review and revise the criteria for individuals to become a steward, specifically addressing the three-year membership requirement to where they would only have to be a current AQHA member.
  • Develop criteria for eliminating stewards who are inappropriate or ineffective. Revisit the number of stewards being approved and continue emphasizing consistency of rule interpretation and equipment usage.
  • Develop a list of “mentoring” stewards from the list of the most-experienced and -effective stewards. Send a mentoring steward to accompany a new steward on his/her first paid job.
  • Recommend that AQHA world show stewards be assigned specific jobs: equipment judge, back gate or warm-up/barn monitors.
  • Recommend that the Judges Committee reinforce that judges continuously monitor the welfare of horses in the class and add a rule requiring judges to do a close inspection of horses in at least one performance class per show (i.e. similar to bit-check rule)

Establish a steward policy for entering a stall:

  • Stewards shall not enter a horse’s stall unless the animal is in immediate danger of hurting itself or if a horse is tied up, around or is in any way held in the stall in a way that violates an AQHA rule.

If a steward must enter a stall for reasons listed above, they should complete the five items listed below:

a. Attempt to notify the person responsible for the horse

b. Record the incident by photographs or videos

c. Have a witness observe the situation and get their signed note

d. Note barn and stall information

e. Note date/time

Document any entries into stalls on stewards’ report with above information.

Tack and Equipment

Develop a new section in the rulebook for roping, speed event, team penning, ranch sorting and cowboy mounted shooting equipment

Clarify AQHA Rules SHW 305.9, SHW 306 and SHW 307.5:

  • Tie-downs used in roping, speed events, team penning, ranch sorting and cowboy mounted shooting may not have a cavesson or curb strap connected to the tie-down.
  • Mechanical hackamores: No visible metal over the nose, noseband should be covered with leather
  • Rope nosebands, drop nosebands and cavessons can be used as training tack as long as they are not excessively tight.
  • Allow bonnets made of rope, flat nylon webbing or leather (a minimum of 3/8-inch width) in speed events, team penning, ranch sorting and cowboy mounted shooting.
  • Exhibitors schooling horses in a discipline with tack not allowed by AQHA or the respective alliance will be asked to cease using it.

Fine and Penalties

After several cases have been acted upon under the new rules, it was determined that sufficient ranges exist to take care of offenders and that the flexibility provided is good.

AQHA legal counsel will draft language to be included in the document, “AQHA Show Fines and Penalties” stating that when a suspended individual appears on the show grounds, AQHA can disqualify the points of all of that individual’s clients in attendance. This is recommended to clarify what happens when a suspended person shows up on show grounds or refuses to leave the grounds when first asked to leave.

A new subheading will be developed in the “Suspensions” section of The American Quarter Horse Journal entitled “Animal Welfare Fines, Suspensions and Probations.” The name of the offenders disciplined by AQHA will be placed on this list. The offender’s name will remain on the list until all fines are paid and the period of suspension/probation has ended. Each listing will include the following information: name of offender, description of offense, horse, owner, event, whether a repeat offense. (The owner’s name will only appear the first time the suspended person’s name is listed.)

The 14-member AQHA Animal Welfare Commission was created in 2012 by the AQHA Executive Committee. The commission is made up of trainers, owners and breeders from within the AQHA competition industries – racing and showing – and is charged with identifying welfare problems and making recommendations to protect the industry and the horse. AQHA continually revises its policies concerning animal welfare via the AQHA Public Policy Committee and the Association’s standing committees. Through these avenues, as well as industry leadership, advisory groups and councils, AQHA is able to expand upon its proven efforts to safeguard the welfare of American Quarter Horses, as outlined by the AQHA Statement of Position, which can be found on the Association’s website.

Go to http://www.aqha.com/advocacy for more details.

AQHA News and information is a service of the American Quarter Horse Association. For more news and information, follow @AQHAnews on Twitter, watch the AQHA Newscast and visit www.aqha.com/news.

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