Goals set at the 2024 NRHA European Affiliate Summit

The National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) hosted the annual European Affiliate Summit in Barcelona, Spain, on January 19–20. The meetings held during the Summit included the European Executive Board Meeting, the European Council Meeting, and the European Affiliate Summit. The meetings were a chance to share updates, have conversations about the state of affiliates across Europe, set goals, and allow affiliates to connect and collaborate.

To help facilitate, NRHA representatives included Sr. Director of International Affairs & Development Samantha Oldfield, NRHA Vice President Mike Hancock, and newly appointed NRHA Commissioner Billy Smith.

On Friday evening, the European Council held a meeting where affiliates with a council seat discussed annual business, such as a review of their bylaws, a 2025 European Affiliate Summit location, and upcoming 2024 reminders and deadlines. The council also connected with the Italian Reining Horse Association (IRHA), which will host the 2024 NRHA European Futurity in Cremona, Italy, to review the event conditions.

Saturday was dedicated to the European Affiliate Summit, a crucial time for attendees to connect and collaborate with fellow European affiliates and NRHA representatives.  Smith was formally introduced to each European affiliate and was informed about their unique goals and characteristics. Affiliates also had the chance to voice their concerns to NRHA and the other affiliates present to collaborate and problem-solve.

“It is important for NRHA to hear what barriers affiliates are facing so that we can help them remove or work through them,” Oldfield said. “It is also a time for affiliates to work together and share how they overcame certain barriers through different strategies and problem-solving and to learn from one another.”

A highlight of the European Affiliate Summit was the focused conversation and teamwork that occurred. The meeting was a time dedicated to the sport of reining in Europe, and attendees took it as an opportunity to celebrate accomplishments, set goals for 2024, and brainstorm creative solutions to challenges they faced.

“This is the one time a year we can get together, other than at a horse show, and discuss what is happening in each affiliate,” Oldfield said. “It is quite amazing to see what affiliates have done through their own ingenuity to grow members and events and to see relationships form out of the [European Affiliate] Summit.”

NRHA Approves New Strategic Plan

During their first meeting of the year, the NRHA Board of Directors unanimously approved a new strategic plan to shape the association’s direction effectively over the next 3-5 years.

The last strategic plan, adopted in 2017, was highly successful and boasted years of all-time records for purses, entries, and nominations.

“We set a strategic goal of 125,000 [annual] worldwide entries within five years, and I am happy to share that not only did we meet that goal in 2022, but we have also now exceeded it with over 131,000 entries,” said NRHA President Mark Blake. “Instead of sitting around spending a lot of time asking ourselves, what’s next? We already know. This plan helps us accomplish that.”

The new plan, formulated with members of the board, staff, and committee members alongside facilitator Glenn Tecker of Tecker International, creates an envisioned future for the association, with clear goals and detailed objectives to help achieve those goals.

Four major benchmarks include reaching 18,000 members, increasing youth membership by 10%, achieving 175,000 total worldwide entries, and reaching nearly 2,000 professional members.

Additionally, NRHA will focus on four core values that will serve as cornerstones of the association: Leadership, Camaraderie, Integrity, and Respect.

A refined mission statement of “to promote the reining horse worldwide and advance the finest traditions of western horsemanship” will continue to serve as the backbone of the association.

“There is a renewed sense of energy when you have an incredible team who have all come together to tackle something like this strategic plan,” said Blake. “It’s incredible to see everyone ready to get to work.”

NRHA Commissioner Billy Smith highlighted the plan during his Annual General Membership address, stressing the importance of association alignment. “Nothing meaningful happens without a strategy that everyone can get behind. Hope is good, but it’s not a strategy,” stated Commissioner Smith.

The association alignment will allow the board to develop and accept committees’ specific priorities tied directly to the strategic plan. Committees will present recommendations to the board to achieve these priorities. “Our staff, committees, and board must all be pulling on the same rope, in the same direction,” added Smith.

Many of NRHA’s advisory committees reviewed and discussed the plan at length during last week’s Winter Meeting in Oklahoma City.

You can read more on the new strategic plan here.

NRHA Winter Meeting Concludes

The annual National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Winter Meeting concluded on February 6 following three days of productive meetings of the board, executive committee, Reining Horse Foundation Board of Directors, and various advisory committees.

After three consecutive years in Texas, the meeting relocated to Oklahoma City, a refreshing change that was well-received by those in attendance. For members unable to attend, links for various presentations have been conveniently provided in this article.

The general theme throughout the NRHA Winter Meeting was the overall current strength of the association while simultaneously looking to the future to build on the momentum.

The NRHA Board of Directors convened for two days of meetings, tackling typical business matters while also addressing new items.

Election procedures were updated to include slight changes in affiliate reallocations, which were unanimously approved. You can read more about the opportunities to run for a 2025 leadership position here.

An updated schedule for the 6666 NRHA Derby presented by Markel was approved, and it features a few member-friendly changes, which include moving the Para Reining Championship to take place following the NRHA Invitational Freestyle presented by OKC CVB as well as the addition of the Open Level 4 and Level 2 Maturity division to run concurrent with the second slate of Open ancillary classes on Monday, June 17.

Take a look at the full schedule here.

A recommendation from the NRHA Bylaw Committee was unanimously approved to add an additional Director-at-Large seat to the executive committee, which rounds out the group to seven. The NRHA Nominating/Governance Committee will meet to put forward a candidate to fill the position, which will help alleviate issues with filling leadership positions, specifically the role of Vice President, which has been difficult to find candidates for in recent years. Additionally, this will avoid having an even-numbered committee and bring the number of seats closer to the original eight that served on the Executive Committee prior to 2017.

