Reining supreme

An equine trainer for 45 years, Randy Schaffhauser specializes in cattle-working horses and reining horses at his stables in Paragould, Ark. His profession takes him to competitions all over the country, often with horses in tow. That’s why when MFA launched EasyKeeper HDC last year, Schaff­hauser was one of the first people to try it.

“They say 90% of performance horses either have ulcers or are subject to them,” Schaffhauser said. “I pretty much know the symptoms for horses. It can cost close to $1,000 to treat an ulcer, and our horses won’t perform well until it’s fixed, so we use HDC to keep our horses level and prevent the ulcer beforehand.”

Easykeeper HDC, which stands for horse digestive care, contains sodi­um bicarbonate to neutralize the stomach acid, much like an antacid for humans. Stephen Daume, MFA livestock specialist, explains that perfor­mance horses are especially prone to stomach ulcers because of the way the chambers of a horse’s stomach are constructed. Acid from the lower cham­ber can enter the upper chamber while performing. Stress of travel can also be a contributing factor.

“When HDC first became available, we took some out to Randy,” Daume said. “We knew he did a lot of hauling. He tried it and liked it and as an added benefit, it’s actually saving them a little bit of money over what they were feeding previously.”

Schaffhauser’s discipline of choice, reining, is a physically demanding event for the horses. In this style of western riding, the rider must skillfully maneuver the horse through a difficult pattern and is judged for precision and technique.

“One of the biggest challenges is keep­ing the horse relaxed and sound all the way through to the end,” he added. “We run fast and say ‘whoa,’ and the horse will slide 30 feet. It can be hard on them. We have to have a good vet and a good feed program.”

Reining is a unique sport because the trainer and rider compete as one. Schaff­hauser began learning to train horses for this and other competitive equine events in his youth. He credits his stepfather with some of his early learning.

“He was pretty good at showing me how to train our personal horses,” Schaff­hauser said. “But we weren’t trainers. We were farmers and ranchers, and we showed horses. As a high-schooler, it was my job to break the horses we raised and get them ready to show. My life led in that direction instead of farming.”

Later, Schaffhauser would go on to work with horses for another trainer who imparted more informal lessons.

“I’d start them, and he would kind of guide me through how he wanted his horses when they came to him,” Schaffhauser said. “But I was always on my own. I’d just learn by the seat of my pants, so to speak, from watching other trainers and studying them.”

While in college at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Schaffhauser began competing in rodeos. After college, he farmed and trained horses on the side. In 2000, he moved back to Jones­boro and started training and showing horses full time.

“As I progressed through the horse business, I started to figure out what it takes to win and the quality of horse it takes to win,” he said.

And win he did. Schaffhauser holds a few world titles in reining events in both the American Quarter Horse Associa­tion and the American Paint Horse Association.

Competing is part of his business and has its rewards, both in prestige and monetarily, Schaffhauser said. Howev­er, he also works with customers back home at his stables to train their horses and teach them to ride and compete as well. Currently, he has 20-25 horses in training that all range in value from $25,000 to $75,000.

“I love to train the horse and make it into something,” he said. “It’s kind of like farming—you plant the seed and then make the crop. You see progress daily as you spend time with a horse. Working with the horse and the customer is the most rewarding part.”

Schaffhauser is also a member of the National Reining Horse Association, which holds more than 1,200 reining events around the world. He and his customers travel to many shows throughout the year. The largest show, the NRHA Futurity held annually in Oklahoma City, gives out nearly $2.3 million in prize winnings. Approximately 125,000 spectators from more than 20 countries attend, and there are events for all levels of competitive riders.

“The shows we go to pay well,” Schaffhauser said. “The classes have a lot of added money, so those monetary returns are what allow us to survive and make our customers want to spend money to buy a nice horse. The hope is we have a good horse and can ride it and win money because that’s what keeps us thriving.”

Schaffhauser’s career earnings total over $250,000 in reining and cow horse events with multiple top 10 NRHA finishes. He’s been a finalist in every NRHA major event with horses he’s either raised or trained for customers.

Today, Schaffhauser feeds his horses a modified high-fat blend of MFA EasyKeeper in addition to the EasyKeeper HDC, which he uses for preventative care. His feed is deliv­ered by his local MFA Agri Services Midsouth in Mounds, Ark., which he noted as an added convenience.

“It’s a strenuous sport,” he said. “Our customers like their horses to look plump and pretty, but they use a lot of energy training and performing. On normal feeds, which usually contain something like 12% protein and 3% fat, they won’t stay that way when you ride them for performance. The high-fat feed keeps the energy levels good and keeps the horses looking good, too.”

People have noticed. Schaffhauser said he gets comments on his horse’s appearance all the time.

“I think the word spread around,” he said. “I don’t know too many people in our community around here who aren’t feeding what we’re feeding.”

For more information on EasyKeeper or EasyKeeper HDC, contact your MFA or AGChoice location or visit online at

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