The AQHA Champion

One of the first AQHA awards had a rocky beginning.

America’s Horse

Not too many years ago, achieving the title of AQHA Champion was the epitome of the American Quarter Horse industry.

Since a requirement of the award was to earn points in both halter and performance events, it signified a true all-around horse.

Today, due to the specialization of the Quarter Horse, it’s almost rare for a horse to be named an AQHA Champion. But the first time the award was presented, it signified a real advancement in the creation of the AQHA we know today.

When AQHA was founded in 1940, there was a general agreement among the founders that the conformation of the Quarter Horse would be of the so-called “bulldog” type and that the only way a horse could be registered was through inspection.

Read about an AQHA Champion and a breeding legend in "The Doc Bar Bloodline" report. Doc Bar that was AAA on the track and produced foals that dominated the cutting market.

Any horse that even remotely resembled a Thoroughbred was turned down. Of course, those involved in Quarter Horse racing and whose horses, for the most part, were not of the bulldog type, objected from the very beginning. Their horses were being turned down for registration.

Although AQHA’s second president, rancher Jack Hutchins, who served in 1942-43, raced some horses, even he held the line when it came to registration. He said, “You will not find any racing string mixed with my Quarter Horses, nor will you find my cowboys riding racehorses,” and that was the general consensus of the executive committee and board of directors of the Association.

It was a proven fact that a registered horse sold for more money, so, in 1945, those interested in racing their Quarter Horses founded the American Quarter Racing Association. Later the same year, a group, which was not necessarily into racing but was also unhappy about the inspection requirement, founded in the National Quarter Horse Breeders Association. Both of these organizations registered horses and were in direct competition with AQHA.

During the next three or four years, horses that might have applied for registration in AQHA were going to one of the other organizations, and it was hurting AQHA financially.

Finally, in 1949, the bulldog men softened, and the three associations merged.

There was give and take on the part of all three merging organizations. But among the provisions of the merger was the creation of an AQHA Champion.

The award carried the requirement that a recipient had to earn a particular number of points in both halter and performance, but it also said those points could be earned in racing.

In 1952, the first AQHA Champions were named.

One of the most prominent stallions in American Quarter Horse history was an AQHA. Doc Bar was AAA on the track and his progeny produced feats in the cutting pen and beyond. Read about this pedigree in "The Doc Bar Bloodline" report.

Those first horses were Poco Tivio, the first son of Poco Bueno, with points in cutting; Little Egypt, a mare with Thoroughbred breeding through her sire, My Texas Dandy, with points in racing; Star Jack Jr, with Thoroughbred blood through the Billy Sunday line and points in roping; Paul A, a grandson of the half Thoroughbred Oklahoma Star, with points in cutting; JB King, whose breeding went back to Peter McCue and Old Jack Bailey, with points in racing; Snipper W, by Waggoner Ranch’s Pretty Buck, with points in cutting; Pandora, a granddaughter of the Thoroughbred Pondariel, with roping and reining points; and Babe Mac C, a King Ranch son of Macanudo, with points in cutting. Of course, they all had the required halter points.

As Don Hedgpeth said in “They Rode Good Horses,” those first Champions “represent both the classic Quarter Horse blood as well as that of the Thoroughbred, and they could all get the job done. The horse itself had risen above the trivial arguments of men.”

Jim Jennings is the retired AQHA executive director of publications.

AQHA Member Benefit Spotlight

Have you been religiously logging your riding hours with AQHA's Horseback Riding Program? It's time to cash in those hours for rewards. And, if you aren't already enrolled, there is still time to log a few hours to earn some great prizes or get started on hours for next year!  Submit your Horseback Riding Program Hours by December 31.