Show Rule Changes

View the recently approved recommendations from the AQHA Show Committee, which were approved by the AQHA Executive Committee.

American Quarter Horse Association

Read the full standing committee reports at

The AQHA Executive Committee recently reviewed and approved rule changes from the AQHA Show Committee, which were approved by the AQHA Board of Directors at the convention in March. Read the full standing committee reports.

The highlights of the approved show committee recommendations, which are not subject to completing computer programming, will be effective January 1, 2019, and are listed below:


Amend SHW300.7 to recommend visible numbers on both sides of the horse when being shown under saddle except for over fence classes. 

Amend SHW771 PATTERNS to read: “All patterns must be posted one hour before the class. One of the three suggested EWD patterns for each class must be used.” 

Delete SHW766. Exhibitor Age “Participants must be eight years of age and over to compete.”


Amend SHW100.14 to allow online certification and recertification for show management every three years that would include a new manager/secretary section as well as an update section for recertifying. 

Approve the following recommendations from the Level 1 Task Force:

  • Amend walk/trot SHW755.1 with the addition of the sentence: Exhibitor cannot exhibit another horse in a corresponding lope class at the same show.
  • Regarding Rookie eligibility: Raise the maximum number of points for the horse to 50. Add phrase “combined between all divisions” to SHW252.1.
  • With respect to SHW104, do not count rookie entry numbers against total show entry numbers for show approval fee purposes
  • Regarding horse eligibility in all open Level 1 classes, raise Level 1 earnings from $1,000 to $2,500
  • Regarding Level 1 eligibility: amend SHW245.3.1 to add have earned a Superior award within the past 10 years
  • Clarify World Show Level 2 restrictions on the rider ineligibility list and publish specific point and earnings cut-offs
  • Extend World/Reserve World Champion restrictions in the Level 2 at the World Show from 3 years to 5 years.
  • Amend SHW400.4 to include if less than three entries in Level 2 or Level 3, entries will be combined.
  • Amend SHW112 in Level 2 and Level 3 pattern/scored classes must be shown concurrently. Executive Committee Action: Amended and approved to add wording: “to include the following classes: showmanship, horsemanship, and equitation over fences and hunt seat equitation.

Approve the request of the AQHA International Committee from the 2017 Convention that the SHW101.3 be changed to 120 miles distance for international shows with the exception of Canada, which is included in the existing region system for North America. 

Amend rule SHW108.2.2 to change four (4) judges in halter at one time to a maximum of six (6) judges allowed to judge in halter classes at one time.

Amend SHW245.1 to add leveling for international shows including Canada to be calculated at 1/3 of the points utilized for each class and levels as domestic shows.


Amend SHW452.4 WESTERN RIDING to read: First maneuver – walk at least 15 feet from the start cone to the first marker, transition to jog, jog over log. On western riding patterns 1, 3, 5 and Level 1 pattern 1, the start cone should be placed a minimum of 15 feet before the first pattern marker. On western riding patterns 2, 4 and Level 1 patterns 2 and 4, the start cone should be placed even with the first pattern marker.

Amend SHW305.7 WESTERN EQUIPMENT to read: Closed reins (example: mecate) may not be used with a snaffle bit, except in Versatility Ranch Horse classes, Ranching Heritage Challenge, boxing, ranch riding, and working cow horse and reining, where a mecate is permitted.” 

3. Modify rule SHW505.1 WORKING COW HORSE to read: The approved pattern will be used and each contestant will cause his or her horse to travel at the gait indicated for each part of the pattern. When judging reined work, the judge will refer to the following penalties: 

Reined Work - Penalty Points:

½-point penalties:

  • Not changing leads simultaneously
  • Over or under spin 1/8 turn
  • Jogging first two strides

1-point penalties:

  • Out of lead
  • Out of lead each 1/4 circle
  • Slipping a rein in the bridle
  • Scotching or anticipating a stop
  • Over or under spinning up to 1/4 turn
  • Excessive whipping or spurring

2-point penalties:

  • Lead missed around end of arena past second corner
  • Not ever changing leads in patterns where there is only 1/2 circle
  • Failure to run by marker before stop is initiated
  • Freezing up in turn
  • Breaking gait (Break of gait is defined as “when the cadence of the lope is disrupted or not maintained.” Break of gait only occurs from the lope gait)
  • Jogging beyond two strides
  • On trot in patterns, failure to “Stop” before executing a lope departure
  • A stop in the first one-quarter of the circle, after a lope departure, is a break of gait

5-point penalties:

  • Spurring or hitting in front of cinch at any time
  • Blatant disobedience, defined as kicking, biting, bucking, rearing, striking, or obviously insubordinate


  • Failure to complete the pattern as given (i.e. over or under spin more than 1/4)
  • Using two hands on the reins in a bridle or two-rein class
  • Fingers between the reins in a bridle class except in the two-rein class
  • Horse balking
  • Bloody mouth (inside)
  • Illegal equipment
  • Leaving the working area before pattern is complete
  • Fall of horse or rider
  • Backing more than two strides, when backing is not called for
  • Jogging in excess of one-half circle or one-half the length of the arena
  • Improper western attire
  • Failure to work in the proper working order.

A judge may blow his/her whistle at any time to terminate the work.

A score of zero will be given if the work is not complete at that time.

N-E  (Not an Entry)

  • Failure of an exhibitor to attempt to work the pattern
  • No Score
  • Abuse
  • Lameness of the horse

Leads & Lead Change Penalties: A judge is required to penalize a horse 1/2 of a point for a delayed change of lead by one stride. The penalty for being out of lead is cumulative, and the judge will add 1 penalty point for each 1/4 of the circumference of a circle or any part thereof that a horse is out of lead. 

Adopt National Reining Horse Association rule for reining under five (5) point penalty the act of a horse dropping to its knees or hocks. This rule will be added to SHW484.


With respect to fence height in jumping, amend SHW657.5 to reflect a minimum of 2 feet, 9 inches and a maximum of 3 feet, 3 inches in youth and amateur.   


Allow individuals who win a Level 2 class at the AQHA World Show to receive an automatic invite to compete in their Level 3 class at the World Show the following year. Youth and amateur invitation will be for the horse rider combination and the invitation in the open will be for the horse. 

Allow International exhibitors, excluding Canada, that have either earned or been invited to a World Show the ability to compete in the current year or compete in the following year so as to allow for travel and horse lease planning.

Add Level 1 classes at the World Show in trail, ranch riding and western riding and continue Level 1 in western pleasure and hunter under saddle. This is effective starting with the 2018 AQHA Lucas Oil World Championship Show. 


Change SHW 803.4 ALL-AROUND To read as follows: “only Select classes count for earning a Select all-around trophy, only amateur classes (not Select amateur classes) count toward earning an amateur all-around. If the class is offered as an all-age class, the points will follow their respective age division. Should the Select class be combined with the amateur all-age class, the points earned by the Select will count toward their all-around eligibility as a Select.” 

Approve the request to amend SHW803.7 LEVEL 1, progressive working hunter points and boxing points do not count toward the all-around trophy. 

Present year-end high-point winners with buckle and trophy for all-around in each division to include junior and senior in the open division, amateur and Select amateur in the amateur division, and 13-&-Under and 14-18 in the youth division.

Read more information on AQHA’s rules and regulations.

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