Horse Showing

AQHA Leveling Program

June 20, 2012

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!