Animal Welfare: A Continuing Effort

The AQHA Executive Committee approved recommendations from the AQHA Animal Welfare Commission to continue to make strides for the benefit of American Quarter Horses.

The American Quarter Horse Association

The AQHA Executive Committee continued to make strides for the benefit of the American Quarter Horse at its April meeting in Amarillo.

The health and well-being of the American Quarter Horse is the American Quarter Horse Association’s utmost concern. In accordance with AQHA’s mission statement, the American Quarter Horse shall be treated humanely, with dignity, respect and compassion at all times. It is the goal of AQHA to educate members and non-members on this issue.

The AQHA Executive Committee continued to make strides for the benefit of the American Quarter Horse at its April meeting in Amarillo. The committee's actions exemplify the Association taking a stand on animal welfare for the protection of the horse and for the future of the breed. These welfare topics were discussed and reviewed by AQHA members, the AQHA Animal Welfare Commission, the AQHA Show Committee, AQHA Show Council, the AQHA Racing Committee and AQHA Racing Council. The recommendations from each of these bodies were sent on to the Executive Committee for its review and final decision.

“Ensuring the humane treatment of the American Quarter Horse remains a priority for the 2016-17 AQHA Executive Committee,” said Craig Huffhines, AQHA executive vice president. “It is the responsibility of the Association to educate members and non-members on this issue while continuing to review and improve current AQHA rules regarding animal welfare to assure that we continue to put our horse first.”

Actions that will take place in 2016 based on the Executive Committee decisions include:

  • AQHA will develop a resource document outlining the steps members can take when they call AQHA with an animal abuse complaint.

  • AQHA will work collaboratively with the American Association of Equine Practitioners, United States Equestrian Federation and the American Horse Council to develop biosecurity isolation protocol guidelines to include vaccination guidelines that could be implemented at AQHA-approved shows.

  • Currently, AQHA Rule VIO108.7 prohibits individuals from altering, attempting to hide or alter natural markings of a horse by surgery, dye or any other manner. Effective January 1, 2017, that language will include hiding abuse with dye or any other substance.

  • 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).

Read the Animal Welfare Commission recommendations with the Executive Committee's action at

In addition to these actions, AQHA will continue to periodically publish news releases on its website with the names of people who have broken AQHA’s rules pertaining to inhumane treatment and unsportsmanlike conduct, as well as recommendations approved by the Executive Committee.  

For more information on animal welfare and unsportsmanlike conduct, visit

Racing violations and suspensions can be found at

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