RHF Announces Expansion of Crisis Fund and Scholarship Programs

During the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Winter Meeting, the Reining Horse Foundation (RHF) Board of Directors met and approved significant expansion to two of its flagship programs: the Dale Wilkinson Memorial Crisis Fund and the RHF Scholarship program. Increased donor support in recent years has made it feasible for more dollars to be returned to the reining community, which is the heart of the RHF mission. In November 2022, the Board announced up to $250,000 in additional funding support for core programs with proposals to be brought forward from RHF standing committees. These program increases are the result. Additional plans are still being developed.

The Crisis Fund is designed to financially assist reiners enduring major hardships such as illness, injury, and disasters. At the recommendation of the Crisis Fund Review Committee, the Board approved new levels of financial support for Crisis Fund grants, which are available to NRHA members with at least 24 consecutive months of membership prior to applying.

Medical and injury accident applications will be considered for up to $7,500 in grant support, which is more than double the previous maximum of $3,600. Disaster applications will now be considered for up to $12,500 in aid, which also is more than double the former maximum of $6,000. The Board continues to reserve a special support category for the most extreme cases of hardship and can add additional funding to those most serious cases.

The Crisis Fund has awarded more than $275,000 in Crisis Fund grants since the inception of the program in 2002, standing in the gap for reining families around the world. On average, 75 percent of the grants go to NRHA Professionals, who, as self-employed workers, can face loss of income during a severe crisis. Beginning in 2020, NRHA Professionals began voluntarily providing Crisis Fund contributions when purchasing or renewing their NRHA memberships.

RHF funding comes from a broad cross-section of the equine community, including individuals, businesses, and foundations. NRHA affiliates, shows, and reiners of all ages hold creative and successful fundraisers to boost RHF programs in the areas of greatest need.

“This is a major increase to RHF programs thanks to the long-held dreams and work of this organization and its committed donors,” said RHF President Tim Anderson. “I am personally passionate about the Dale Wilkinson Memorial Crisis Fund and how it changes lives for people going through some of the worst times imaginable. I also believe that youth hold the keys to the future of reining. I am extremely proud of RHF for being able to positively impact more lives worldwide.”

RHF Scholarships are offered to high school seniors who demonstrate financial need, academic achievement, and involvement. A  major expansion doubled the funding amounts in 2022; this increase will immediately raise the lower-level award amounts.

“I’ve been involved with RHF Scholarships since their inception,” said NRHA vice president and longtime RHF Board member Mike Hancock. “Being able to offer more and larger scholarships is very special. We know that education is important to the success of our young reiners in adulthood. These scholarships make the path easier for deserving young people.”

In 2023, 10 scholarships are available, including five $5,000 and three $2,500 awards. At the recommendation of the RHF Scholarship Committee, three previous $1,500 awards are increasing to $2,000 each, and the previous $1,000 John McQuay Memorial Scholarship will increase to $1,500.

In addition, a new set of scholarships will become available in 2024 for NRHyA members who are pursuing post-high school education. They include five $1,500 scholarships. The application criteria and timeline for those will be established and announced later.

For more information or to donate, visit reiningfoundation.com.

2023 Affiliate Regional Championship and NAAC Qualification

The National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Board of Directors met during the 2023 Winter Meeting and voted on the qualification process for Affiliate Regional Championships (ARC) and the Adequan® North American Affiliate Championship (NAAC).

To qualify for a 2023 Affiliate Regional Championship, a rider must be an NRHA member and a member of an NRHA affiliate. Riders may join an affiliate at any point and are encouraged to show within it throughout the year to build their reining community and compete for awards. As in 2021, riders will be allowed to participate in multiple ARCs with one exception; if they win a class, they cannot compete on the same horse in the same class at another ARC.

Any exhibitor who receives a score higher than a zero at an ARC will be able to enter that class, on that specific horse, at the NAAC in Oklahoma City. Riders are encouraged to confirm that the classes they enter at an ARC are qualifying classes and not the ancillary slate.

This qualification format follows the same process as the past two years and was recommended by the Affiliate Committee before it was approved by the NRHA Board following the past two years’ success. The number of competitors at ARCs and the NAAC have grown across the board, which is positive for affiliates hosting shows, the grassroots level of reining, and the overall industry.

During the 2022 NAAC, more than $99,000 was awarded, with the Adequan® arena hosting more than 800 NAAC entries. The Board and Affiliate Committee look forward to seeing this growth expanded in 2023.

To find an affiliate near you, visit nrha.com/affiliate. To check if you are a member of a specific affiliate, please contact them directly.

