Show Rule Changes

Show Rule Changes

View the recently approved AQHA Show Committee recommendations, which were approved by the AQHA Executive Committee.

English horse close up snaffle (Credit: Bee Silva)

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The AQHA Executive Committee recently reviewed and approved rule changes from the AQHA Show Committee, which were approved by the AQHA membership and the AQHA Board of Directors at the 2021 AQHA Convention in March.

All committee recommendations were reviewed for feasibility based on a variety of criteria, including but not limited to available resources, budget constraints and necessary computer programming. Careful consideration, discussion and debate were devoted to each item. Read the full standing-committee reports.

View highlights of the approved rule changes. All rules are effective January 1, 2022, unless noted otherwise.

General Subcommittee

  • Offer longe line and trail in hand for yearlings, 2-year-old and 3-year-old classes for international affiliates, excluding Canada.*

  • Amend Rule SHW467.1: Optional trail course obstacles include but are not limited to: Water hazard (ditch or small pond). No metal or slick-bottom boxes will be used. When a water hazard/box is used, it shall remain dry at all times in all divisions.

  • Appoint a task force to discuss AQHA-approved virtual shows for international affiliates, not including Canada, to provide input regarding programming.

  • Approve all four recommendations from the Equestrians With Disabilities Task Force, which include:

    1. Recommendation that the one-horse, one-rider rule applies to Equestrians With Disabilities riders.*

    2. Recommendation to adjust Equestrians With Disabilities rules to be similar to only allow a horse to be shown once in each class.*

    3. Recommendation that Equestrians With Disabilities exhibitors may use both hands with any type of bridle.

    4. Recommendation for AQHA staff, in conjunction with the chair of the EWD Task Force, to include three patterns for each class in the AQHA Rulebook.

Show Format and Procedures Subcommittee

  • Amend Rule SHW127.1: Show officials are defined as any person performing the duties of a show manager, ring steward or show secretary. Show officials, with the exception of ring stewards, must have a current AQHA individual membership. Any reputable person may act in the capacity of a show official who can furnish proof that he/she is capable through ability or experience. No show official or member of their immediate family, any children or other relatives living in the same household of either or both of the married persons, or any person owning or leasing the grounds on which a show is being held whose ownership could influence the outcome of any show held on such property, shall enter or exhibit horses in any AQHA-approved open or amateur show at which he/she is officiating, nor may any horse owned by such person be entered and exhibited. None of the following persons may enter or exhibit horses, nor may any horse owned by any of the following persons be entered and exhibited, in any AQHA-approved open or amateur show: (a) any show official for such particular AQHA-approved open or amateur show at which he/she is a show official; (b) any member of the immediate family [as defined in SHW220.1] of a show official, if such immediate family member is also living in the same household; or (c) the owner or tenant of the grounds on which such particular AQHA-approved open or amateur show is being held and whose ownership could influence the outcome of such show. Youth events and alliance shows, where it is acceptable by the rules of the alliance, are excluded from coverage under this rule.

  • Appoint a task force to investigate all other rules and/or associations and possible AQHA rules to support mounted shooting with AQHA as the governing body.

  • Continue the study of the AQHA Show Calendar by the Show and Format Subcommittee.

  • Compile statistics and data to support the study of multi-breed concurrent classes.

Leveling and Awards Subcommittee

  • Amend Rule SHW251.9: Level eligibility will be effective January 1 of each year and the exhibitor or horse will remain eligible for that level for the entire calendar year, regardless of the number of points earned during the year. For classes leveled by competitors (youth, amateur and open halter and cattle classes), competitors placing in the top two three in the Level 3 classes at the AQHYA, Open/Amateur or Select world shows any of the world shows are not eligible for Level 2 for the subsequent five years in that class within that division, regardless of points earned in the past three years.*

  • Exclude 2020 points from leveling range calculations due to COVID-19 impact on sanctioned show participation. From this point forward, the three-year leveling point ranges will exclude 2020 from the equation and points from 2021 will be reviewed at the 2022 AQHA Convention.*

  • Appoint a task force for development of a green non-pro division for exhibitors.*

  • Add Level 2 to the AQHA world champion show’s weanling halter classes in the amateur division.*

