AQHA Dressage Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is dressage?
A: Dressage is a classical training method. Its purpose is to develop strength, rhythm, straightness, collection and impulsion. Dressage patterns, or “tests,” are designed to showcase the horse’s ability to demonstrate these strengths through various movements. 

Q: Will dressage classes be held at AQHA shows?
A: Dressage may be offered as a stand-alone AQHA-approved show or special event and must be judged by a licensed USEF/USDF judge. To find one of these shows, visit www.aqha.com/showschedule. The USEF/USDF-licensed shows must also be AQHA approved to host AQHA classes. 

Q: How do I know if I am eligible to compete in an AQHA-approved dressage class?
A: To be eligible, the horse must be AQHA registered, and the exhibitor must have a current individual membership. Open, amateur and youth eligibility is based on criteria found in the AQHA Official Handbook of Rules and Regulations. Exhibitors must pay an AQHA dressage competition license fee of $85 for the lifetime of the horse. 

Q: Why should I participate in AQHA-approved dressage classes?
A: Showing in an approved class allows owners and breeders to gain recognition for their horses’ abilities while earning points toward year-end awards, the AQHA Incentive Fund and lifetime achievement awards. Note: Training Level and Youth division is not eligible for Incentive Fund. 

Q: Do dressage points count toward AQHA awards such as a Register of Merit? 
A: Yes. Exhibitors must have won at least 10 points in one or more events in their respective division. No horse can be advertised as a Register of Merit winner in any specific performance class without having won at least five points in that specific class.

Q: Do dressage points count toward Superior awards?
A: Yes. When your horse has earned its 50th point in the Open division, or a rider/horse combination in Amateur or Youth have earned their 50th point, AQHA will award a Superior plaque. 

Q: How will AQHA keep track of my scores?
A: The dressage system is based on a percentage score and will be transferred to a point value using the following chart: 
how dressage scores translate into AQHA points

Q: Are there additional entry fees to participate in the AQHA dressage class? 
A: Exhibitors must pay a one-time dressage competition license fee of $85 to AQHA for their horse to be eligible to participate in this program, which lasts the lifetime of the horse. Exhibitors must also pay all applicable membership fees: They must also hold memberships, either competing or participating with USEF, USDF and AQHA. Horses must hold a lifetime registration with USDF. Contact USEF and USDF directly for related fees.

Q: What are the requirements to be a judge for an AQHA approved class?
A: AQHA accepts USEF/USDF licensed judges. 

Q: How do I learn more about dressage?
A: The United States Dressage Federation’s website, www.usdf.org, is a great resource for learning about dressage. 

Q: Will dressage ever be part of the AQHA World Championship Show?
A: It’s unclear at this point; it depends on a lot of factors including the popularity of the class. 

Q: How do I get AQHA classes at my USEF/USDF show?
A: Contact your show secretary and tell them you would like to see AQHA-approved classes included in the show. Show approval applications will need to be submitted to AQHA at least 30 days prior to the event. The person signing the show approval application is responsible to ensure that the show results have been completed through AQHA.

Q: Will western dressage be included as an event recognized by AQHA?
A: AQHA is currently looking at adopting rules to include western dressage as a recognized event. Its inclusion could not take place prior to 2016. 

AQHA dressage (Credit: courtesy of Robin DeGraff)