Showing Glossary

Showing Glossary

Ready to dive into the exciting world of horse showing? Here are some important terms you need to know.

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Age of a Horse 

Shall be computed on the basis of January 1st of a calendar year. The South American countries of Argentina and Brazil shall be computed on July 1 for show and race purposes.


To be eligible for all-around honors, a horse in the Open division, Amateur in the Amateur division, or Youth in the Youth division must compete in at least three AQHA approved events in one division-Open, Amateur or Youth-in three or more categories. For specific requirements regarding this award please refer to AQHA's Official Handbook.


An exhibitor who has not shown, judged, trained or assisted in training a horse (whether or not a registered American Quarter Horse) for remuneration, monetary or otherwise, either directly or indirectly, nor received remuneration for instructing another person in riding, driving, training or showing a horse for five calendar years previous to application for Amateur membership. Amateurs must exhibit a horse in their ownership or in the ownership of someone directly related to them, i.e., spouse, child, step-child, parent, step-parent, sibling, half-sibling, step-sibling, spouse's parent, spouse's step-parent, sibling's spouse, half-sibling's spouse, sibling's child, sibling's step-child, half-sibling's child, half-sibling's step-child, step-sibling's child, step-sibling's step-child, parent's sibling, parent's half-sibling, parent's step-sibling, parent's siblings child, parent's sibling's step-child, parent's half-sibling's child, parent's half-sibling's stepchild, parent's step-sibling child, parent's step-sibling's step-child, grandparents, legal ward or legal guardian. Separate legal entities, such as family corporations, trusts, or partnerships, are also authorized owners of the amateur exhibitor's horse so long as all legal and equitable owners and beneficiaries of the legal entity are individuals specifically authorized by this rule. The relationship of the Amateur to the owner of the participating horse must be evidenced by submitting legal documentation (i.e., copies of marriage and/or birth certificates) to AQHA's Show Department. Every person competing in an Amateur class at any AQHA approved show must hold an Amateur membership and be 19 years of age or older on or before January 1 of the current year.

AQHA Approved Show

A competition involving numerous classes approved by AQHA at which horses and exhibitors vie for high placing to obtain points. After results of the show have been processed and recognized, the results are permanently recorded on the horse/exhibitor record.

AQHA Champion Award

This honor will be awarded in the Open division to any stallion, mare or gelding, or in the Amateur and Youth division to the contestant and his/her horse in their respective division which meets the specific requirements as outlined in AQHA's Official Handbook.

AQHA Performance Champion

This honor will be awarded to any stallion, mare or gelding in the Open division or in the Amateur or Youth division to the contestant and his/her horse in the respective division which has earned three individual performance superior event horse awards. For specific requirements regarding this award please refer to AQHA's Official Handbook.

AQHA Show Approval Calendar

A calendar listing the date and location of an approved AQHA show/event.

AQHA Superior (Event) Horse

This honor will be awarded to any stallion, mare or gelding in the Open division or in the Amateur or Youth division to the contestant and his/her horse in the respective division which has earned 50 or more points in one AQHA-recognized event. For specific requirements regarding this award please refer to AQHA's Official Handbook.

AQHA Supreme Champion

This honor will be awarded to any stallion, mare or gelding which meets specified requirements as outlined in AQHA's Handbook of Rules and Regulations.

AQHA Youth/Amateur Supreme Performance Champion

Any Youth or Amateur earning six Youth or Amateur AQHA Superior Horse awards with the same horse in a performance event (not including halter) will be awarded the Youth or Amateur AQHA Supreme Performance Champion Award. For specific requirements regarding this award please refer to AQHA's Official Handbook.

Barrel Racing

An exciting race against the clock in which exhibitors follow a course consisting of three barrels in triangular "cloverleaf" pattern. Riders choose to circle either the right or left barrel first, race to the opposite barrel and complete the course after circling the third barrel and racing down the center of the three barrels to stop the timer. Knocking over a barrel carries a five second penalty.