Updates from the 2023 NRHA Winter Meeting

The National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) held its annual Winter Meeting February 5–7 at the Embassy Suites by Hilton in downtown Fort Worth, Texas. The venue was the meeting place for NRHA Board, staff, committee members, and the membership to meet and to review and guide the association’s direction going forward.

During the three days of meetings, the board, executive committee, the Reining Horse Foundation Board of Directors, and several advisory committees convened. The Annual General Membership Meeting was also held Tuesday morning and gave members the opportunity to receive an update from NRHA Leadership and ask questions.

“It was an outstanding meeting, with the committee and board members working together wonderfully to begin the year,” said NRHA President Mark Blake. “The judges committee especially did an outstanding job with the review session, and overall, I am very happy with how the 2023 NRHA Winter Meeting went.”

Blake also highlighted the success NRHA saw in 2022, including a 14% increase in approved events worldwide with a record-setting 125,000 total entries. Additionally, the nomination program saw its highest numbers since its inception, topping 3,000 North American weanling nominations for the first time. NRHA membership remains stable, with non professionals boasting its highest membership rates since 2015. Read more on the 2022 Statistics Overview posted on the “About” page at nrha.com. Blake also announced that a membership survey would be distributed to members and reviewed by the board during the future Strategic Planning Session.

NRHA Chief Financial Officer John Foy also gave an extremely positive, in-depth financial overview of the association, which included an explanation of the new 4-year-old nomination component that will begin with 2023 foals, NRHA Futurity purse milestones, and an update on the annual audit that will be posted online for members in the next few weeks. You can read more about the program here. He also addressed the association will continue to invest in high-performing assets and has the liquidity to navigate even during economic downturn.

Gary Carpenter, NRHA Commissioner, also announced his planned retirement after leading NRHA since 2014. During Carpenter’s time with NRHA, the association has seen massive expansion, boasting the lowest turnover rates and a well-tenured staff speaking to his incredible leadership. An official search committee has been formed, and you can read more about his retirement here.

Following the annual general membership meeting, The Judges Committee also held a review of the top 2022 NRHA Futurity runs with an open dialogue regarding scoring while watching videos of selected runs. Patti Carter, Senior Director of Education & Officials, and the judges committee teaching panel talked through the evaluation of the runs, answered questions, and provided clarity on current judging standards.

The following items were also discussed:

2023 Affiliate Regional Championship and Adequan® North American Affiliate Championship Conditions

The Board moved to approve keeping the Affiliate Regional Championship (ARC) and Adequan® North American Affiliate Championship (NAAC) qualification the same as the previous year. To compete at an ARC, a rider must be an NRHA member and a member of an NRHA affiliate. Any exhibitor who receives a score higher than a zero at an ARC will be able to enter that class, on that specific horse, at the Adequan® NAAC in Oklahoma City.

2024 NRHA Elections

Submissions for 2024 NRHA Regional Director and NRHA Director-at-Large elections are due in office on June 1. For more information, including open seats and qualifications for running, visit nhra.com/elections.

Rule Change Proposals

The 2023 Rule Change Proposals were reviewed by the Board for the first time. The Board will review them again prior to voting, and they will be sent to committees and will soon be available online to the NRHA membership for feedback.

Recommended Judges Fee Increase

The Board approved a recommendation from the Judges Committee to recommend that all “AA” events pay their judges a minimum of $750 per day along with reasonable travel expenses. For all other events, the committee recommended judge fees be increased to a minimum of $600/day, plus reasonable travel expenses. The committee also recommended judges be compensated 10% of their day fee for every hour over 10 hours spent judging (not including breaks).

NRHA Owned Event Schedules Approved

The 2023 6666 NRHA Derby presented by Markel and the 2023 NRHA Futurity & Adequan® North American Affiliate Championship schedules were approved by the NRHA Board of Directors. The Derby schedule is available on nrhaderby.com, and the Futurity schedule will be available soon on nrhafuturity.com. A change to note was the approval to switch the Open and Non Pro go-round order at the NRHA Derby to be more accommodating to non pros who make the finals.

Reining Horse Foundation Board Meeting

The Reining Horse Foundation (RHF) Board of Directors approved significant expansion to two of its flagship programs: the Dale Wilkinson Memorial Crisis Fund and the RHF Scholarship program. Increased donor support in recent years has made it feasible for more dollars to be returned to the reining community, which is the heart of the RHF mission. In November 2022, the board designated up to $250,000 in additional funding support for core programs, with proposals to be brought forward from RHF standing committees. These program expansions are the result. The Crisis Fund grant maximums are being increased substantially, more than double previous funding thresholds. Four RHF Scholarships amounts are being increased immediately, and five new scholarships will be added in 2024.

