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FEI Terminates Cooperation Agreement With AQHA and NRHA, AQHA Doesn’t Feel Agreement Was Breached

Filed under: Breaking News,Club & Show News,Club and Show News |     

AQHA Statement

On November 19, the American Quarter Horse Association was notified that the Federation Equestre Internationale terminated its Cooperation Agreement with AQHA and NRHA due to breach of agreement terms regarding age divisions, reciprocity and steward/drug regulations. As discussed below, AQHA does not feel it has breached the terms of the agreement and welcomes continued dialog with FEI.

To begin, reining became an FEI discipline in 2000 and was first recognized as a sport in 1949 by AQHA. AQHA is proud of the reining industry and the growth of this US-based sport worldwide. The American Quarter Horse is the ideal horse for reining, and breeders have taken pride year after year in the genetic base of the horses that are bred for and excel in reining.

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.

Again, AQHA disagrees with the allegation that AQHA has breached its agreement with FEI and welcomes continued dialog with FEI. As always, AQHA’s commitment to the sport of reining and to upholding the well-being of the American Quarter Horse in competition remains a top priority.

NRHA Statement

NRHA statement concerning 2014 FEI Cooperation Agreement- Door still open to possible new agreement concerning reining in future.

Following months of ongoing discussions and negotiations involving all parties, the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) Bureau, at its November 16, 2018 meeting in Bahrain, chose to terminate the 2014 Cooperation Agreement with the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) and the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) effective November 19, 2018.

This 2014 Cooperation Agreement, for the most part, was first put together to cover such reining competitions as the World Equestrian Games and a small number of other horse shows, primarily in Europe, and reining demonstrations at Olympic-related events. NRHA leaders had offered to travel to FEI in January to negotiate a continued relationship. However, FEI chose to decline the opportunity and terminated the agreement.

Among the provisions FEI required was: “A competition which is specifically organized for horses of 7 years and older is required under the FEI Regulations to be held under the authority of the National Federation of that country and to be entered into the FEI Calendar for International events.” 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). NRHA has established its own rules and guidelines in these areas to protect the welfare of the horse at all times during NRHA events. The safety and well-being of reining horses is the utmost priority for NRHA, and it will continue to take appropriate measures to maintain and enforce those rules, including its own set of medications rules and penalties.

The Notice of Termination of the 2014 Cooperation Agreement was received by AQHA and NRHA via an email from Sabrina Ibanez, FEI secretary general, on November 19. The letter did leave open the possibility of a new agreement with FEI in the future. The termination does not appear to impact FEI National Federations, such as US Equestrian, and their ability to host FEI reining events.

Even as the future of the FEI World Equestrian Games is being questioned, NRHA believes reining is on strong footing with members in approximately 40 countries. This includes a well-established membership in Europe who have helped solidify the expansion of reining and the NRHA European Futurity and Derby.

Founded in 1966, the National Reining Horse Association is a nonprofit association dedicated to promoting and encouraging the development of and public interest in the sport of reining. The focus is on developing and maintaining suitable standards of performance and judging and in providing a fun filled, family-oriented atmosphere.