A long-time non-pro reiner suspended by the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) has filed a lawsuit seeking reinstatement of her membership and return of her non-pro status.
Shannon Rafacz, of Citra, Florida, sued the NRHA for breach of contract, saying the process used by the association to impose the sanctions was unfair and violated her rights. The civil lawsuit, filed Sept. 19 in District Court in Oklahoma County, seeks return of her non-pro status, nullification of her suspension and more than $75,000.
The NRHA has not responded in court to the accusations, but acknowledged in a statement on its website that it had received the lawsuit. An NRHA spokeswoman said the association had no comment on pending litigation.
According to court documents, Rafacz was disciplined on May 4 for a complaint lodged by Eloise Holbrook in late December alleging Rafacz violated conditions of her non-pro membership.
The NRHA Hearing Body in May found Rafacz had violated her membership status by giving instructions to Ashlin Holbrook at an NRHA-approved show, and Rafacz had received remuneration for those actions through the training facility she and her husband, trainer Mark Rafacz, own in Florida. It also accused her of unsportsmanlike conduct for using vulgar or offensive language at a show.
Rafacz was suspended for one year beginning Aug. 17. Her non-pro eligibility was revoked the same day.
She appealed, but was denied.
Rafacz, a former member of the NRHA Board of Directors, disputes the accusations and said in court documents that the NRHA’s process was unfair, because it violated her rights to due process and didn’t allow her to confront her accuser. Additionally, she said the NRHA did not turn over details of the charges, or evidence, to her attorney until the morning of the hearing.
She also challenged the notion she received any direct or indirect benefit for instruction or training because of her marriage.
“The NRHA has more than thirty  husband-wife members with at least one of them acting as a professional instructor or trainer, and no spouse has ever been found to violate NRHA rules simply by virtue of their marriage,” the lawsuit stated.
Currently secretary of the Florida Reining Horse Association, Rafacz has an Equi-Stat record of $556,449 and ranks among the NRHA’s top 20 non-pro riders.