AQHA Equipment Rules

Learn more about acceptable training equipment and practices at AQHA-approved shows.

A dedication to putting the American Quarter Horse first has led the AQHA Executive Committee to make changes in AQHA rules as far as equipment use at all AQHA-approved shows and approve a structure of fines and penalties that will be assessed to violators of these rules.

All of these changes are based on recommendations from the AQHA Animal Welfare Commission, which was appointed in 2012 by the Executive Committee to ensure the welfare of the American Quarter Horse. The Executive Committee also approved the Animal Welfare Commission’s definition of abuse: Any excessive and/or repetitive action to cause obvious distress or discomfort to a horse.

New equipment policies were ushered in November 1, 2012. The policies are published on AQHA's website. View the policies, plus fines and penalties for lack of compliance, here.

Prohibited Equipment

In addition to that listed in the AQHA Official Handbook of Rules and Regulations, the following equipment will not be allowed at any AQHA shows:

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. Rein stops must be used with a running martingale when riding with a curb bit.

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.

5. The use of lip chains is prohibited on the show grounds at all AQHA events.

6. Effective June 1, 2016, AQHA Rule VIO204.13 will be amended to include belly bands in the list of equipment prohibited at AQHA events.

  • From June 1 to December 31, 2016 (“Warning Period”), stewards, judges and show management will verbally warn and instruct riders to remove belly bands from horses on showgrounds at AQHA events. If a steward discovers that a belly band is hiding abuse, they are to issue the appropriate warning card.  If a judge or show management discovers that a belly band is hiding abuse, they will take appropriate action based on the severity of abuse (for example, disqualify horse) and report abuse to AQHA. 
  • During the Warning Period, stewards will record the names of violators on their steward report so they can be added to the warning database. If a person is reported again on another steward report, the AQHA office will issue a warning for a second offense. Show management and judges are instructed to report violators such that violators’ names are included on the show management report/judges report to be submitted to AQHA. Names that appear on such reports will be added to the warning database.  

Effective January 1, 2017, the use of belly bands will be considered a Level 1 offense and shall result in the issuance of a warning card (assuming the belly band is not hiding abuse, in which case the Level of offense may be increased and a red card may be issued depending on the severity of abuse).


AQHA continues to increase its role in public policy and advocacy concerning the American Quarter Horse and all horses. In addition to increasing advocacy of the American Quarter Horse in public policy, AQHA continues to keep the horse as its foremost concern by providing programs to members promoting the health and well-being of their America Quarter Horse.