The board of directors also approved a new code of ethics, elevating their leadership by holding themselves to a higher standard along the same lines expected of NRHA judges and stewards.

Chief Financial Officer John Foy delivered the association’s financial report, highlighting that the association is in its strongest financial position in history, that purse trajectory continues upward with the largest total purses awarded last year, that worldwide membership totals remain stable, and that NRHA’s media reach have grown exponentially. NRHA’s annual audit was completed without issue and has been available to the members on ReinerSuite since January. He emphasized to members that the reining industry is extremely strong and is experiencing continued growth through membership numbers and purses. You can review the full presentation here.

The Adequan® North American Affiliate Champions (NAAC) conditions were approved, with a small update from the last three years. Based on member feedback, to compete at an Affiliate Regional Championship (ARC), a rider must show proof of membership to an affiliate within the region they are qualifying in at the time of entering. Proof of affiliate membership is the responsibility of the exhibitor and will be verified by the show office. Riders who score higher than a zero at an ARC are qualified for the NAAC on that class, on that specific horse. Read more here.

In addition to the meetings, the well-attended Futurity Judges Review provided an opportunity for members to discuss the NRHA judges program and to look back at runs from the 2023 6666 NRHA Derby presented by Markel and NRHA Futurity alongside members of the teaching panel. The panel shared video from additional camera angles to demonstrate how maneuvers can be viewed and marked differently from different vantage points.

The panel also showcased HorseIQ, the online equine learning platform that can be utilized whether you are an exhibitor tuning up your skills or a judge who needs a refresher. Check out HorseIQ here.

The Annual General Membership Meeting (AGM) was especially poignant as it marked President Mark Blake’s last in his official role and Billy Smith’s first as NRHA Commissioner.

Blake highlighted 2023 and the records broken- including over $24 million awarded (up from $23 million in 2023), over 9,046 Non-Pro members, and a Nomination Program foal crop of 3,203, breaking the record set the year prior.

A full statistical overview of 2023 can be downloaded here.

Commissioner Smith spoke about the recently approved strategic plan and the importance of association alignment moving forward. He also stressed the need to focus on strategic plan-based decision-making and to celebrate the association’s storied history. The association will refocus energy through this discipline to produce more creativity, simplicity, forward-thinking, accountability, and data-driven decision-making.

Various NRHA Advisory Committees then met to round out the Winter Meeting to tackle current projects and look ahead at ways to implement the new strategic plan. A full highlight of this approved plan will be announced in coming days at news.nrha.com.

NRHA Introduces New Lawson Trophy

Riders will surely see many new faces at the 2023 National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Futurity and Adequan® North American Affiliate Championships. One of those will be in the form of bronze as NRHA introduces the newest edition of the coveted Lawson Trophy.

Mehl Lawson, the original creator of the Lawson Trophy, is a world-renowned artist and a horse trainer, making him the obvious choice to create a new version of his depiction of reining. Lawson worked with photos sent by NRHA to update the look of the Lawson Trophy to reflect the current reining horse aesthetic and celebrate the sport’s progress.

“Our brand really means a lot to our members,” NRHA Commissioner Gary Carpenter said. “They’re passionate about what we do. That passion is what puts the fuel in our tank and keeps us moving. It has built and improved our horses as well as their training and breeding. That passion runs everything we do. I hope this new trophy is one more piece of that passion and meaning.”

Although the first NRHA bronze was awarded in 1969, Mehl created his first bronze for the association in 1979 and made updates in 1982 and 2004. After months of work and collaboration, the anticipation is high for members to see the newest version in the flesh.

“I hope people will think, ‘Holy cow, why didn’t we do this sooner?’” NRHA President Mark Blake said. “You can’t buy one of these trophies. They’re museum quality, and earning one is an honor all on its own.”

To learn more about the updated Lawson Trophy, read the article in the November issue of the Reiner Magazine.

NRHA Futurity Judges Selected

As entries and added money are on the rise during summer horse shows and elite 3-year-old horses begin their futurity careers, the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) is eagerly looking ahead.

The NRHA Futurity Judges Final Selection Subcommittee met on August 2 to finalize the list of judges for the 2023 NRHA Futurity & Adequan® North American Affiliate Championships (NAAC). The subcommittee unanimously voted to accept the following judges and alternates.

The non pro team in the Coliseum will include Bob Kail, Van Luse, Terry Thompson, Patrick Wickenheiser, and Buddy Fisher. The open team in the Coliseum will include Bub Poplin, Maik Bartmann, Kelly Sapp, Cathy Luse, and Mark Turner. Coliseum alternates include Ryan Kail, Rick Lemay, and Enrico Righetti.

The equipment judge will be Greg Darnall, with Tom McBeath as an alternate.

The Adequan® arena judges will be Todd Arvidson, Mack Weaver, Ryan Kail, and Jan Hay, with Rick Weaver and Jan Dublin as alternates.

“I am so pleased with the selection of judges for the 2023 NRHA Futurity,” said NRHA Sr. Director of Education & Officials Patti Carter. “The judging process is crucial to ensuring fairness and accuracy in evaluating the performances of our great equine athletes and their riders. This is a top-shelf group of judges and monitors. Kudos to the judges committee for their commitment to excellence in judge selection.”

We look forward to a successful 2023 Futurity & Adequan® NAAC.

The selection process for judges at each major NRHA event begins several months before the first horse even enters the pen. Here is how they are chosen for the NRHA Futurity and NRHA Derby:

  • 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. Nominations are allowed on this conference call.
  • 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 for final selection.

This process is set in place to ensure that the Futurity and Derby will be well-judged competitions with the quality and professionalism of the selected judges.

For more information, visit NRHA.com/judges