The Definition of Abuse

23rd edition, 1 January 2009, updated 1 January 2010

Article 142 – Abuse of Horses
1. No person may abuse a Horse during an Event or at any other time. “Abuse” means an action or omission which causes or is likely to cause pain or unnecessary discomfort to a Horse, including without limitation any of the following:
– To whip or beat a Horse excessively;
– To subject a Horse to any kind of electric shock device;
– To use spurs excessively or persistently;
– To jab the Horse in the mouth with the bit or any other device;
– To compete using an exhausted, lame or injured Horse;
– To “rap” a Horse.
– To abnormally sensitise or desensitise any part of a Horse;
– To leave a Horse without adequate food, drink or exercise;
– To use any device or equipment which cause excessive pain to the Horse upon knocking down an obstacle.
2. Any person witnessing an Abuse must report it in the form of a protest (Article 163) without delay. If an Abuse is witnessed during or in direct connection with an Event, it should be reported as a protest (Article 163) to an Official. If the Abuse is witnessed at any other time it should be reported as a protest (Article 163) to the Secretary General for referral to the FEI Tribunal.

Craig Schmersal of the US reining team at an FEI event this year:

Full kudos to the brilliant EponaTV for turning an unflinching lens on this. They were also responsible for kicking off the hullaballoo about the infamous ‘Blue Tongue’ incident.

The extract from the FEI rules was found by poster Jimbol at Horse and Hound Online, who suggested this form letter for contacting the British Horse Society, who represent the FEI in the UK. The FEI itself can be contacted here.

UPDATE: commenter noctemare at Fugly Horse of the Day added a second Epona TV video showing other reining competitors ‘warming up’ at the same event:

FURTHER UPDATE: on the 27th May the FEI added a post to Horse and Hound Online discussion, to say that they were engaged in an ongoing review of reining which was initiated in January 2011. Details here.

UPDATE: There’s a petition asking the FEI to enforce Article 142 here.

UPDATE: Epona TV report that the FEI have now changed their story and said that verbal warnings were issued.

UPDATE: August 22, Horse & Hound have reported that the FEI will announce changes to reining rules in January 2012.

UPDATE: a new link to the video.

Published by Susanna Forrest

Writer Amazons of Paris, The Age of the Horse and If Wishes Were Horses.

Join the Conversation


  1. Just watched the Craig Schmersal video and the other reining video.
    Very sad that the top riders need to behave this way in order to get results.
    I think stronger guidelines need to be adhered to by officials as to what is excessive training methods. Because remember what is going on in front of the officials is minor compared to what goes on at home!
    This is the exact reason that I became a judge so that I can try and stop horse abuse in any form and on whatever level.
    keep up the good work of emabarressing the top riders into training correctly. Because if training is carried out slowly and correctly there is not need for abuse in any discipline.

  2. You guys are really quick to judge a world class horseman on what he is doing that is obviosly NOT abusive. When you have never been mediocre at best. We back yard hobbie people should stay quiet and attempt to learn from the best instead of attacking them for being succesfull. No matter what anyone says that is what it comes down too. There will be a lot of attacks against this post but deep down this is all rooted in jealousy for another persons dedication and sucess.

  3. Doug – if Mr Schmersal has success reining while treating his horses well I am very happy for him. The horses win and so does the sport of reining. However, it’s disingenuous to think that simply because someone’s considered the best the rest of the world should automatically back off and not look closely at what they do. Humility is crucial in life, and everyone, no matter now successful, can always learn. Writing off criticism as jealousy, without attempting to consider the evidence carefully is lazy at best and aiding abuse at worst.

    This post is not attacking Mr Schmersal for being successful. It is letting people draw their own conclusions. That you regard it as an attack is telling.

  4. Thank you, Jane, and quite right.

    Watching this video again, I notice that he’s spurring the horse (ie telling it to go forwards), while jabbing it in the mouth and riding it backwards.

    I’d love to give that mare a year in a field doing nothing to unfry her brain.

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply