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☛ NRHA trainers propose changes to drug policy 7-31-14





By Glory Ann Kurtz
July 31, 2014
The National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) is planning on putting into effect a new drug and medication policy in 2015 that is more in line with the Federation Equestre International (FEI) and the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) – International events that the NRHA Open horses and riders compete in, including the Olympics. FEI is the leader with the others following suit, as they recently announced they can also test the “human athlete” at their shows.



Recently 16 of the 19 well-known NRHA trainers, known by many as the “Million-Dollar Gang,” proposed a replacement to Section 7 Equine Medications, The Therapeutic Substance Provisions in the General Rules and Regulations of the NRHA Rule Book that was recently put into effect. These trainers are not disputing the method of collecting samples, but are disputing what a forbidden substance is.  Three of the Million-dollar Gang, who were from European countries, refused to join in on the proposed rule change.


Letter (a) of Section 7 says: No horse competing in an event approved by the NRHA is to be shown in any class (see also section 1 (a), last sentence) if it has been administered in any manner or otherwise contains in its tissue, body fluids or excreta a forbidden substance, which they want to leave as is.


The group of trainers are asking to change section (i) to read: “For the purpose of this rule a forbidden substance should be considered any substance that is not FDA approved for equine use and prescribed by a licensed veterinarian.”


What is left out in the old section (i) states: Any stimulant, depressant, tranquilizer, local anesthetic, psychotropic (mood and/or behavior altering) substance, or drug which might affect the performance of a horse (stimulants and/or depressants are defined as substances which stimulate or depress the cardiovascular, respiratory or central nervous systems), or any metabolite and/or analogue of any such substance or drug except as expressly permitted by this rule.


Following is a link to the current NRHA Rule Book General Rules Section. The drug policy starts on Page 48 with the proposed rule change being at the bottom of page 54.

Click for NRHA trainers proposed drug rule>>

Click for NRHA General Rules>>


 According to a blog by Rod Miller, who is the founder of the International Performance Horse Development Association (, an online horse show association, and an NRHA judge, “Last year was the first year that a drug policy went into the NRHA Rule Book, but we realized that the new policy allowed testing just to find out what was being used. It sounded good because  in 2015, we will have a drug policy go into effect with all the punitive measures and be identical to USEF in effect.”


He went on to say, “The caliber of horse needed to make the finals at the Futurity these days has gotten very high. The trainers do not have time to take it slow and train these horses at a pace each can handle without getting sore. Yes the event is demanding, but no more so than many other events that all have drug policies. The only difference is time and the ability of our trainers to get more out of the horses. The brutal truth is trainers have to push these young horses more and more each year just to stay competitive enough to make the finals.


“Drugs and abuse are not the biggest issue the NRHA has, their biggest issue is the trainers have gotten too good. The top trainers of today are able to get these horses to do so much more than in past years, yet the time they are allowed to do these things in has not changed. They do not have enough time to develop the horses to the level they need to be without pushing them. Pushing them means they need drugs to keep them sound enough to ride and show and keep pushing the limits. That is why trainers have no issue with a drug test for the older horses being shown at the FEI level; they are already trained and do not need to be pushed anymore.


“Now the one thing that the NRHA will never do is make a change that will negatively effect the Futurity. The Futurity is why the NRHA was created and it is still the main focus of trainers and breeders. Having a restrictive drug policy will negatively affect the Futurity, by lowering the caliber of the horses in the finals. Trainers won’t be able to push horses as hard, if they need to show up at the show with a totally sound horse. Without pushing or more time, something has to give and it will be the caliber of horses in the finals.


“So chances are the Million-dollar trainers, called the Million-Dollar Gang, will get their way at least for a few more years, until the public forces them to succumb to government mandated drug testing. I had hoped that the Million Dollar Gang and the NRHA board would listen to the chatter this proposal caused, and hear the winds of change that the public is demanding. DRUGS ARE NOT COOL.”


The trainers proposing the new rule changes include: Tim McQuay, Shawn Flarida, Duane Latimer, Todd Bergen, Dell Hendricks, Craig Schmersal, Tom McCutcheon, Mandy McCutcheon, Brent Wright, Craig Johnson, Randy Paul, Todd Sommers, Jordan Larson, Rocky Dare, Mike McEntire and Brian Bell. The only Million-dollar trainers who opted out hail from European countries and include Andrea Fappani, an Italian, as well as Bernard Fonck and Rudi Kronsteiner from Germany.


I e-mailed each of the million-dollar trainers (that I could find e-mail address for) who support the proposal, telling each trainer that I was doing a short article on my web site on the changes that the group of NRHA trainers wanted to make to the upcoming NRHA Rule Book regarding the drug rules. I also asked if they would give me a quote about why their group wanted the definition of a “forbidden substance” changed and asked them if the change wouldn’t affect the FEI and USEF competition.