A mouthpiece which is secured to a headstall bridle and a pair of reins which is used to guide the horse. A metal mouthpiece on a bridle used as control.

Breakaway Roping

A timed competition, rather than a scored event. In breakaway roping, the rope is attached to the saddle horn with a heavy string allowing it to break when a legal catch is made. All other calf roping rules apply. 


Headgear consisting of a headstall, bit and reins by which a horse is guided and controlled.


In English classes, a three-beat gait; smooth, free moving, relaxed and straight on both leads.

Cattle Charge

Fees assessed to exhibitors entering classes requiring cattle.


Shows or set of shows on multiple days in same location.


A specified pattern exhibitors must follow in performing certain classes in AQHA approved shows.


Pits an American Quarter Horse against a cow in a battle of wills. Horse and rider must move quietly into a herd of cattle, cut one cow from the herd, drive it to the center of the arena and "hold" it away from the herd. The horse is scored on its ability to keep the cow from returning to the herd, cow sense, attentiveness and courage. There is a 2 1/2 minute time limit. 

Dally Team Roping

A judged (instead of timed) competition where the heading and heeling horses are entered and judged individually. There is a one minute time limit with each roper being allowed two loops from one rope. 

Dally Team Roping-Heading

The heading horse is judged in the rate of speed to the steer, ability to match the steer's speed and favorably position the roper to catch. The horse is also judged on his ability to check, turn and set the steer in position for the heeler. 

Dally Team Roping-Heeling 

The heeling horse is judged on the ease with which he turns, rates to the steer, and positions the heeler to catch one or both heels. A run is complete when the heeler has dallied and the header and heeler have faced with the steer between the two.


A procedure used to remove an entry from a class in which an exhibitor and/or horse violated an AQHA rule.

Double Judged/Double Point Status

Major livestock shows or state fairs that have two judges judging the same class independently of each other at one show, resulting in two sets of points.

Entry Fees 

Fees paid by an exhibitor for entry into a class.

Equestrians with Disabilities 

AQHA and AQHYA members have a new type of competition that offers people with certain mental 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 three classes and earn points for year-end, high-point awards, along with the satisfaction of a job well done. The three classes are - walk and trot hunt seat equitation on the flat; walk and jog western horsemanship, and walk and jog trail horse. 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.

Equitation Over Fences

Designed for Amateur and Youth competitors, this event tests the rider's seat, hands and ability to control and show an American Quarter Horse over fences. The course consists of at least four obstacles with a minimum of six jumps required. Jumping faults of the horse are not to be considered unless it is the result of the rider's ability.


In terms of AQHA shows, a final is a round of competition to determine winners and placings in the World Show and in performance classes only.


In shows it can be applied to a two-year-old performance event or yearling or younger halter event. This may also apply to some three-year-old performance events such as reining, cutting and reined cow horse for example.


A manner of moving the feet; walk, jog and lope in Western events; walk, trot and canter in English events and walk, park gait and road gait in pleasure driving.


In terms of AQHA shows, a go-round usually refers to a preliminary round of competition used to select finalists. 

Grand Champion

Stallion, mare or gelding selected as champion over all sex divisions halter entries.


Evaluates conformation of the American Quarter Horse as a breed. Halter classes are divided by age and sex. Horses are shown with a leather halter and are traveled before the judges so that lameness and quality of movement can be evaluated. Horses are judged on balance, structural correctness, breed and sex characteristics and degree of muscling. Of these, balance is the most important. 

Hand Gallop

In English classes, this should be a definite lengthening of the stride with a noticeable difference in speed.

Hunt Seat Equitation 

Tests an Amateur or Youth's ability to ride-not the performance of the horse. As in western horsemanship, contestants work on a predetermined pattern consisting of maneuvers such as changing gaits, traveling in a figure-8 pattern, and backing up as well as posting on correct diagonal, counter-cantering. Top riders return to be judged as they travel the perimeter of the arena performing gait changes at the judges discretion. Emphasis is placed on ability to sit correctly, hold the correct riding posture and control the horse on a precise pattern. 