Oklahoma City Hosts Groundbreaking for New Coliseum at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds

The National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) was proud to join Oklahoma City officials on Wednesday, February 22, for a groundbreaking ceremony of the new coliseum at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds.

The beloved Jim Norick Coliseum, known by some as ‘The Big House,’ was built in 1965 and will be replaced by a new $126 million state-of-the-art coliseum. Set to be completed in 2025, the facility will feature a 216,000-square-foot building with 7,000 seats and a restaurant, lounge, and upscale concession areas. The current Jim Norick Coliseum will be utilized for all events until the new project is completed.

Speakers at the groundbreaking included Ron Norick, past Oklahoma City Mayor and son of the late Jim Norick, Oklahoma City Major David Holt, Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau president Zac Craig and president and CEO of the Oklahoma State Fair Kirk Slaughter.

“The Jim Norick Coliseum hosts two million people and 150 events per year,” said Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau president Zac Craig. “On any given week, you see the best riders in the world in their respective disciplines, and it is an economic engine for our community.”

Craig also highlighted the coliseum generates $350 million in annual economic impact for Oklahoma City and is an investment into tourism along with solidifying Oklahoma City’s reputation as a host for premier equine and livestock events. The project is funded through MAPS4, a debt-free public improvement program funded by a temporary penny sales tax, with additional funds coming from city hotel tax revenues.

“This project is about maintaining what this place provides our community, and it is tremendous,” said Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt. “I have always loved the idea of what this venue means to the entire state, and if you are a young person in Oklahoma and involved in agriculture, or basketball, or other sports, this is your mecca and where you dream of coming.

“I think it is cool that we love the history of this building; Elvis even played here, and it is really cool history. However, I think people will come to love the amenities and attractiveness provided by this future facility. History only takes you so far on a practical side, and what you are going to have with this new iteration is a practical, useful building to continue having economic impact on this community and bring people from around Oklahoma and the country. Congratulations to everyone involved in this!”

Excitement broke among the crowd as shovels broke ground, including an extra shovel turned by Ron Norick to honor his father, Jim Norick.

“I am so proud of my father and what he did, and how proud I am that his name is on this building, and how proud he is going to be when we have the new building,” said Norick. “This building has served our community well. It is a wonderful day!”

NRHA Commissioner Gary Carpenter, who was present at the event along with NRHA staff, echoed the excitement.

“We are so fortunate to have great partnerships throughout Oklahoma City, and this project coming to fruition is just another example of the community coming together,” said Carpenter. “Our relationship with the Oklahoma State Fair is one we have always valued, and we look forward to supporting them through this process. This venue will be a stage worthy of our events, and our competitors will move to a new, elevated level not experienced before.”

For more information, including a concept video of the new facility, visit okcfairgrounds.com/new-coliseum.

2023 6666 NRHA Derby Presented by Markel Judges Have Been Chosen

The National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) proudly announces the group of judges chosen for the 6666 NRHA Derby presented by Markel, held June 13-25, 2023. As the second largest NRHA-approved event of the year, preparation for the prestigious show has started, including finalizing who will evaluate each run.

Kelly Hedges, Jan Hay, Dean Bogart, and BJ Riberio have been chosen for the Adequan® Arena classes. The Judges Monitor will be Bob Kail.

The Jim Norick Coliseum will be judged by Bub Poplin, Ollie Griffith, Mack Weaver, Gabe Davide, and Manu Maiocchi, with Jeff Buckley as equipment judge. The Judges Monitor is Eugenio Latorre.

“The selection of judges for an NRHA Event is thorough, fair, and rigorous,” said Patti Carter, Senior Director of Education and Officials. “The NRHA Judges Committee is confident this group of judges will represent NRHA and its athletes with consistent and accurate maneuver and penalty application throughout the event. We look forward to working with this amazing group of selected NRHA Judges.”

The NRHA Derby and Futurity judges are recommended by the Judges Committee, submitted to a sub-committee appointed by the NRHA President, and given final approval from the Executive Committee. The recommendations are made by the following criteria:

  • Each eligible judge is contacted for their availability for the event
  • All available judges are compiled into a list and sent to each member of the Judges Committee
  • Judges Committee members make selections from the list to fill the allotted slots for the event
  • These names are compiled into a shortlist and discussed on a conference call with all members of the Judges Committee.
  • The committee members, except for the chair, then rank their choices, and each ranking equates to a certain number of points. The points are compiled and submitted to the committee chair.
  • The committee chair reviews and makes recommendations based on the outcome of the vote and the needs of NRHA.
  • The ranked list with the Judges Committee Chair recommendations is submitted to the subcommittee for final selection.

For more information, visit NRHA.com/judges.