As of press time, I have not had a phone call or e-mail response from any of the Million-dollar trainers; however, I did hear from Mike McIntire, Brian Bell’s and Todd Sommers representatives that they were out of town at shows and would respond when they returned. If I do receive any responses, I will print them at a later date.


Currently there will be elections for three directors-at-large to the NRHA Executive Committee, from five candidates  and a Vice President from two candidates, that will run from Aug. 9-Sept. 8, 2014 (for electronic voting). Absentee ballots will be accepted no later than midnight CDT, Sept. 3, 2014.  Following is a list of the candidates and their qualifications and information.

Click for list of NRHA candidates>>


Regarding the proposed NRHA rule change, Rick Dennis, who has combined law enforcement, drug enforcement and private-sector drug testing experience and expertise spanning 44 years and is certified in Federal and State court in drugs of abuse, said, “My main concern is if this rule passes, it will entirely change the complexion of the NRHA Drug-Testing Policy and how will that affect their relationships with USEF, FEI and Olympic competition?”



Unlike several of the other performance horse associations, the FEI and USEF, as well as the planned NRHA drug policy, offer the split-sample method of drug testing (as opposed to the single-sample method) which involves taking one vial of blood, then separating it into two vials, sending vial A to the lab for testing and freezing vial B for testing at a later date, should a positive test be contested.


In the single-sample method, a contest is almost impossible to win, since they will be rechecking the same sample. Since drug testing is not a 100% flawless science and false positives do occur and if there was an error in taking the sample or in the lab, which occasionally happens, it is impossible to come up with a different answer with the single-sample method.


Some associations take two separate samples in two separate vials; however, according to drug testing specialists, time is of an essence in drug testing and a test taken following the first can produce different results, depending on how long a drug stays in the horse’s system. Therefore the split-sample method of drug testing is the most accurate and most of all the fairest way to take a drug test, as it will rule out any conflict in a positive sample test result.


The National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) and American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), follow the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI) rules, all the way down to the penalties and do not include the split-sample method, instead using the single-sample method.




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  1. Many prominent North American top trainers are backing a plan to eliminate the use of race-day medication in the U.S. beginning next season.

    In a release sent out the afternoon of Aug. 1, 25 prominent trainers said they would favor a plan to gradually eliminate race-day medication in the U.S.

    Currently the only medication permitted to be administered on race day is furosemide (commonly called Lasix or Salix), which has been used to prevent or lessen the severity of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage.

    Click for the Blood Horse article:

    It’s strange how these trainers are getting out of the use of drugs and the top NRHA trainers are wanting to use more!

  2. “The trainers do not have time to take it slow and train these horses at a pace each can handle without getting sore.”
    “The brutal truth is trainers have to push these young horses more and more each year just to stay competitive enough to make the finals.”

    Shame, shame, shame… I can’t believe these people…. Since when has it been okay to train a horse to the point it becomes lame or breaks down? Even more so when it’s the “million dollar” trainer doing it and continues to do so even though he knows it’s going to happen? I thought trainers were stewards of the horse and are supposed to educate us lesser people on what’s best for the horse?
    Why would anyone want to train with a trainer that is willing to push a horse to its breaking point? Not only is it cruel and ignorant, it’s plain old greedy.

    Trainers are too good??
    I think what’s really being said is it’s okay for a trainer to push a horse to the point of lameness (i.e. pain), drug it up and then push it some more… all for some money.
    Sorry, that way of thinking does not a good trainer make. In fact, quite the opposite.

    Having a restrictive drug policy will negatively affect the Futurity, by lowering the caliber of the horses in the finals.

    Huh? Good grief… can their thinking be any more backwards?
    The horses haven’t changed folks, they are still the same kind and forgiving creatures they have always been. What’s changed is that the drugs have been able to hide the physical and mental issues of these horses and the resulting illusion is a “better caliber” horse.

    It would be interesting to see how the “top placed” horses would move or how they would react if they were not drugged up. I bet most would not look “top caliber” while they go around the ring stiff, tight, uneven or perhaps even head bobbing lame.

    I’ll admit that I don’t know very much about Futurities however, in my books it’s a show, simple as that. Why has it not occurred to anyone to restructure said show? Seriously, we’ve put people on the moon…it can’t be that difficult to change some rules of a show.

    Why can’t the age requirement be changed… instead of running 2 year olds into the ground, give them another year or two to grow, develop and be developed. change it to… “No horse under 4 years….blah blah blah”

    It’s not like horses are not long lived… is human greed so bad that they can’t wait an extra year or two to get their hands on the money?

    Shame people… shame….

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