Hunter Hack 

A transitional English class between hunter under saddle and working hunter. Horses are required to jump two fences then put on the rail to walk, trot and canter both directions in the ring. Emphasis is on manner and way of going on the flat and style over fences.

Hunter Under Saddle 

A preliminary class for English riding disciplines in which judges evaluate a hunter-type American Quarter Horse on the flat at a walk, trot and canter. Emphasis is placed on smoothness of gait, free-flowing stride and willingness to perform. Exhibitors must wear traditional English attire.

Intermediate of the Year

An award given to Amateurs and Youths in their first year of showing who accumulate the most points by the end of the year.


Money paid by exhibitors in addition to entry fees and kept separate, that will then be dispersed among the top placings.


In Western classes, a smooth, ground-covering two-beat diagonal gait.


Individual whose opinion decides placings at AQHA approved shows.

Judge Overtime Fine 

A monetary penalty imposed on show management as a result of an individual judge working longer than 15 consecutive hours at a given show.


Jumping is a true test of a horse's athletic ability to perform over fences. Jumping consists of at least four obstacles and a minimum of eight jumps. Scores are based on time and penalty faults. Faults are assessed when a horse refuses to jump, knocks down an obstacle, or causes an obstacle to be knocked down. Horses completing the course without faults return to compete in a timed "jump-off" to determine final placings.


Refers to age of horse in AQHA competition; junior horses are five years and younger. 


In over fence classes, an obstacle is considered knocked down when a horse or rider lowers any part of an obstacle.

Last Show Date 

Last Show Date is the last show entered on horse's or exhibitor's record. Not necessarily the last show attended.

Left Lead

The leg's on the left side of the horse's body touch the ground forward of the corresponding legs on the right side. It is important to note that leads are unique to the lope and canter.

Level 1

The aim of the AQHA leveling program is to level the playing field, with the overall goal being to get more new people involved in showing their American Quarter Horses and drive the showing market in a strong direction. Levels are formulated from an objective handicapping system that assigns exhibitors and horses to competition levels. That handicapping system is based on real data from AQHA shows. Level eligibility is based on both points and awards earned. Level point ranges are designed to group horses and riders with their peers of similar experience and points earned.

For a full list of Level 1 eligibility requirements, refer to Rule SHW245 in the AQHA Official Handbook of Rules and Regulations.

Eligibility in a Level 1 class is determined by: 1). Points earned in the past three years, and 2). Lifetime awards won with either AQHA or any equine organization or association with a membership of more than 7,500. 

If an exhibitor has not won any of the achievements listed in Rule SHW245.3 but has pointed out of Level 1, the exhibitor can only return to Level 1 in that particular class if the exhibitor has not earned any points in that class for 10 consecutive years, and the exhibitor must still meet the eligibility requirements per Rule SHW245.3 at that time.

When checking your Level 1 eligibility, if you find that you are ineligible due to having owned a horse that earned an Open superior or placed at the AQHA World Championship Show, and you are not the point earner nor were you the AQHA World Show exhibitor, please contact AQHA regarding your Level 1 eligibility.

Level 1 Working Hunter

An event designed for horses in their first year of showing over fences or those which have not earned 25 AQHA points in working hunter for jumping classes. Rules are the same as those in working hunter except the fences are not as demanding.


In Western classes, an easy, rhythmical three-beat gait.


Anyone possessing a current AQHA or AQHYA membership may show their American Quarter Horse in Open competition. Open classes can be divided according to the age of the horse. Amateur exhibitors must meet their ownership requirements even if they are competing in an open class. A youth can show another person's horse in the Open division; however, this could jeopardize their amateur status.

Park Gait 

In pleasure driving; a forward, free flowing, square trot with impulsion.

Performance Class

A class in which either the horse or the exhibitor is judged upon their actions. 

