Get Started Showing AQHA

Get Started Showing AQHA

AQHA shows allow even the experienced AQHA member to try something new, plus develop horsemanship and exhibitor skills.

horsemanship plain shirt red roan (Credit: Journal)

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Do you want to try a new event but aren’t ready to test the waters against the industry’s leading amateur and youth competitors? AQHA’s Level 1 classes are designed to help you and your horse grow in a new event at your pace. You can choose to exhibit your horse in one or more horse show classes that you are eligible for.

The Level 1 program is available to you in youth and amateur competition.

Buying a Horse?

The Level 1 program also allows you to try out a horse you are thinking about buying. 

  • AQHA rules allow a Level 1 youth or amateur competitor to show a horse in a Level 1 youth or amateur class with the owner and his or her immediate family still retaining the ability to show the horse in any class other than the same class as the Level 1 exhibitor. 
  • Level 1 youth and amateur exhibitors can also show a leased horse in a Level 1 class.
  • Level 1 exhibitors must still request a permit to show a horse that is owned by a non-family member at any of the top 10 AQHA circuit shows that allow permit competition. The top 10 shows are determined by the total number of entries the previous year and can change from year to year.

Who’s Level 1?

If you have never shown in an AQHA show, consider yourself Level 1. 

There are a few rules to follow to determine your eligibility as a Level 1 competitor. Level 1 points are awarded for an exhibitor’s lifetime points in that class. You cannot compete in the relevant Level 1 class if you match any of the following criteria:

  • Won a world or reserve world, national or reserve national championship title in any other equine breed organization or in an AQHA-approved event.
  • Won a total of $5,000 in cash and prizes with any equine breed organization.
  • Been an accredited horse show judge.
  • Earned more points than the class’ Level 1 point range allows. 

Tips For the Level 1 Competitor

  • Compete strategically. If a competitor with riding skills and ability begins with a less expensive horse, he should consider competing in individual pattern classes, which are judged on the rider’s ability and are a great place to start and be competitive.
  • Utilize your resources. The AQHA Professional Horsemen's Association is devoted to entry-level members. If you have questions or concerns, don’t be afraid to contact them.
  • Don’t be bashful. Ask questions of trainers at the shows. If you see a pattern posted and you don’t know how to do it, watch a trainer explain it to his client.
  • Set goals and continually raise your standards. An early goal could be to place at a regional show, and then win a class. The AQHA Regional Championships are great places to achieve those goals.
  • Keep your chin up. If you don’t win every time, don’t worry that you’re not ever going to beat great people. Learn from people who are great competitors. You can’t just go in there to try to beat them, and don’t think you’re just going in there to win.
  • Keep accepting criticism and learning. To become a successful competitor, you have to keep working and finding different things to work on every day.