The complexity and cost of having to stage all its reining classes for horses aged seven and over under FEI rules was a key reason behind the collapse of the relationship between the National Reining Horse Association (NHRA) and the world governing body.
Delegates to the FEI General Assembly in Bahrain learned this week that the FEI Bureau had ended the reining agreement it had with the NHRA and the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA).
FEI secretary-general Sabrina Ibáñez told delegates that the two US-based bodies were 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,” she said.
Both the AQHA and NRHA have been told that a binding commitment to implement the FEI rules on anti-doping, stewarding requirements and the age of competing horses were prerequisites for any future cooperation.
Reining became an FEI discipline in 2004, and the FEI signed a cooperation agreement with the NRHA and AQHA in 2014 to cover areas of common interest including horse welfare, FEI rules and regulations, FEI Clean Sport, stewarding, education and FEI recognition.
Under the deal, the FEI had sole jurisdiction over Reining competitions for horses aged seven and over, and the NRHA and AQHA managed all competitions for horses aged six and under. An exception was made for the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France, in 2014, where six-year-old horses were eligible to compete.
The NRHA has clarified some of the issues that gave rise to the axing of the deal by the FEI, saying that the door was still open for a possible new agreement for Reining.
It said there had been months of ongoing discussions and negotiations which led up to the FEI Bureau’s decision to end the deal, effective November 19.
The association said the original 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.
It said NRHA leaders had offered to travel to FEI headquarters in Switzerland early next year to negotiate a continued relationship. However, the FEI chose to end the agreement instead.
Among the provisions the FEI required was: “A competition which is specifically organized for horses of seven 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.”
The NHRA said that meant all its reining classes held specifically for horses aged seven and older would also need to be FEI-approved, run under FEI rules, and be held in accordance with the respective national federation.
“After discussions with show management teams, we discovered how complex and expensive this would be for them,” NRHA vice-president Mike Hancock said.
“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 sticking points included, but were not limited to, FEI stewarding requirements, medication regulations, and that any FEI penalties imposed on horses, owners, officials and riders be accepted and enforced by the NRHA, even if it disagreed with the FEI penalty determinations.
“The 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 organization said.
“The safety and well-being of reining horses is the utmost priority for the 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 AQHA and NRHA received an email from Ibáñez on November 19 advising them of the end of the agreement. The NRHA noted that the email left open the possibility of a new agreement.
“The termination does not appear to impact FEI national federations, such as US Equestrian, and their ability to host FEI Reining events,” the NRHA’s statement said.
“Even as the future of the FEI World Equestrian Games is being questioned, NRHA believes Reining is on a 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.”
The NRHA, based in Oklahoma City, was formed in 1966 and brings together more than 19,000 members, including 1400 youngsters. It is a nonprofit association dedicated to promoting reining. Its focus is on developing and maintaining suitable standards of performance and judging and in providing a fun-filled, family oriented atmosphere.
The AQHA, in Amarillo, Texas, was created in 1940 and is the world’s largest equine breed registry and membership organisation. It first recognised reining as a sport in 1949.
Ibáñez advised delegates at the Bahrain General Assembly that FEI Reining events would continue, and she invited national federations to provide feedback to the FEI on how they see the future of the discipline at international level.