Past, Present and Future of the AQHA Incentive Fund

AQHA explains the point-cap change, plus the goals of the program.

American Quarter Horse Association

To learn more or to enroll your horse, visit or call AQHA at 806-376-4811. (Credit: AQHA)

The American Quarter Horse Association Incentive Fund began in 1984 with the first nominations for the 1983 breeding season and grew dramatically over the next two decades. The secret to the success was grass-roots involvement and the nomination of a large number of horses each year.

“When the AQHA Incentive Fund was developed in the 1980s, the program’s intent was to encourage participation at AQHA shows and improve the market for buying and selling horses,” said AQHA Chief Show Officer Pete Kyle. “A stallion nominator’s financial input into the program was to help fund their nominated offspring showing, making the stallion owner’s benefit that they would receive more breedings because their stallion was nominated. The intent of stallion and foal nominators each receiving 15 percent of the foal’s future earnings was to help cover their initial investment, plus provide them with a more marketable horse.” 

Since the economic downturn in 2008, the industry declined and so did the number of horses nominated and subsequently the available funds for the Incentive Fund.

Also, the addition of multiple new classes dramatically increased the number of points earned each year. As nominations have since decreased, less money is added to the fund. However, a large number of horses continue to show and earn even more points. The result is a decline in point value. 

“In the past 10 years, there has been much discussion within AQHA staff, the creation of more than one task force and deliberation within the show committee, to look at ways to change the incentive program and take it back to its glory days,” Kyle said. 

One of these suggested changes was the implementation of a competition license, which helped increase per-point values for horse owners, but received overwhelmingly negative feedback from fund participants. Many felt additional changes were necessary. Working through various task forces, committees and councils, the new point cap was decided upon and announced in September 2015. 

The point cap information was communicated through multiple press releases, letters, email blasts and articles shared in industry publications and online. The full cycle of that change was seen in the checks that were distributed a few weeks ago. The goal of the change was to reward more of those enrolled in the fund and to encourage more nominations. 

Seventy-five percent of the horses that earned Incentive Fund points in 2016 earned less than 20 points. These horses saw a 41 percent increase in their payout from the previous year. The significant increase in per-point value for 2016 is the direct result of the new point cap. Without the new cap, the per-point value would have been $10.44, which is considerably less than the $22.01 participants actually saw. 

The payout this year paid out more to 82 percent of the exhibitors than the prior year and more to 88 percent of the exhibitors than if the Association hadn’t had a cap. The Incentive Fund is still one of the largest, highest point values of all incentive-type programs. 

To learn more or to enroll your horse, visit or call AQHA at 806-376-4811. 

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