The future of reining as a FEI discipline remains uncertain, despite hopes raised at the 2019 FEI General Assembly (GA) 12 months ago.
Last year the FEI board proposed to drop reining – only the second time in FEI history that a discipline would have been axed (tent-pegging was the first). But member federations at the 2019 in-person GA in Moscow voted to save it, following a lively campaign by riders and news of positive, last-minute talks between the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) and FEI.
But it later emerged that the two bodies were interpreting their discussions differently – the FEI found the NRHA stance “surprising.” The draft new agreement remained unsigned.
Numerous meetings since have involved, among others, FEI national federations that are active in reining. But there was not enough progress to enable further voting about reining’s future at the 2020 FEI GA, held online this week due to the pandemic.
Reining was already a large participant sport with a US-based, globally recognized governing body before the FEI adopted reining 20 years ago. This meant that, unlike other FEI disciplines, an operating agreement had to be drawn up between the FEI, NRHA (founded 1966) and American Quarter Horse Association (1940.)
However, policy disagreements – largely over the minimum age of horses and anti-doping policy – led to the original cooperation agreement’s collapse.
Since the 2019 GA, the NRHA has declined to recognize the FEI as sole worldwide authority for all international competitions for horses aged seven and above, and to implement a control system for non-FEI competitions, ensuring that no more than four countries and/or more than 15 foreign athletes would participate. The FEI required the latter to identify events that must be included in the FEI Calendar, with all participants properly FEI registered and FEI rules applied.
The FEI and its reining committee say the main legal consequence of no agreement is that NRHA shows will be viewed as “unsanctioned events;” any FEI registered riders, horses or officials participating in NRHA would be subject to six months ineligibility from FEi events. But it was also recognized that FEI reining could not survive without the NRHA, and that most athletes would choose NRHA.
“Legacy” possibilities such as still staging a world championship, or having FEI format events integrated into the NRHA have been discussed. Meanwhile, FEI reining championship allocations for 2021 and beyond has been deferred.