NRHA 2020 Winter Meeting Recap

A gathering of NRHA members early in the year intended to set NRHA on a path to success in 2020 and beyond.

Article By Lindsay King; Photos by Leslie Baker

gathering of NRHA members at Cardinal Ranch
NRHA members from across the country—and even around the world—met in Denton, Texas, to focus on reining’s bright future and make plans for 2020 and beyond.

NRHA hosted its annual winter meeting in Denton, Texas, February 5–8, 2020, where committees met to discuss plans for 2020 and beyond.  

“The NRHA Board and the committees continue to produce good results for NRHA,” said NRHA President Mike Hancock. “Groundbreaking news about the added money for the 2020 NRHA Open and Non Pro Futurities along with the Adequan® North American Affiliate Championships was announced by a new task force. In addition, the judges’ ranking system was presented. This is a result of many years of hard work by several people. It’s amazing what can be accomplished when we all work together.”

Aged Events

The Aged Events Committee reviewed the 2021 rule change proposals and prepared its official feedback for the NRHA Board. The committee discussed the 2019 NRHA Futurity and NRHA Derby presented by Markel, evaluating improvements the management team will implement in 2020, which include, but are not limited to, cleaning up traffic in the Super Barn, managing dogs on the grounds, freestyle performance selection, drags during the go rounds, and the addition of a third steward at each major event. The committee also reviewed the schedules for both 2020 events, allowing the events management team time to improve the Futurity schedule in terms of fluidity. The group also covered the Novice Horse Derby conditions and payout structure, recommending the NRHA Board approve the addition of Novice Horse Open Level (L) 3 and Non Pro L3 to the 2020 NRHA Derby. They also supported allowing Prime Time Open to include L4 riders at both the NRHA Futurity and NRHA Derby presented by Markel. 

Tim Anderson and Mark Blake
Current Reining Horse Foundation President Tim Anderson presented past president Mark Blake with a plaque to commemorate Blake’s service to the charitable arm of NRHA.


The Eligibility Committee met in conjunction with the Non Pro Committee. They discussed, in detail, amateur conditions and recommended their proposed changes to the Executive Committee. The committee also considered the Run for a Million event, recommending the NRHA Board place the Million Dollar Invitational in a category they deem appropriate once they receive the official conditions. Last year, the Million Dollar Invitational class fell in the newly created Category 13.


Discussions in the Judges Committee meeting began with plans to develop educational videos about specific penalties and how they are assessed. These videos will be available on the NRHA website and social media platforms. The group discussed the official monthly schedule of shows from which the Judges Committee would review videos in conjunction with the chair judges for each event. This educational tool will allow judges to evaluate themselves and their scores against those of the committee. Additionally, a judges’ rating system will be tested this year. See the sidebar on page 48 for more information.


The Professionals Committee focused much of its discussion on the importance of the 2020 Code of Ethics and how to streamline communication among the committee, NRHA Professionals, and the affiliates. The committee also shared that professionals who are reported to have violated the code of ethics will be brought to the attention of a subcommittee, and the NRHA Executive Committee may approve that a violation letter be sent to them. This letter will then become part of their permanent file. The committee also made recommendations to the NRHA Board for which patterns to use at the 2020 NRHA Derby presented by Markel.

Angie Honeywell demonstrates ReinerSuite system for members
NRHA Senior Manager of ReinerSuite & Futurity Sales Angie Honeywell spent time with members to demonstrate the capabilities of the exciting new ReinerSuite technology.

Non Pro

The newly created amateur division and the 2020 Run for a Million were discussed during the Non Pro Committee meeting. The committee emphasized ways to bring more people to the sport of reining, including opportunities for youth to compete on horses not owned by themselves or their family. Programs like the Interscholastic Equestrian Association, Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, and the National Collegiate Equestrian Association were identified as potential areas for further outreach. The committee also reviewed current non pro conditions and if they should be adapted to allow professional English trainers to show as non pros, and if so, what levels would be appropriate. The committee also discussed the NRHA Non Pro Futurity Consolation structure in regard to the needs of the horses and exhibitors competing at the event.


Mike Hancock talks to NRHA members
The winter meeting represents a time for representatives from all aspects of the horse industry to come together and share ideas.

The Stewards Committee discussed developing Emergency Preparedness Guidelines to assist NRHA-approved events in avoiding equine disease outbreaks and responding in the event of a natural disaster. The group also considered increasing information and education provided to NRHA members about the steward’s program, including the scope of the work and ways stewards can → assist members. To help stewards expand their skills and knowledge, all NRHA stewards will be encouraged to take online courses in emergency procedures, Safe Sport, etc. The group also explored a plan to increase opportunities for international steward certification.


The Youth Committee focused its attention on NRHyA delegates. Primarily, the committee brainstormed ways to enhance the delegate experience and pique interest for more youth to get involved. The committee also discussed ways to entice youth to enter USA Reining and FEI Young Riders classes. The new structure of these classes makes them affordable for show management and participants. The committee also looked into changing the election process for NRHyA officers. 

NRHA board members at Cardinal Ranch
A group from the meeting took a “field trip” to Cardinal Ranch, an NRHA Corporate Partner owned by NRHA Board Member Joao Marcos de Arruda Pires.


Along with committee discussions, several other monumental changes were implemented during the 2020 winter meeting. Here’s a basic list of those items.

  • A task force increased the purse for the NRHA Futurity and Adequan® North American Affiliate Championship Show (NAAC) in the coming years. The group will also work to improve the format of the event itself.
  • NRHA will now require North American Affiliate Regional Championships (ARCs) to host the 10 & Under Short Stirrup class with awards provided by NRHA. More information on this topic will be available soon. 
  • The NRHA Board moved forward with establishing an Oceana Council for the Oceana Region, which currently consists of Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, and Japan. 

Judges’ Rating System

During the winter meeting, members learned about a new judges’ rating system that’ll be used on a trial basis during 2020. The rating system aims to serve as a guideline for show management in regard to hiring judges.

The proposed system will rate judges from high to low on a scale of AAA, AA, and A. The ratings will be generated from seven areas of criteria: years of judging, number of shows judged, number of major events judged, lifetime earnings (LTE), personal conduct, ability as a horseman, and performance at judging schools. 

“During my first year as chair of the NRHA Judges Committee, I asked everyone what their number one priority was, and they all agreed it was developing a rating system for judges,” said Mike McEntire, former Judges Committee chair and NRHA Professional. “There are several reasons we needed this rating system, but one of those is to give show committees a better idea of who they are hiring.” 

Many shows already have a preference for who they hire, but what if that pool of candidates was increased? Higher-ranking judges—AAA—are typically hired for such events as the NRBC or the NRHA Futurity. NRHA hopes the rating system will provide judges with more opportunities to work in the industry.  

Because 2020 is a trial period for the rating system, judges will be re-evaluated at the beginning of 2021. For a complete list of judges by rating, visit