Get Started With AQHA

AQHA's novice program allows even the experienced AQHA member to try something new to develop his or her horsemanship and exhibitor skills.

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 novice classes are designed to help you and your horse grow in a new event at your pace. And you can choose to exhibit your horse in one or more novice classes that you are eligible for.

The novice program is available to you in youth and amateur competition. To be eligible, you must not have earned 25 novice youth, youth, novice amateur, amateur or open combined lifetime points in that novice class.

Buying a Horse?

The novice program also allows you to try out a horse you are thinking about buying. AQHA rules allow a novice youth or novice amateur competitor to show a horse in a novice youth or novice 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 novice exhibitor. Novice youth and novice amateur exhibitors can also show a leased horse in a novice class.

Novice exhibitors must still request a novice 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.

AQHA's “Showing to Win: Trail” DVD is an in-depth look at one of the most popular western show classes. The DVD is geared for all trail exhibitors, trainers and judges. Order your copy today!

Who’s a Novice?

If you have never shown in an AQHA show, consider yourself a novice. As a novice exhibitor, you compete in a separate class to learn new events at your own pace.

There are a few rules to follow to determine your eligibility as a novice. Novice points are awarded for an exhibitor’s lifetime points in that novice class. You cannot compete as a novice in any novice classes 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 25 or more performance points in the AQHA open, novice amateur, amateur, novice youth or youth divisions combined.

Tips For the Novice Competitor

    • 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.
    • 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.

AQHA's “Showing to Win: Trail” illustrates the standards and provides information exhibitors need to successfully navigate a trail pattern and the judge’s score card.

    • 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. When 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.
    • To become a successful competitor, keep accepting criticism and learning. You have to keep working and finding different things to work on every day.