Unpopular Opinions: AQHA Lip Chain Ban

Today I joined the AQHA. I did not join the AQHA because of their stand against lip chains that was made public last week. I joined the AQHA in order to (FINALLY) transfer Paige into my name. The new rule banning lip chains did not deter me from joining the AQHA at all.

A Soft Spot for Stars- Unpopular Opinions: AQHA Lip Chain Ban

Paige and her derpy ear.

I have a LOT of friends who show halter, so my newsfeed on Facebook was how I discovered the AQHA rule change about lip chains. Most of my friends don’t even show AQHA, but since the ApHC tends to mimic the AQHA on a lot of changes, they are probably worried. The friends who show AQHA are more than worried, they are angry. This is a device that they have used for years to “safely” control their horse. There is a petition to have the AQHA rescind the ban on lip chains that has almost received the requested 1500 signatures. I don’t think that the petition will change the ruling, but we will see.

It isn’t a huge surprise that so many are incensed at this ban. Trainers who house and fit on halter horses for amateurs will now have to find a different way to convince a 1500 pound animal to respect the human swinging on the end of it’s lead strap. The real question is though, should these people be owning and showing a horse that they do not feel comfortable leading in the show pen without such a device to restrain their horse? Personally, I think no. I am aware that this is very likely an unpopular opinion. Many of these people note that they can handle their horses just fine at home without a lip chain, but that they like one for safety reasons in the show pen. If I do not feel safe with my horse in a show environment, I do not show. That is just the beginning and end of it for me. I do not own horses explicitly to show them. Yes, I do enjoy the occasional show, and winning if that happens, but do I want to restrain my horse in such a way that our partnership becomes more of a situation where he feels trapped? No.

A Soft Spot for Stars- Unpopular Opinions: AQHA Lip Chain Ban

My wild QH at a show.

Many people are saying that lip chains do not cause pain for the horse, that it merely releases endorphins. Of course, having never worn a lip chain, I can’t vouch for whether or not this is true. I understand the logic of a twitch and how that doesn’t cause pain, but twitches are rarely applied to skin that is as sensitive as the skin of the gums. The name “lip” chain itself is a misnomer. The chain isn’t applied to the lip, but under it on the delicate skin above the horse’s teeth. I may be over-sympathizing for the horse on the sensitivity of it’s gums, but I’d much rather assume something is sensitive and only use it in extreme circumstances than assume it is something to be used frequently when it is possibly causing discomfort.

Many people have also made another good point, that the Quarter Horse is known for being a laid back, less high strung horse, so why must we use a lip chain to control our gentle horses? (MANY opinions here!) Many people who are making the argument for the lip chain are saying that they are handicapped and by showing their horse with a lip chain, they are able to participate. WHY are youth and handicapped people leading horses who are known to need such a device? Every horse that I’ve held who has worn a lip chain wore it for a reason. Either they were stallions (this the only justifiable reason for a horse to show with a lip chain in my opinion), they were prone to the crazies (you know, flipping over, dragging their owner through the arena, etc.), or, my personal favorite, they could potentially be prone to the crazies should something big and scary happen in the ring (generally another horse getting the crazies and flipping over). So we are anticipating bad behavior from some horses based on the fact that they are unpredictable. What do you know, animals are unpredictable. Copper could see something scary (lately our favorite scary thing is birds flying through the barn) and have an “oh crap” moment and try to abort the mission of carrying me around. Does that mean I’m going to tack him to the gills so that I have some sort of emergency brake to pull when he is scared? No, that is where his training comes in. If I eat dirt before he remembers that birds aren’t scary and that he shouldn’t be crazy Copper, that is just how owning/riding/showing horses is. You fall, you eat dirt, you may cry a little, you will likely be sore for days, but that is horses. It is a sport, not a beauty pageant. There are risks involved.

A Soft Spot for Stars- Unpopular Opinions: AQHA Lip Chain Ban

Paige and I at a show last year…before she jumped into a lope of her own accord, being an unpredictable horse and all.

So why are people who are handicapped leading stallions? Why are children leading horses who have been known to spontaneously explode due to the presence of external stimuli? Why did these people choose to show quarter horses in a way that makes them less laid back and reliable than they were originally intended?

I personally only think lip chains are acceptable for stallions two years old and older in the proper hands. If you are uncomfortable going into the horse’s stall and haltering/putting his lip chain on, you probably aren’t the person to lead the horse with the lip chain. The only reason I’d find it acceptable for stallions is because stallions occasionally forget themselves in the heat of the moment (even if that moment only exists in their brain…) and are thus more likely to hurt themselves and others. Of course, if I were showing a stallion who was prone to forget himself at shows, I would stop showing him. What is fun about worrying about that all weekend, and what is the point of showing horses if it isn’t fun?

What do you think about the lip chain ban?

6 thoughts on “Unpopular Opinions: AQHA Lip Chain Ban

  1. I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I’m scared what the halter ring will look like without lip chains. The most dangerous horses I’ve ever been around at open shows were stock breed show halter horses coming to the schooling stuff for points. Rearing, running over their handler, striking out… etc. Of course I’m sure that’s not everyone, but the halter world sure could use some improvements.

    • I agree that the halter world is a scary place without lip chains, but I feel that other methods need to be used to change the halter world, not just put a lip chain on it. I’ve seen horses wearing lip chains do the stupid dance too. I’d like to see horses with brains in halter that are handled by people with brains (and a respect for their horse). I’m expecting too much I’m sure. 😉

  2. Just some food for thought, but in the Hunter/Jumper world, most youth are not allowed to show stallions. While I don’t think that AQHA should adopt this, it does bring up the question of safety, especially for youth exhibitors who show young stallions.

  3. Thanks for a thoughtful reasonable look at an issue that so many people try to emotionalize.

    I agree with all of your points, especially your concern about people choosing to show horses they are not confident they can control. Learning and horsemanship come first–then the show! If the problem lies with the horse, and better training and management fail to turn him into a safe show partner, then he probably does not belong in the show pen.

    In a class that was originally designed to aid selection of the best breeding stock, an unmanageable horse has no place–disposition and trainability are ALWAYS priorities when dealing with 1200-pound animals!

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