How AQHA Rules Get Changed

As the 2014 AQHA Convention is upon us, it’s time to review how rules get made at AQHA.

The American Quarter Horse Journal

The 2014 AQHA Convention is March 7-10 in New Orleans.

A member who has a good idea is encouraged to submit it by going to the member services area of and clicking on the “rule change” link. Fill in the form and submit it by December 31 to get it on the next year’s AQHA convention agenda.

Let’s say that you want to make a rule that all exhibitors in western classes must wear white shirts. You’d submit that as a rule change. We have a rule that specifies that exhibitors must wear collared, long-sleeve shirts. To amend that rule so it says, “white,” you’d go to the website, get the form and say that you’d like to amend SHW320.1. Submit it by December 31, and it will be sent to the appropriate subcommittee.

For example, an attire rule would go to the general subcommittee of the AQHA Show and Professional Horsemen’s Committee.

AQHA committee members get notebooks full of proposals to consider, minus the frivolous ones, such as one member-submitted idea to completely discard shows.

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The staff in Amarillo combines similar-sounding rules or at least groups them together. The Show and Professional Horsemen’s Committee received 60 suggested rule changes this year. AQHA staff groups those by category. Suggested rule changes go to the subcommittee that handles that discipline or class. (See the AQHA Standing Committee agendas for the 2014 AQHA Convention.)

So if someone wants to change a particular rule regarding western pleasure, and another person wants to change it differently, and a third person has yet another idea, all those would go together. The subcommittee would consider each one independently, and then it’s up to the committee to either take a little of each one, deny all three of them, pick one that the committee members like or take no action.

At convention, committees offer five minutes for AQHA members to make their case or offer support of any agenda items. Traditionally, they ask the committee chairmen to see if there are others in the room who’d like to speak about a particular suggestion. After two or three are saying the same thing, the chairman normally asks for a show of hands to see who else feels the same way. That gives the committee a good idea of how many people are in favor of an idea.

It’s not necessary to attend convention if you submit a rule change, but letters of support are important. A lot of people can’t attend convention, but they feel passionately about rules and procedures, so if they’d like to submit a letter, that’s fine, and the letters will be given to the committee that will be handling that particular rule.

After each AQHA committee meets and votes on which ideas to advance, the chairman of the committee reads its report at the membership business meeting, which is held on the Monday of convention.

Check out our infographic on Pinterest explaining how rules are made.

The membership in attendance votes “yay” or “nay” on the committee reports. The recommendation simply states that they’re voting that the AQHA Board of Directors consider the committee report, and then the report goes to the board which meets immediately following the membership business meeting.

The board of directors votes on whether to forward the recommendations from the reports to the AQHA Executive Committee.

There are only two exceptions to that. The Executive Committee cannot change any bylaws, so if it’s a bylaw change and the board votes on it, yes or no, that’s where it stops. A bylaw change can’t go to the Executive Committee for further action. The same holds for rules of registration – rule changes that come from the AQHA Stud Book and Registration Committee. The Executive Committee cannot change rules of registration, so the board of directors has the final say.

Let’s assume that our imaginary white shirt rule has made it through the board of directors. Next it goes to the Executive Committee at its meeting in April. The Executive Committee looks at all of the recommendations, with the exception of bylaws or rules of registration. Something that might have sounded like a great idea at the board meeting or through the committee process might not be a good idea when we look at budgets and discover that there’s no feasible way to fund a particular initiative or to make it happen.

The Executive Committee can table a line item, deny it or send it back for consideration the next year.

We usually explain to the person who submitted the rule or policy change what happened. We also let each committee know the result of all of its committee recommendations.

Some ideas are ahead of their time. The wheels of change turn slowly, but a good idea will eventually get there.

AQHA’s direction comes from directors, through the Executive Committee. Directors welcome suggestions from members and communication is key.

“Without members writing in and presenting proposals, we wouldn’t have anything,” says Gunnar Ottness, chairman of the AQHA Amateur Committee. “As a director, don’t be afraid to talk to people. There’s nothing to hide here. We’re not in secrecy.”

Some meetings are closed, Gunnar says, but members can attend the membership business meeting and know how the vote went.

“If we didn’t have the people out there, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” he says. “We’re the biggest breed association, but not only that, we’re the best. And we’re the best run. Bar none.”

The deadline to make rule change suggestions is December 31 each year.

So, look at the committee agendas. Print a copy of the agendas or get a copy at convention, really read them, ask questions and come prepared to take care of business March 7-10 in New Orleans.