Texas Judge Upholds Antitrust Ruling Against AQHA

A Texas judge reaffirmed on May 16 his earlier decision that an American Quarter Horse Association rule restricting the number of registered foals produced through embryo transfer violates the state's antitrust law.

Negotiations between the AQHA and a coalition of horse breeders seeking to overturn the association rule have failed to produce a final settlement agreement, according to a report in the Amarillo Globe-News, so the case is headed to trial June 3 in Amarillo.

The suit against the AQHA was field in 2000 by cutting horse breeder Kay Floyd and a half dozen other breeders who believe the association should registered all foals resulting from embryo transfer rather than restricting it to one per year.

Embryo transfer is a procedure that allows multiple eggs to be collected from a mare, fertilized, then implanted into surrogate mares. The AQHA adopted the embryo transfer rule as a way for breeders to get more progeny out of older mares who were still ovulating but not healthy enough to carry a foal to term.

The restriction of one per year was set to be fair with other breeders who could not afford the expensive procedure, according to previous comments by AQHA legal counsel D. Barry Stone.

Floyd, however, has said that the rule is not being enforced equally and, as a result, is a violation of antitrust law.

"People are now beginning to realize there are different rules for different people," Floyd said. "I've been told I would have been better off if I'd tried to cheat, but I wasn't raised that way. I'm just in this out of fairness."

On Jan. 19, District Court Judge Pat Pirtle agreed with Floyd and her fellow plaintiffs and ruled that the AQHA breeding rules violated free trade in Texas. He later reconsidered the ruling to review case law. On May 16, he sent a letter to attorneys stating he will stick by his earlier pre-trial decision, according to the Globe-News.

Stone could not be reached for comment.

If the breeders' prevail, it could cause a wholesale change in the registration rules of all breed organizations. The Jockey Club's rule banning artificial insemination has been challenged this year and may also end up in a New York court as an antitrust case.