Animal Welfare and Unsportsmanlike Conduct Violations

The AQHA Executive Committee approves the AQHA Animal Welfare Grievance Committee recommendations.

The health and wellbeing of the American Quarter Horse is AQHA’s utmost concern.

The American Quarter Horse Association Animal Welfare Grievance Committee periodically meets to discuss animal welfare and unsportsmanlike conduct cases. The committee’s recommendations regarding the violations are then sent to the AQHA Executive Committee for its review and decision. The Animal Welfare Grievance Committee is a subcommittee of the AQHA Animal Welfare Commission, which was established by the AQHA Executive Committee three years ago.

The Executive Committee’s recent decisions regarding Animal Welfare Committee recommendations are as follows:

Jason English of Madison, Georgia, for violation of AQHA Rule VIO204.16 involving the horse Sanfrancisco Goodbar, received a yellow card warning at the 2014 Nutrena East AQHA Level 1 Championships in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. As a result of his first offense, he received a $5,000 fine, a 90-day suspension and a one-year probation, which will be served following the end of his suspension. Furthermore, English was removed from the American Quarter Horse Association of Professional Horsemen. 

Additionally, the previous owner of Sanfrancisco Goodbar, Andrea Caldwell of Williamston, South Carolina, received a six-month probation and was to provide a signed affidavit from a veterinarian that the horse’s wounds were healed. Finally, a letter of reprimand was sent to Jamie Murrow of High Point, North Carolina, who also rode Sanfrancisco Goodbar at the show.

In another case, a youth, who violated AQHA Rule VIO220 regarding unsportsmanlike conduct, received a white card at the 2014 SmartPak West AQHA Level 1 Championships in Las Vegas for refusing the request of the steward to leave the arena during a drag. The youth has been placed on a 90-day probation. The youth’s parent who is not an AQHA member, received a yellow card. The Grievance Committee recommended and the Executive Committee approved that the parent be denied membership in AQHA should he apply for same.

During the 2014 AQHA World Championship Show, Jordan Lesh received a yellow warning card for unsportsmanlike conduct, a violation of AQHA Rule VIO220. Lesh confronted the judges in a belligerent and disrespectful manner. As a result of his first offense, he received a $1,000 fine and isn’t allowed to renew his membership until June 17, 2015. In addition, he is denied participation privileges for the 2015 AQHA World Championship Show.

James Randall Barton of Bluff Dale, Texas, for violation of AQHA Rule VIO201, received a yellow warning card at the Dixie National in Jackson, Mississippi. As a result, he received a $750 fine, a six-month membership probation and a one-year probation of his membership in the American Quarter Horse Association of Professional Horsemen.

Animal Welfare Charges and Convictions
With respect to offenses of cruelty to or inhumane treatment of a horse that are the subject of criminal proceedings, AQHA Rule VIO205 applies. Specifically, AQHA may accept (1) an individual’s conviction, no contest plea, or deferred adjudication or (2) judicial confiscation of a horse under state, federal, provincial or international law, for an offense of cruelty to or inhumane treatment of a horse as a presumptive violation of this rule. Such cases result in the automatic suspension of the individual from AQHA membership privileges for a period of no less than two (2) years. After the expiration of the two-year suspension, the individual may apply for reinstatement. AQHA may also temporarily suspend an individual charged or indicted pursuant to state, federal, provincial or international law for an offense of cruelty to or inhumane treatment of a horse. Such temporary suspension may remain in place pending the outcome of the legal proceedings made basis of the charge or indictment.

The following AQHA members have been suspended in 2015 pursuant to VIO205:

  • Daniel McWilliams, Muskogee, Oklahoma, for felony animal cruelty charges and judicial confiscation of horses and cattle
  • Thomas and Diane Silbaugh, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, for misdemeanor cruelty to animals and confiscation of horses

Medication Violations
AQHA also takes a strong stand against the misuse of substances in American Quarter Horses.

“Part of leveling the playing field in the show industry includes doing away with the illegal and illicit use of performance-enhancing drugs," said AQHA President Dr. Glenn Blodgett. "It all comes down to protecting our horses.”

The following members have received fines and/or penalties in 2015 for equine drug violations at shows:

  • Jessie Godin, Murillo, Ontario, for violation of AQHA Rule VIO404.2 (use of more than one NSAID), received a $1,000 fine and a 60-day participation suspension
  • Kristen Syburg of Scottsdale, Arizona, for violation of AQHA Rule VIO402-403 (use of acepromazine without a medication report), received a $700 fine and 90-day probation
  • Shannon Vroegh, Granger, Iowa, for violation of AQHA Rule VIO405.3 (use of a conditionally permitted therapeutic medication without a medication report), received a $350 fine
  • A youth parent, for violation of VIO405.1 (use of a conditionally permitted therapeutic medication without submitting a medication report), received a $350 fine

Animal Welfare
The health and wellbeing of the American Quarter Horse is AQHA’s utmost concern. AQHA has very specific rules regarding inhumane treatment of animals. Part of AQHA’s mission statement says that the “American Quarter Horse shall be treated humanely, with dignity, respect and compassion at all times.”

“AQHA’s goal is to educate both members and non-members on the issue of animal welfare,” said AQHA Executive Vice President Craig Huffhines. “It is our responsibility to ensure the health and safety of our horse – the American Quarter Horse.”

AQHA welfare efforts also include the utilization of AQHA stewards. At AQHA-approved events, AQHA stewards answer exhibitor questions about rules, identify and document inhumane treatment, issue violation cards (white, yellow and red) which are reviewed by the Animal Welfare Grievance Committee, evaluate any unsafe conditions regarding the show grounds, and guide others on acceptable training practices and equipment. The stewards are trained and tested on AQHA’s rulebook, the stewards’ training manual and their ability to handle difficult situations professionally. Most importantly, stewards help protect the breed, advance animal welfare and help ensure the integrity of the competition.

For more information on animal welfare, visit www.aqha.com/animalwelfare.

AQHA News and information is a service of the American Quarter Horse Association. For more news and information, follow @AQHAnews on Twitter and visit www.aqha.com/news.