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Equestrians with Disabilities

AQHA's guidelines, rules and eligibility for showing.

Chisholm Challenge 2012The Equestrians with Disabilities AQHA-approved competition is open to people with physical or cognitive disabilities and love competing with the American Quarter Horse. AQHA teams with Alliance Partner Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International to provide these opportunities. 

Participate

To compete in AQHA-approved Equestrians with Disabilities competitions, three forms must first be completed. The three forms – AQHA membership, special diagnosis and special adaptive equipment – have been packaged for your convenience.

Download the AQHA membership application for Equestrians with Disabilities.

Competition

AQHA and AQHYA members have a type of competition that offers people with certain cognitive and physical challenges the thrill of showing an American Quarter Horse. It provides an arena for everyone to enjoy the rewards of hard work, determination and perseverance. This program allows you to show in eight classes and earn points for year-end, high-point awards, along with the satisfaction of a job well done.

The eight classes are showmanship at halter, walk and trot hunt seat equitation on the flat, walk trot and canter hunt seat equitation, walk and jog western horsemanship, walk jog and lope western horsemanship, walk and jog trail horse, advanced showmanship and advanced trail. Each entry must have a handler to help with the safety of the rider. Judging criteria consists of rider's balance, rider's seat, use of aids, ability to follow directions, ring etiquette, safety and sportsmanlike conduct.

Visit www.aqha.com/showschedule to find upcoming AQHA-approved Equestrians with Disabilities competitions.

The Equestrians with Disabilities competition is the result of several years of letters, calls, meetings and task forces to develop a program to meet the needs of competitors. Representatives from PATH, Special Olympics and therapeutic riding centers, along with several individuals, provided input and guidance to create the classes, rules and guidelines. This competition is just like any other AQHA show event, with exhibitors earning awards and recognition, all while enjoying their American Quarter Horse.

Rules

  • Each exhibitor must have a current individual membership in American Quarter Horse Association or American Quarter Horse Youth Association.
  • Participants must be eight years of age or over to compete.
  • Walk, trot/jog classes are open to exhibitors who have never been judged in a class at a recognized or non-recognized show that requires a lope or canter in which a rider performed the lope or canter. Academy classes are considered non-recognized shows. Riders that choose to ride the walk, trot/jog, canter/lope classes are no longer eligible for EWD wal, trot/jog classes.
  • Riders or their families do not have to own the horse. However, only horses registered with AQHA as specified in Rules REG102 and SHW767.1 of the Handbook are eligible to compete in approved shows. The exhibitor must present the registration certificate or photocopy as required by show management. Only geldings or mares may be shown - stallions are not allowed.
  • An exhibitor may show more than one horse in individually worked classes as outlined in the rulebook however, a horse cannot be shown by more than one exhibitor in the same class.
  • Eligible conditions include: amputation, anthrogryposis, Asperger’s syndrome, autism, Batten’s disease, cebvrovascular accident (stroke), cerebella ataxia, cerebral palsy, Coffin Lowry syndrome, cystic fibrosis, Down syndrome, dwarfism, fragile X syndrome, Freidrick’s ataxia, Guillan Barre syndrome, hearing impairment, Hunter’s syndrome, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, mental retardation, microcephaly, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, post polio syndrome, Prader Willie syndrome, Rhett syndrome, spina bifida, spinal cord injury, Touretts syndrome, traumatic brain injury, trisomy abnormalities and visual impairments.
  • Handlers are required for all independent exhibitor classes; one handler per entry to facilitate the safety of the exhibitor. The handler must be sixteen years of age or older. A halter must be on the horse either over or under the bridle for use by the handler if needed. The handler must have a suitable lead line in hand in case of need. The lead line may not be fastened to the bit. Handlers shall stand quietly as a group in a designated area of the ring unless their assistance is required and requested by the judge or ring steward.

Tack, Equipment and Attire

Equipment should conform to the needs of the competitor and be suitable for the horse.

