AQHA Ranch Horse Competition

AQHA makes changes to ranch horse classes in 2015 and for 2016.

The American Quarter Horse Association

AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse classes were introduced 13 years ago for exhibitors looking for something different from the usual AQHA show classes. A task force of ranchers, exhibitors, judges and representatives from other ranch horse organizations developed the five-class VRH shows, and at each VRH show, exhibitors competed in ranch riding, ranch trail, ranch cutting, working ranch horse and ranch conformation.

For 2015 and 2016, AQHA has made some changes to the VRH events to give its ranch horse exhibitors more places and ways to show their horses.

There are currently three ways for ranch horse exhibitors to compete with their American Quarter Horse in AQHA ranch-style events.

  • Ranch Riding: Formerly known as ranch horse pleasure, ranch riding is offered to youth, amateur and open exhibitors. The class debuted at the 2012 AQHA World Championship Show. In 2013, the class was offered at the Built Ford Tough AQHYA, Adequan Select, amateur and open world championship shows. The class is only open to American Quarter Horses, and exhibitors must earn a specified number of points to qualify for the class at each world show.
  • Ranching Heritage Challenges: Horses eligible to compete in Zoetis AQHA Ranching Heritage Challenges must have been bred by AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeders. The challenges consist of working ranch horse, boxing and ranch riding in four divisions: open, amateur, Level 1 amateur and cowboy. In the 4-year-old working ranch horse class, horses must have been nominated to the program to be eligible. Of the six Ranching Heritage Challenges scheduled for 2015, four remain. Click here for those dates.
  • Versatility Ranch Horse: As mentioned earlier, VRH events debuted in 2002. Exhibitors competed in five classes: ranch riding, ranch trail, ranch cutting, working ranch horse and ranch conformation. The classes harkened back to a day when an American Quarter Horse would show in halter in the morning and do all of the other classes through the rest of the day.

This Year’s Changes
For 2015, the AQHA Show Committee has reworked VRH, creating six classes: VRH ranch riding, VRH ranch trail, VRH ranch reining, VRH ranch cow work, VRH ranch cutting and VRH ranch conformation. The Association’s new ranch division gives exhibitors the opportunity to compete in the open, amateur, youth and cowboy divisions in any one of the classes; exhibitors are not required to compete in all six classes.

Also for 2015, AQHA VRH shows are stand-alone events that can be run within other similar events, such as Stock Horse of Texas shows, Hemphill said. Shows that host a ranch event must offer one class from each category, and to be considered for an all-around award, exhibitors must show in three categories, including ranch conformation and one Category 3 class (either ranch cutting or ranch cow work).

Exhibitors are eligible to earn AQHA points in each of the VRH classes toward qualifying for the Zoetis AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse Championships in March of the year following the qualifying year. However, points earned in the individual VRH classes are not eligible for payouts from the AQHA Incentive Fund and will not count toward AQHA Register of Merit, Superior, AQHA Champion, Supreme or year-end high-point titles.

At the Zoetis VRH World, champion titles will be awarded for each class, but the world champion title will only be awarded to the all-around winner in each division. And only the all-around points count toward AQHA ROM, Superior, AQHA Champion, Supreme and year-end high-point titles, as well as Incentive Fund payouts.

Changes for 2016
Beginning January 1, 2016, all AQHA shows can begin offering one or all six VRH classes along with their regular roster of AQHA show classes. Again, the points that exhibitors earn in these individual VRH classes count toward qualifying for the Zoetis VRH World.

Also, at the Zoetis VRH World, champion titles will be awarded for each class and the world champion title will be awarded to the all-around winner in each division. And only the all-around points count toward AQHA ROM, Superior, AQHA Champion, Supreme and year-end high-point titles. The all-around points also count toward AQHA Incentive Fund payouts.

“Our goal with this division is the same as it has always been with Versatility Ranch Horse classes: to demonstrate the performance, versatility and conformation of the Quarter Horse as a working ranch horse,” Hemphill said. “And we’re excited to be able to meet the requests of our exhibitors to make that happen. And for the individuals wanting to compete in specific ranch classes.”

Read a full article about the changes being implemented to AQHA’s ranch horse classes at www.aqha.com/journaland in the August issue of The American Quarter Horse Journal.

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