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.