  • Special adaptive equipment may be used where appropriate. Acceptable adaptive equipment includes: audio communications, bareback pads, boot adaptations, dowel reins, hand holds (flexible and/or rigid), helmets, laces to tie stirrups or leathers to girth or cinch, ladder reins, loop reins, rein handles, rein handle tethers, rubber bands, saddle blocks, wedges, cushions, safety stirrups, seat savers, surcingles, whips (one or two). Other equipment will be considered upon request.
  • English classes - riders must wear a properly fitted and fastened ASTM® approved protective helmet with harness. No equipment is allowed that would in any way affix the rider to the horse or saddle with the exception of light rubber bands. Safety stirrups (Peacock, S-shaped irons or Devonshire) are required if rider is unable to wear boots with a heel. Peacock irons are recommended in all cases. Proper English attire is required as set forth in the AQHA Official Handbook of Rules and Regulations.
  • Western classes - riders must wear a properly fitted and fastened ASTM® approved protective helmet with harness. A Western hat may be affixed over the helmet. No equipment is allowed that would in any way affix the rider to the horse or saddle with the exception of light rubber bands. Safety stirrups (covered or other approved safety stirrups) are required if rider is unable to wear boots with a heel. Proper Western attire is required as set forth in the AQHA Official Handbook of Rules and Regulations.
  • Bits or bosal. A snaffle bit, curb bit or bosal/hackamore may be used no matter the age of the horse. Exhibitors are allowed to ride with one or two hands without penalty.

Find a Competition

AQHA’s online show calendar is a great resource to find upcoming AQHA shows. Here’s how to use it:

  • Visit www.aqha.com/showschedule.
  • Choose a month. 
  • Search by state, province or country for upcoming shows. 
  • Shows will be listed by location and broken down into the following categories: Equestrians with Disabilities, regular, split/combined, double judged/double points, special events, all-Novice, alliance events, Versatility Ranch Horse, AQHA regional championships and dressage.
  • Introductory shows will be denoted on the show schedule.

Walk, Trot and Canter Hunt Seat Equitation on the Flat

This English class is designed for exhibitors to work in groups of ten or less. Riders will compete on the rail at a walk, trot and canter both ways of the ring, line up and complete an individual workout. Riders will remain in the ring throughout the individual workouts. Horses will be shown at three gates - walk, trot and canter. Walk forward from lineup to being at marker one (A). Walk to marker two (B). Stop. Turn 90 degrees left. Canter right lead to marker three (C). Drop to posting trot right diagonal to marker four (D). At (D), canter left lead to (C). At (C), drop to a sitting trot. Trot past (B). Stop. Turn 270 degrees to the left on the haunches. Extend trot to (D), left diagonal. Stop. Back four steps. Walk and return along rail to place in lineup. Judges are not permitted to alter the mandatory workout in any manner.

Markers and Handlers

Markers must be used and may be numbered. Handlers must stand with their riders in the lineup. Handler may only help at judge’s or ring steward’s direction. People must not be used as markers no matter if they are safety standby spotters. A competitor with a hearing impairment may have an assistant who communicates via sign language or cue cards to the competitor so they may understand the judge’s directives. This assistant will be outside of the ring and their position must be known to the judge and ring steward.

Walk and Jog Western Horsemanship

All exhibitors must work in groups of eight or less. Riders compete on the rail at a walk and jog both ways of the ring, line up and complete an individual workout. Riders will remain in the ring throughout the individual workouts. Horses will be shown at two gaits - walk and jog. Exhibitors will be asked to walk from place in line around first marker to second marker, then take up a jog and continue around third marker back to second marker. Finally, riders will be asked to stop and back four steps, then walk back and line up. Judges are not permitted to alter the mandatory workout in any manner.

Markers and Handlers

Markers must be used and may be numbered. Handlers must stand with their riders in the lineup. Handler may only help at judge’s or ring steward’s direction. People must not be used as markers no matter if they are safety standby spotters. A competitor with a hearing impairment may have an assistant who communicates via sign language or cue cards to the competitor so they may understand the judge’s directives. This assistant will be outside of the ring and their position must be known to the judge and ring steward.

Scoring 

Exhibitors are to be scored from 0-20 in 1/2 point increments. Ten points should be allocated toward overall appearance of exhibitor and the horse, and 10 points allocated toward performance of the pattern.