Fines and Penalties

Learn more about fines and penalties for mistreatment and improper training.

The AQHA Executive Committee approved the following recommendations from the AQHA Animal Welfare Commission Fines and Penalties Subcommittee.  

Definition of Abuse: Any excessive and/or repetitive action to cause obvious distress or discomfort to a horse.

To view the complete rule regarding inhumane treatment, view the AQHA Handbook of Rules & Regulations

Structure for Fines and Penalties to Address Abuse and Unsportsmanlike Conduct:

AQHA Show Fines and Penalties Regarding Abuse and Unsportsmanlike Conduct
VIO204 & 220

Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

1st Offense

Warning - No Penalty

Steward issues white warning card

Name placed in database

Fine $500- $7,500

Suspension up to 36 months

Possible probation

Name placed in database


Fine up to $15,000
Suspension up to 60 months

Possible probation

Name placed in database


2nd Offense

Fine $500- $7,500

Suspension up to 36 months

Possible probation

Name placed in database

3rd Offense

More than 3 offenses in 120 days or more than 4 offenses in a 12-month period.

Fine up to $15,000

Suspension up to 60 months

Possible probation

Name placed in database

The AQHA Executive Committee has the ultimate authority to impose less or more severe penalties as compared to this chart as it deems necessary. This chart may be modified at any time by the Executive Committee.

Habitual offenders are subject to the severest fines and penalties above.

*The color in the box is the card they will receive: WHITE = First Warning; YELLOW = Warning Card; RED = Show Grounds Removal Card

AQHA Definition Regarding Fines and Penalties:
• Probation
    o  No privileges are denied, but any abuse during this period is considered at the next highest level, e.g. Level 1 considered at Level 2, 2nd offense considered as 3rd offense
• Suspend Competition Privileges
    o All rights and privileges associated with AQHA competitions are denied during period of citation
    o Presence on grounds of AQHA competitions is prohibited

Beginning at the 2012 AQHA World Championship Show in November, certain training equipment, in addition to that listed in the AQHA rulebook, will not be allowed at any AQHA shows.

List of Training Tack and Permitted/Non-Permitted uses:

• Curb Straps
    o Permitted Curb Strap 1
    o Permitted Curb Strap 2
    o Non-Permitted Curb Straps
    o Not permitted to ride without Curb Strap

• Draw Reins
    o Permitted Attachment
    o Non-Permitted Attachment

• Bosals
    o Non-Permitted Metal Bosals

• Chambon
    o Not Permitted

• Metal Cavesson & Tie-Downs
    o Not Permitted

• Bumper Bits
    o Not Permitted

• Slip (Gag) Bits*
    o Permitted Use 
        *(must be used with a 3/8-inch diameter rope or leather over the poll)

• German Martingale
    o Permitted Use

• Curb Bit used with a Running Martingale (must have rein stops)
    o Not Permitted: without rein stops

• Headstalls
    o Not Permitted: Headstalls with metal (no matter how wrapped or padded) or twisted rawhide over the poll.

View the AQHA Training Tack Brochure here.

AQHA Fines and Penalties Process:
• Substantiating Offenses:
    o Preferably by photograph or video
    o Signed statement from second party who witnessed the incident is preferred

• Reporting
    o All violations of Rule VIO204 must be reported by the steward or show management to AQHA’s Breed Integrity Department within 12 hours of the incident.
            - Report should include
                    • Exhibitor name and address
                    • Horses name and registration number
                    • Type and level of offense 
                    • Type of card given (Warning, Notification of Infraction, or Removal Notification).

            - Who is responsible for officially reporting?
                    • Stewards
                    • Judges
                    • Show Management
                    • Association of Professional Horsemen members
            - Citation cards
                    •  Stewards responsible for writing the card (all stewards at all times)
                    • 3 levels of cards
                            o Warning - White
                            o Notification of Infraction - Yellow
                            o Show Grounds Removal Notification – Red
                    • Name of offender
                    • Horse’s name and number will be added to the citation cards

• Recording
        o All warnings, notifications of infractions, or show grounds removal notifications will be entered in a database.
                - Trainer, exhibitor and owner’s name
                - Horse’s name and registration number
        o Entries will be made the day of the report.

• Notification
        o Letters will be generated and sent to all necessary parties by certified letter notifying them of the offense

• Database access
        o Stewards and show officials will access the database daily before the show to know about recent warnings, notifications of infractions, or show grounds removal notifications.

• There will be an appeal process for exhibitors.