In recent years, the planet has been in a state of upheaval and change. COVID-19 had a staggering impact. Some marginal businesses thrived and grew. Other long successful companies couldn’t survive and people lost jobs as well as lifelong enterprises.
For the equine industry, facing a pandemic was especially challenging. In early 2020, the National Reining Horse Association Board and Executive Committee scrambled along with the rest of the horse world to make correct decisions – to plan, predict, and survive. Now, with two years of history, the state of the reining industry shows very positive statistics according to the data released during the NRHA Winter Meetings, held Feb. 13-16 in Denton, Texas.
Thankfully, along with the pandemic, the reining industry and the entire western performance industry has enjoyed the unprecedented publicity created by Taylor Sheridan. “The impact on the reining world, through Yellowstone and The Last Cowboy, along with The Run For The Million, can’t be calculated. It’s been incredible for our industry,” said NRHA President Rick Clark. He continued, “These are exciting times and overall, the Association is thriving.”
Money won at NRHA events worldwide hit an all-time high in 2021 at $19,157,953, as did added money at $12,621,353. Total annual entries, at 112,929, were also the highest ever.
The number of shows recovered last year, as well, after a drop of more than 50 percent in the number of events in 2020 at the peak of the COVID restraints.
As far as entries, both ends of the spectrum, from entry level Ride & Slide classes to aged events, set records in 2021. With the all-time high of 10,465 entries in entry level classes to the record-breaking 28,959 entries in Aged Events – Categories 2 and 6, the growth was overwhelmingly positive. The number of unique horses shown, 10,211, was also the highest in the past five years.
Membership numbers tend to correlate to the amount of people showing, so it was not surprising that NRHA membership numbers fell off in 2020 when there were fewer events to attend. But the indomitable spirit of reiners showed in the 10+ percent upwards recovery in 2021. The number of NRHA professionals was at the highest in ever, at 1,833, and Non Pro numbers were the highest in the last three years, with 8,841 Non Pro members.
At the NRHA produced shows, the news was overwhelmingly positive in 2021. The 6666 NRHA Derby presented by Markel was a record-breaker in number of entries, number of stalls, added money, and payout. The Four Sixes Ranch was joined by Yellowstone and Bosque Ranch in naming the event and along with Markel, the Story Book Stables Amateur Derby, the Tamarack Ranch Open 4-Year-Old Stakes, the GlycoGuard Novice Horse Derby, and the Colston Paving Inc. Non Pro 4-Year-Old Stakes headlined the variety of opportunities for reiners.
The 2021 NRHA Futurity paid a record $350,000 to L4 Champion Casey Deary on Ten Thirty, thanks to the efforts of the Futurity Challenge Sponsors and increased commitment from the Association. The show also boasted a 16 percent increase in total entries and paid out a record $2,668,910 – more than $400,000 above the previous year
The NRHA Markel Futurity Sales were once again held on Thursday of Futurity week for an all-in-one-day sale spectacular. The event boasted the second-highest net income in history with $4.9 million in horses sold.
Another key function that takes place during the Futurity, the Reining Horse Foundation Sliders’ Night Out presented by Toyon Ranch, set attendance and fundraising records. The charitable arm of the NRHA announced major scholarship expansion through 2024. In addition, it was announced that 2021 show entry donations totaled $26,000 and Professionals’ donations increased 22 percent over the program’s first year.
Support for NRHA continued to grow as the year went on and over the past four months eight new Corporate Partners have come on board: Foals R Us, Enjoy LLC, Cinder Lakes Stallion Station, Oswood Stallion Station, Tenda, White River Ag Products, Teton Ridge and Priefert.
Another set of statistics indicates that people are planning ahead for the horse business of the future. NRHA Foal Nominations reflect upward growth with North American nominations, at 2,675, the highest in three years, and European nominations at 1,339, the second-highest in five years.
Competition licenses surged to a new 5-year high, with 4,656 new horses licensed.
NRHA Chief Executive Officer John Foy summarized, “In March of 2020 the NRHA Finance Committee, Executive Committee, and Board of Directors reacted swiftly and decisively to implement a pandemic response plan. This was successfully executed by NRHA Staff and with the help of NRHA independent contractors and service providers. Oklahoma State Fair, Inc. has been a loyal partner throughout, as have NRHA’s Partners and Sponsors who supported the association during this time. As a result, the NRHA and the reining industry have thrived together, leveraging NRHA’s most strategic assets and strengthening NRHA events and programs. The NRHA today has no debt and is stronger than it was prior to the pandemic. We are excited to see what the future holds.”