AQHA executive committee modifies rule SHW355

The American Quarter Horse Association, December 9, 2015 – At its April 2015 meeting, the American Quarter Horse Association Executive Committee barred the use of lip chains in show horses beginning January 1, 2016. Since then, the AQHA Executive Committee has worked with AQHA members, along with the leaders of AQHA alliance partner the World Conformation Horse Association and continued to review potential options and alternatives to the banning of lip chains in amateur and open halter stallion classes for yearlings and older.

“The Association and the AQHA Executive Committee take a firm stand on animal welfare for the protection of the horse and for the future of the breed, along with keeping the safety of exhibitors a major priority,” said Dr. Glenn Blodgett, AQHA president. “Keeping this in mind, and after hearing concerns voiced by AQHA members, we met with the leaders of WCHA and various members of the halter industry numerous times since April. Through these meetings we were able to have a very constructive dialogue concerning solutions that ensure the safety of both horse and exhibitor.”

During the meetings, several leading halter industry individuals and WCHA leadership presented a humane alternative to the lip chain, a lip cord. After taking comments and findings into consideration, the AQHA Executive Committee approved the use of a lip cord in amateur and open halter classes for stallions, ages 1-year-old and older only, effective January 1, 2016.

The American Quarter Horse was bred and developed to have a kind and willing disposition, well-balanced conformation and agile speed. There are, however, well-known and understood behavioral differences with stallions as compared to mares and geldings and these differences were an important consideration for the AQHA Executive Committee in reaching its decision to allow the lip cord in amateur and open halter stallion classes for yearlings and older.

The revised rule, effective January 1, 2016, states:

SHW 355. Halter Equipment

SHW355.1 For purposes of this rule, the term “allowed lip cord” shall only mean:

SHW355.1.1 a round smooth soft/flexible nonabrasive cotton polyblend cord with a dense core that has an unsecured keeper with at least 3/4 inches of the cord outside of the halter before attachment of keeper or leather part of lead shank;

SHW355.1.2 is applied only over gum and not through mouth;

SHW355.1.3 with respect to the cord applied over the gum, is made up of cord having a diameter of at least 3/8 inches; cord applied over gum may not contain internal or external metal.

SHW355.1.4 no foreign substances or additional materials may be added to the lip cord

SHW355.2 Stallions 1 year of age and older may be shown with an allowed lip cord in open and amateur divisions; lip chains of any type are prohibited; all other types of lip cords that do not meet the definition of an allowed lip cord are prohibited.

SHW355.3 The following horses may not be shown with an allowed lip cord;

SHW355.3.1 weanlings;

SHW355.3.2 mares of any age;

SHW355.3.3 geldings of any age;

SHW355.3.4 any horse shown in a performance halter class; and

SHW355.3.5 any horse shown in a ranch horse conformation class.

SHW355.4 Applying excessive pressure on or excessive jerking of an allowed lip cord is prohibited.

AQHA tested the newly approved lip cord at the 2015 Lucas Oil AQHA World Championship Show. The lip cord was observed by a veterinarian, who is a member of the Animal Welfare Commission, and other professionals who felt the device’s effect on a horse is a humane alternative to the lip chain. The lip cord tested and observed at the 2015 Lucas Oil World was manufactured by The Round Pen. The Round Pen, located in Wimauma, Florida, can be contacted at 813-634-2975.

So long as a lip cord strictly meets the specifications in AQHA SHW355, lip cords produced by other manufacturers shall be acceptable in amateur and open halter classes for stallions, ages 1-year-old and older. Photos of the approved lip cord will be available soon at

“The AQHA Executive Committee leadership is very proud of this collaborative innovation, which we feel is a solution in protecting our horse and our people,” said Dr. Blodgett. “We thank WCHA for their efforts in helping with this solution.”

As 2016 progresses, the Association and AQHA Executive Committee will continue to evaluate and monitor the appropriate use of the lip cord to ensure its use and the rule change remain a positive change for the halter industry.

To view the 2016 AQHA official Handbook of Rules and Regulations, visit