A day after its agreement was terminated with the FEI, the American Quarter Horse Association said it “does not feel it has breached the terms of the agreement”, and welcomes continued dialog with the FEI.
The termination of the FEI agreements with both the AQHA and the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) were announced at the FEI’s General Assembly in Manama, Bahrain, earlier this week. Both groups were told 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 said it disagrees with the allegation that it has breached its agreement, 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,” the association said in a statement.
“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.”
It noted that reining, which became an FEI discipline in 2000, originated from moves that a ranch horse makes in performing its duties 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.”
“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).”
The AQHA said it “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.
“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.”