New equipment rules address welfare concerns at American Quarter Horse shows


It’s time to clean out the tack trunk. Beginning Nov. 1, 2012, new rules from the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) will take effect, prohibiting several types of formerly legal training devices and items of tack from the grounds of recognized shows.

The AQHA Animal Welfare Commission made several recommendations to the Executive Committee, and those recommendations were recently approved. Besides new regulations for training devices, the Welfare Commission also created the organization’s official definition of abuse: Any excessive and/or repetitive action to cause obvious distress or discomfort to a horse.

Western Quarter Horses at a horse show

The regulations are designed to protect the welfare of Quarter Horses competing at shows, and also to control the perception of how show horses are treated. While horse trainers and riders may have varying opinions on whether or not a device compromises a horse’s well-being, the AQHA recognizes that the public is less open to debate on this topic.

“Regardless of the number of people who are using equipment improperly or harshly, the use of all equipment needs to be addressed and horsemen and -women need to understand that it only takes one person to create a negative perception of our industry,” said Tom Persechino, AQHA executive director of competition and breed integrity. “We are living in a very different time where social media, technology and people’s unfamiliarity with the horse industry constantly puts us in a defensive mode. It’s never been a goal to punish but to bring about change and protect our horse and our industry before someone else decides what is right and what isn’t.”

The new equipment regulations, as published by the American Quarter Horse Journal, are as follows:

  1. Prohibited training equipment at all AQHA shows include riding in a curb bit without a curb strap, wire or solid metal curb straps no matter how padded; wire cavessons; wire or cable tie-downs; bumper bits; metal bosals, no matter how padded; chambons; headstalls made of metal (even if encased in a protective material); twisted rawhide; or rope (3/8-inch rope may be used with a slip (gag) bit with a smooth mouth piece only); running martingales with curb bits; or draw reins attached between or around the front legs.
  2. No one is allowed to ride a horse with a curb bit without a properly adjusted, approved curb strap or curb chain.
  3. A running martingale may be used with a snaffle bit only.
  4. Draw reins may be used on the show grounds as a training device so long as they are attached no lower than the elbow of the horse.

The penalties for violations range from a simple warning for a mild first offense to a $4,000 fine and suspension from AQHA competition for repeat offenders. A chart describing the violations and penalties is available on the AQHA’s website.


  1. Harsh bits and trainer method, have no need to be in any trainer’s “tool box” no matter what breed.
    Every breed shows, should follow AQHA example.

  2. These are excellent new rules. Some of the things people do to their prized show horses are disgusting and these rules should help a lot with that.


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