Performance Halter Points 

Points earned in a performance halter class. Qualifying two-year-old and older horses entered and exhibited in AQHA-approved shows and performance events which have met the performance requirements set forth in AQHA's Official Handbook, rule SHW365.3, are the only horses eligible to compete in performance halter classes.

Pleasure Driving

English rail class tests the horse's ability to pull a two-wheeled cart and driver along the perimeter of the arena. The horse is exhibited at a walk and two speeds of trot called park gait and road gait. The horse is judged on straight and free movement, manners and a bright expression while staying under the drivers control at all times. Horses must not break into a canter at any time.

Pole Bending

A timed event in which the speed and agility of the horse are tested as horse and rider weave through a course of six poles spaced 21 feet apart, twice circling end poles before turning and racing to the finish line. The pattern must be followed exactly. A five-second penalty is added for each pole knocked down.

Ranch Riding

The purpose of the ranch riding class is to measure the ability of the horse to be a pleasure to ride while being used as a means of conveyance from performing one ranch task to another. The horse should reflect the versatility, attitude and movement of a working ranch horse riding outside the confines of an arena. The horse should be well-trained, relaxed, quiet, soft and cadenced at all gaits. The ideal ranch horse will travel with forward movement and demonstrate an obvious lengthening of stride at extended gaits. The horse can be ridden with light contact or on a relatively loose rein without requiring undue restraint, but not shown on a full drape of reins. The overall manners and responsiveness of the ranch riding horse to make timely transitions in a smooth and correct manner, as well as the quality of the movement are of primary considerations. The ideal ranch riding horse should have a natural ranch horse appearance from head to tail in each maneuver.

Ranch Trail

This class should test the horse‚Äôs ability to cope with situations encountered while being ridden through a pattern of obstacles generally found during the course of everyday ranch work. The horse/rider team is judged on the correctness, efficiency, and pattern accuracy with which the obstacles are negotiated, and the attitude and mannerisms exhibited by the horse. Judging emphasis is on identifying the well broke, responsive, and well-mannered horse which can correctly navigate and negotiate the course. The ideal ranch trail horse should have a natural ranch horse appearance from head to tail in each maneuver.


In over fence classes, when a horse stops in front of an obstacle and takes one step backward.

Register of Merit 

A Register of Merit is designed to establish a record of outstanding performance. There are three Registers of Merit- one for racing, one for halter and one for performance events- but not a separate Register of Merit for each performance event.

Performance ROM: A horse in the Open division or any single horse/exhibitor combination in the Amateur or Youth division which has won at least 10 points. These points can be earned in one or more events. A horse cannot be advertised as a Register of Merit earner in a specific event unless at least five points have been earned in that specific event. (For example, earning 2 points in five different events [for a total of 10 points] qualifies for a Performance Register of Merit, but not in any one specific event; earning five points in western pleasure and five points in western riding qualifies as a Register of Merit in those specific events. Neither Youth nor Amateur Register of Merit qualifies a horse for advancement.

Halter ROM: At least 10 points in AQHA approved halter classes have been won. At least one point must have been earned on or after January 1, 1992 to qualify for this award. 


Judges the horse on movements, mastery of prescribed maneuver and attitude as he is guided through one of 15 AQHA patterns. The horse is required to perform a number of stops, spins, rollbacks, lead changes and circles at a lope. The horse should be willing to be guided with little or no resistance.

Reserve Champion 

Second place stallion, mare or gelding selected over all age division halter entries.

Reserve World Champion, Reserve AQHYA World Champion or AQHA Select World Champion. Any horse placing second in any class held at the AQHA World Championship Show, AQHYA World Championship Show or the AQHA Select World Championship Show.

Right Lead 

The legs on the right side of the horse's body touch the ground forward of the corresponding legs on the left side. It is important to note that leads are unique to the lope and canter.

Ring Steward 

The person who assists the judge and has charge of the activity in the ring or arena. 

Road Gait 

In pleasure driving; an extended trot showing a definite lengthening of stride, with a noticeable difference in speed. 

