AQHA Leveling Program

Discover the purpose and progress of the AQHA leveling program.

Discover the purpose and progress of the AQHA leveling program.

By Patti Carter-Pratt, AQHA executive director of shows

Have you heard about the new AQHA leveling program? With the leveling program, you’ll find that there’s a great place for you and your American Quarter Horse.

A woman and her horse in the show ring
Journal photo.

The leveling program seeks to amplify showing participation by increasing the possibility for points earned by mid-level horses and exhibitors, while not penalizing upper-tier horses and exhibitors; it’s a win all-around!

Here’s how the leveling program came to be:

  • AQHA first realized its need for the leveling program for its competitions after analyzing showing data. Association leaders were amazed at the number of competing horses who had never earned a point.
  • According to AQHA’s information technology department, between 50 to 80 percent of horses showing in a sample three-year period had not earned one point.
  • That data said nothing about the quality of those horses themselves, but rather that they were competing against a relatively small group of top-tier horses. Not surprisingly, that same data showed that those non-point earners tended to leave AQHA competition.

The data spurred the Blue-Ribbon Task Force and AQHA staff to look at the long-standing point system and led to the development of the leveling program. Since then, the AQHA leveling program has been tested through two pilot shows – the 2012 Kansas Quarter Horse Association Prairie Classic, February 15-19, and the Silver Dollar Circuit, March 14-18.

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To test the program, AQHA had to have a clear-cut plan at each of the pilot shows. Here’s how they worked:

  • Leveled classes ran concurrently with established AQHA classes. Points were figured under both the current AQHA system and under the leveling program and were awarded according to whichever system most benefitted the exhibitor.
  • The point breakdowns under the current system and under leveling were posted with the results from each class so people could compare how the points were awarded under both systems.
  • After the first full day of leveled open classes at the Prairie Classic, AQHA on-site staff and show management invited all show attendees to an impromptu town-hall-style meeting.

Check out the AQHA website for more details on leveling.

Plans are now in the works for an additional test show in September in Oregon, specifically to include testing for cattle class leveling. Stay tuned for more developments in AQHA’s new leveling program!

4 thoughts on “AQHA Leveling Program”

  1. I didn’t show because of the point that you raised about competing against a small number of top tier horses in amateur. If you look at the halter horses, you’ll find that most of the top horses weren’t bred by that person but rather purchased. And yet you called her the top breeder at the world show. The way I look at it the field just got leveled on April 17th. I put a horse out just before that, in halter, figuring I wouldn’t have much of a chance. She did very well at her first show and I’ll see how she does at her second, the Rochester classic, a tougher show. Right now she is showing in open until she gets used to showing. Then I’ll show her too in amateur, novice amateur and/or select. I’ve had quarter horses since 1985 and yes I’m still considered a novice amateur. When I joined in 1985 I was an amateur alone, then you added novice and select. Now you are adding additional breakdowns. People are just plain getting confused and this confusion is also causing people not to show. Why don’t you just keep it simple and get the costs of showing down which is another limiting factor. Many shows run until after midnight because of so many class breakdowns. People want to have fun showing, not go broke because of all the expenses and not because they want to stay up late at night waiting for all the classes to be done. Bottom line: Keep it simple or rather simplify the whole show process. Thank you.

  2. In some ways I totally agree with Denise. I got my Amateur card when the Amateur classes were brand new. I remember a Horsemanship class where we had 5 entries. The judge came up to us and stated,”I don’t know quite what to do with you guys.” We looked at each other and then I said, “Well, that’s OK. We’ll tell you what to do.” That got a laugh and the class was under way. That doesn’t happen any more and more is the shame. Showing for true Amateurs is supposed to be FUN. But it isn’t that way in todays shows. It is a business – and a BIG TIME business. AQHA, if possible, needs to find a way to make the showing fun and affordable. Otherwise, people are just going to show the local open shows like they did before AQHA existed. So that is the real bottom line: Simplicity, friendliness and FUN. Good luck!

  3. I agree with these Ladies also.I show the local open shows at about 3 to1.I can show 3 local shows for what it costs to show 1 AQHA show.I have been to AQHA. shows and feel like my horses and I could compete.but,trying to figure out classes,leveling,costs,takes the fun out of it for our family.I echo Mary Lou’s words Simplicity,Friendliness and Fun. Thank You.

  4. After 20 years of showing gaited horses I returned to the Quarter Horse, because my fond childhood memories (1970’s-80’s) & my young son needed a “safe” horse to learn to ride. WOW, what a shocker. I need an on-line course/webinar on the classes, divisions and differences. I like the leveling program and applaud you for trying to get the breed back on track and appealing to more people. I agree with the previous people who posted comments, it is very comfusing and fear has kept me from TRYING to show at any AQHA show because “I don’t belong there” — yet we show weekly at the open shows and do very well. We will try an Introductory Show, first and see how it goes… it is 9/9. The cost is sooo much at the other shows (Gordyville, Cloverdale, etc.) that it makes it impossible to take a couple horses without dropping $500-$1,000 in a AQHA weekend. Ummmm, did you look at the economy lately? We just can’t afford those expenses when we can go win a couple hundred at some fairs and have fun. Gotta have some give & take…

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