Level 1

Meet the revamped AQHA Level 1, formerly known as Novice.

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Level 1 allows even the experienced AQHA member try something new to develop his or her horsemanship and exhibitor skills. This division is designed for beginning to minimally accomplished exhibitors. 


Level 1 is available for youth and amateur competitors, plus open for halter and cattle-event exhibitors.

For a full list of Level 1 eligibility requirements, refer to Rule SHW245 in the AQHA Official Handbook of Rules and Regulations.

Eligibility in a Level 1 class is determined by:

  1. Points earned in the past three years
  2. Lifetime awards won with either AQHA or any equine organization or association with a membership of more than 7,500. (Check here to see AQHA's recognized equine organization or association membership numbers.)

If an exhibitor has not won any of the achievements listed in Rule SHW245.3 but has pointed out of Level 1, the exhibitor can only return to Level 1 in that particular class if the exhibitor has not earned any points in that class for 10 consecutive years, and the exhibitor must still meet the eligibility requirements per Rule SHW245.3 at that time.

When checking your Level 1 eligibility, if you find that you are ineligible due to having owned a horse that earned an Open superior or placed at the AQHA World Championship Show, and you are not the point earner nor were you the AQHA World Show exhibitor, please contact AQHA regarding your Level 1 eligibility.


To compete in a Level 1 class, you must have a current Level 1 application on file with AQHA; applications must be completed on the annual basis. The great part is that you can complete the Level 1 application at any time, even at the show!

Once you have pointed out of Level 1, based on all points you have earned, excluding Rookie points, in that particular class in the past three years, as well as lifetime awards and accomplishments, you may move on to Levels 2 and 3 of competition. And don’t forget: Level 1 competitors have the option to show up a level, or two, at any time.

Showing a Leased Horse

Level 1 competitors may compete with a horse that he or she does not own.

For example, Level 1 allows you to try out a horse you are thinking about buying. AQHA rules allow a Level 1 competitor to show a horse in a Level 1 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 Level 1 exhibitor. 

The top-10 shows/circuits require exhibitors to be the owner or related to the owner of the horse or have an AQHA show lease. An AQHA show lease must be on file with AQHA. The top-10 shows/circuits are determined by the total number of entries the previous year and can change from year to year.

Top-10 shows/circuits that will require ownership, relationship to owner or an AQHA show lease for Level 1 competition in 2023: 

  • All American Quarter Horse Congress, Columbus, Ohio
  • Arizona Sun Country Circuit, Scottsdale, Arizona
  • Florida Gold Coast Circuit,  Tampa, Florida
  • Oklahoma QHA Redbud Spectacular, Oklahoma City
  • SOQHA The Madness, Wilmington, Ohio
  • Stars and Stripes Circuit, Conyers, Georgia
  • SOQHA Pre Madness, Wilmington, Ohio
  • FQHA Gulf Coast Circuit, Tampa, Florida
  • Big A, Conyers, Georgia
  • The Little Buckeye, Columbiana, OH

AQHA Level 1 Championships – West, East and Cattle

If you’re a Level 1 or Rookie exhibitor, you no longer have to qualify to compete at the AQHA Level 1 Championships. All Level 1- and Rookie-eligible exhibitors are welcome to compete at one of the Level 1 Championships.

  • Nutrena West Level 1 Championships in Scottsdale, Arizona
  • Nutrena East Level 1 AQHA Championships in Wilmington, Ohio
  • AQHA Cattle Level 1 Championships, presented by the Four Sixes Ranch, are held in conjunction with the AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse World Championships in Guthrie, Oklahoma.

The Level 1 Championships are offered in the spring, and in addition to Level 1 classes, these events also host Rookie classes, which do not require qualification, but the exhibitor and horse must be eligible for the class and enter before the deadline.