Run Out

In over fence classes, this occurs when the horse evades or passes the obstacle to be jumped.


Refers to age of horse in AQHA competition; senior horses are six years and older. 

Show Approval

Organizations or individuals desiring to hold an AQHA approved show must obtain AQHA approval. For specific requirements, please refer to AQHA's Official Handbook.

Show Bill

Program/schedule of events published by show management and offered to exhibitors/spectators at shows.

Show Manager

The person responsible for conducting an AQHA approved show and has the authority to enforce all AQHA rules.

Show Management Workshop

A workshop to educate show officials about the procedures used in conducting an AQHA approved show.

Show Membership

Membership purchased at show sent in by show secretary.

Show Officials

Any person performing the duties of a show manager, show steward, ring steward, show secretary or any person having direction over a show. Show officials, with the exception of ring stewards, must have a current AQHA individual membership.

Show Results

The final outcome of a show or special event submitted by show management to AQHA for point tabulation and placings on horse's record.

Show Secretary

This person is responsible for maintaining and recording entries and show results of the American Quarter Horse division of the show and shall be held responsible for the entry fees, office charges, etc., and for any fees collected for membership on behalf of AQHA and AQHYA.

Showmanship at Halter

A class for Youth and Amateur exhibitors only, it is designed to judge the showmanship skills of the exhibitors. Judges evaluate the grooming and fitting of the horse, and expertise of the exhibitor in presenting the horse. Each exhibitor is required to perform a pattern designed by the Judge with emphasis on preciseness of pattern and degree of confidence exhibited by the showman.

Special Achievement Recognition

This program gives registered American Quarter Horses recognition on AQHA records for outstanding achievements in special events not approved by AQHA. For example, if a horse participates in the Horseback Riding program or the Special Olympics.

Special Event

An AQHA approved special event is different from an approved show in that a maximum of two class types are allowed to be held. For example, team penning and working cowhorse may be held as a special event.

Speed Event 

A class judged solely by a timer.

Split/Combined Format

Any two consecutive shows can be combined to be one show with classes split over two consecutive days with two judges and two sets of points with classes only held once.


The individual or group financially responsible for holding a show.

Stake Race 

An event for Youth exhibitors only, the stake race is a timed competition consisting of markers set on either side of a center line. Contestants are given a running start to complete a figure-8 pattern. They must cross the center line between upright markers, head to either the right or left of the first pole, make a 180 degree turn, head to the second pole, turn around in the opposite direction and then to the center line to stop the clock.

Superior All-Around

An award presented to the horse/rider combination in Youth or Amateur or to the individual horse in Open competition that has earned 50 or more all-around titles.

Team Penning  

A timed event in which a team of three riders must sort three specifically numbered head of cattle from a herd and pen them at the other end of the arena within 90 seconds. All cattle, except the ones being penned must be kept on one side of the starting line (often called "cattle side") until time is called. 

Tie-Down Roping

A class that tests a horse's ability to follow a calf at great speed, giving the rider the best opportunity to catch the calf. The horse is judged on how quietly he waits for the calf to be released; how well he runs to the calf; how he rates his speed and position so that the rider can rope the calf; and how well the horse stops and works the end of the rope, keeping the slack out but not dragging the calf. There is a one minute time limit for all roping events. 


The trail class tests the maneuverability of an American Quarter Horse through an obstacle course. Mandatory obstacles include one in which the rider will open, pass through and close a gate. Scoring is based on the horse's willingness, ease and grace in negotiating the course. The other two mandatory obstacles are riding over at least four logs or poles and one backing obstacle.


In English classes, ranch riding and versatility ranch horse classes, a two-beat gait, comprised of long, low, ground covering, cadenced and balanced strides.

Versatility Award

Awarded to any stallion, mare or gelding in Open competition or any single horse/exhibitor combination in the Amateur or Youth division that has earned a total of 65 points in eight events. A minimum of 10 points must be earned in five separate events and a minimum of five points must be earned in each of three additional events. For specific requirements regarding this award, please refer to AQHA's Official Handbook.


