Trainer Edward Allan Buck of the Sympathetic Riding Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah, has filed a lawsuit against the American Quarter Horse Association and seven current or former officers/agents of the organization: Peter J. Cofrancesco III, Gene Graves, Don Treadway, Alex Ross, John Dobbs, Johnny Trotter and George Phillips.
The plaintiff alleges that the defendants have violated anti-trust laws, preventing him from “earning a living schooling owners and riders of Quarter Horses for competitive venues sanctioned by the AQHA, Affiliates and Alliance partners through their ‘willful, intentional, knowing, malicious and unconscionable’ ‘exclusionary conduct, which is seen in the warm up arenas and the competitive arenas under their auspice.’
Buck contends in his complaint that he is “prohibited from the acquisition of clients for the schooling of Quarter Horses for competitions held under the auspice of the AQHA because the Plaintiff will not use the abusive techniques required, condoned and sanctioned by AQHA in the schooling of horses for competition. Said abusive schooling techniques are visually presented by the winning competitors in the warm up arenas and competition arenas under the auspice of AQHA. Trainers/riders who do not use such techniques and actually present horses as prescribed by the descriptions contained in the rules and regulations of AQHA do not win and are not even placed.”
Buck is seeking actual damages in the amount of $1,500,000 per named Defendant as individuals and as agents of the Defendant American Quarter Horse Association. In addition, he is asking for punitive damages in the amount of $1,500,000 per named Defendant as individuals and as agents of the Defendant American Quarter Horse Association.
Through his Sympathetic Riding Institute, Buck strives to “inspire rider, trainers, judges, and equine veterinarians to seek out the true health and welfare of the horses. To have an open dialogue with and continuing communication with the riders, trainers, judges, and equine veterinarians.” As noted on his website, his motto is “Supreme Performance Through Supreme Freedom.” It is this freedom that Buck says the AQHA is denying the horses and riders that participate in their events, and that he is fighting for.
This video, shot in the warm-up ring at the Reichert Celebration in 2011, inspired the only recent substantive change the AQHA rules, whereby draw reins are no longer permitted to be used with curb bits: