A leading cutting horse breeder and owner suspended by the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) for alleged horse abuse has filed a lawsuit to overturn the sanctions.
Tommy Manion, of Aubrey, Texas, filed a civil petition in Tarrant County District Court claiming the NCHA committed breach of contract and also violated Texas law, his rights to due process and its own rules when it suspended him for two years and fined him $15,000 for violations of its Zero Tolerance Policy.
The petition filed Monday in Fort Worth, Texas, seeks to have the NCHA’s disciplinary action voided and more than $1 million in monetary relief. Manion, breeder of horses with $6 million in earnings, also asked for a judge to issue a temporary injunction blocking the NCHA from enforcing the action while the civil case is pending.
The NCHA, in a court filing responding to Manion’s request to temporarily block the sanctions, argued it was within its rights to suspend Manion or any other member for rule violations.
The dispute arose from a July 15 incident involving Manion and one of his horses, Smooth Maximus, at an NCHA-sanctioned cutting in Whitesboro, Texas. Manion has admitted to shooting the stallion with a BB gun, but said in his lawsuit his actions did not cause harm to Smooth Maximus and were designed to calm down a stallion that was “aggressive and anti-social.” Specifically, the full brother to Equi-Stat Elite $21 Million Sire Smooth As A Cat was allegedly kicking at people and horses, trying to bite people and horses, pawing and rearing up, attempting to charge other horses and savagely biting at people, according to his lawsuit.
Manion, who says in court documents the stallion could not be safely approached, retrieved a BB gun from his truck, positioned himself where the stallion couldn’t see him and then shot the stallion when it acted aggressive. He maintains those actions were reasonable and effective.
“As he testified at the Appeals Committee hearing, Mr. Manion’s hope was that the mild discomfort caused by a BB would calm the stallion down,” the petition stated. “His decision proved to be exactly right.”
After receiving a complaint about the incident, the NCHA Grievance Committee in August found Manion committed horse abuse in violation of the association’s Zero Tolerance Policy, which prohibits causing trauma or injury to horses. It issued the suspension, fine, as well as a five-year probationary period to be served after the suspension. Members of the organization’s Appeals Committee upheld the decision on Sept. 6 after what Manion’s lawsuit says was a five-hour meeting.
On Monday, the NCHA asked the court not to grant Manion’s temporary restraining injunction on grounds judges have determined in past cases that voluntary organizations like the NCHA have the authority to enforce their own rules. The NCHA also contended Manion agreed to be bound by the association’s rules and regulations, which includes suspension for infractions.
Members under suspension cannot compete in NCHA events or enter horses they own — fully or in part — in NCHA events. The association’s rules also prohibit suspended members from helping other competitors in the show ring. They may attend NCHA events only as spectators.
“At various times during the course of these proceedings, [Manion] again agreed to be bound by the decision of the NCHA panels,” the NCHA filing said. “The NCHA has taken disciplinary action against [Manion] pursuant to and in accordance with those rules.”
The NCHA’s attorney, Albon Head Jr., said he couldn’t comment on the case.
“Because we are in litigation, we have no comment at this time,” he said.