In English and Western Classes, a natural, flat-footed, four-beat gait.

Western Horsemanship 

Designed to test the horsemanship abilities of Youth and Amateur riders using western tack. Divided into two sections, riders first follow a prescribed pattern of maneuvers at a walk, trot or lope. Finalists ride as a group around the perimeter of the arena. Judging focuses on the rider's body position, seat in the saddle and ability to control the horse.

Western Pleasure 

One of the most popular AQHA show events is western pleasure. Contestants compete simultaneously, traveling the perimeter of the arena, and at the discretion of the Judge, are asked to walk, jog, lope and reverse the direction of the horse. Horses are evaluated on quality of movement while staying quiet and calm, traveling on a loose rein.

Western Riding 

Judges the abilities of the American Quarter Horse to change leads precisely, easily and simultaneously, using both hind and front legs. Following one of four patterns consisting of a log and a series of pylons, the horse and rider must change gaits-from a walk to a jog or a lope-through-out the course. Reward is given to the horse that changes fluidly and precisely between the middle of the pylons within the pattern. 

Working Cow Horse

Combines reining ability and cow sense. This event tests the American Quarter Horse's skills that are applicable to ranch work. The competition consists of two parts; prescribed reined work and actual cow work. Judging is based on good manners, smoothness, cow sense and ease of reining. During the cow working part, one cow is turned into the arena. The horse is required to hold the cow on the end of the arena, make at least one turn each direction along the fence, and circle the cow both directions.

Working Hunter

An English event which demonstrates the gracefulness of the American Quarter Horse as it maneuvers a course consisting of at least four obstacles but must jump a minimum of eight fences. Manners, style of jumping, flow of strides, balance and keeping an even hunter pace are factors in the Judges' scoring.

Working Hunter Under Saddle

The purpose of this class is to exemplify a horse doing its job in the hunting field and to promote correct natural appearance and forward movement in all gaits. Horses should be shown with active, working, and energetic ground-covering gaits at the walk, trot, and canter. The gaits should be comparable to a horse performing a working hunter course. Excessive slowness at the walk, trot, and/or canter must be penalized. Working hunter under saddle horses should exhibit a natural self-carriage, correct uphill balance, and the fluid forward movement that is desirable for working hunters and which allows horses to build strength and coordination for performing correctly over fences.

World Champion, AQHYA World Champion or AQHA Select World Champion

The horse placing above all others in any class held at the AQHA World Championship Show, the AQHYA World Championship Show or the AQHA Select World Championship Show.

Year-End, All-Around Horse 

An award given to any horse in the Open division or any single horse/exhibitor combination in the Amateur or Youth divisions earning the most points in halter and performance classes at AQHA-approved shows.

Year-End, High-Point Horse 

An award given to any horse in the Open division or any single horse/exhibitor combination in the Amateur or Youth divisions based on the total number of points earned during a calendar year in each AQHA-approved event in which points are awarded.


An exhibitor who is 18 years of age or younger as of January 1 of the current year may compete in the Youth division. Youth exhibitors are eligible to compete in the Youth or Open divisions. In the Youth division the exhibitor must exhibit a horse owned by them or someone directly related, i.e., parent, stepparent, sibling, half-sibling, step sibling, grandparent, step grandparent, sibling's spouse, half sibling's spouse, step sibling's spouse or legal guardian (as evidenced by court documents) or owned by the institution in which the contestant is enrolled as a ward. See changes in rulebook or refer to the rulebook for a list of immediate family members. Separate legal entities, such as family corporations, trusts, or partnerships, are also authorized owners of the youth exhibitor's horse so long as all legal and equitable owners and beneficiaries of the legal entity are individuals specifically authorized by this rule. Youth exhibitors can exhibit a non-owned horse in the Open division, although it may jeopardize their Amateur eligibility. Stallions are prohibited in all Youth classes.