  • Amend Rule SHW117: An amateur division and/or Select amateur division may be approved separately or in conjunction with an AQHA-approved show for all ages and/or a youth show, provided at least four AQHA-approved amateur and/or Select amateur performance events are offered.*

  • Remove Rule SHW230: Amateur card holders may ride horses owned by someone other than immediate family members in any open division performance class for which they have been granted exemption by AQHA with no penalty, provided the amateur member pays all entry fees and expenses in connection with showing. Upon written request to AQHA’s Competition Department, and after receiving from them a permit authorizing such, an amateur member will be permitted to exhibit a horse he/she does not own in open-division classes at a maximum of two AQHA-approved shows. The amateur member seeking exemption must submit to AQHA’s Competition Department the names and exact dates of the two shows, as well as the horse’s name and AQHA registration number that they will exhibit. [SHW230.1] Only one such permit will be granted for a rider for a given horse, and no AQHA points will be awarded. [SHW230.2] Show management shall not allow a non-owned horse to be shown by an amateur member in the open division unless exhibitor has said permit at the time of entry. Failure to properly obtain permit prior to showing may result in revocation of amateur status and/or other penalties.

  • Amend Rule SHW245.8: Level 1 exhibitors, in amateur or youth, may participate on a non-owned horse in Level 1 amateur or Level 1 youth classes. The recorded owner retains the ability to show the same horse in any class other than the same class as the Level 1 exhibitor. At the discretion of show management, this option is may or may not be available to competitors at the top 10 show circuits. The top 10 show circuits can be found on AQHA.com. They are determined by the number of entries in the previous year. For the top 10 shows (provided the show accepts permits a Level 1 amateur or Level 1 youth member may apply for up to 10 permits allowing them to compete with one permit per show on a non-owned horse in Level 1 classes only. Points earned by Level 1, whether using permits or not, will count toward the point cap per class for Level 1 eligibility. Applications for permits shall be directed to the AQHA Competition Department on application forms provided by AQHA or an application may be filled out at an AQHA-approved show, and be granted as AQHA, in its sole discretion, determines. Exhibitors must have a current amateur or youth membership to participate. All Level 1 rules still apply whether using permits or not.

  • Amend Rule SHW 245.3.5: When determining eligibility for a level in a particular class, an individual may not have exceeded the point cap described in SHW245.1 for that particular class. In addition, at the time of application for Level 1 an individual may not have competed on a National Collegiate Equestrian Association team on a scholarship or ride as a starting exhibitor, in a particular class, excluded by discipline (western – horsemanship/reining and English – equitation/equitation over fences). Exhibitors are ineligible to return to Level 1 by discipline until 10 years after final year of competition on an NCEA equestrian team.

  • Compile all leveling rules into one digital document.

  • Amend Rules SHW251.7 and SHW251.8: SHW251.7 Horses in their first year of senior competition will automatically be eligible for Level 2 unless the horse places in the top three in a Level 3 class at the Open World Show. In this instance, the horse is not eligible for Level 2 for the subsequent five years in that class, regardless of points earned during the calculation period. SHW251.8 Horses placing in the top two three in the Level 3 classes at the Open World Shows are not eligible for Level 2 for the subsequent five years in that class, regardless of points earned in the past three years.*

Western and Timed Events Subcommittee

  • Appoint a task force to study the feasibility of adding an open ladies’ breakaway class to the AQHA show docket to be reported back at the 2022 Convention.

  • Amend Rule SHW375.2: The exhibitor must lead on the horse’s left side holding the lead shank in the right hand near the halter with the tail of the lead loosely coiled in the left hand. unless requested by the judge to show the horse’s teeth. It is preferable that The exhibitor’s hand shall not be on the snap or chain portion of the lead. The excess lead should never be tightly coiled, rolled or folded. When leading, the exhibitor should be positioned between the eye and the mid-point of the horse’s neck, referred to as the leading position.

  • Amend rule SHW564.1 Part Four – Drive the cow back down the fence (original side) past the middle marker and continue until the judge blows the whistle to show completion. While boxing the cow at the opposite end, if the rider loses control and allows the cow to cross the center line, the judge will whistle the end of the run. The rider will receive off pattern penalty (OP) for the run.

  • Amend SHW417.6: Posting at the extended trot is acceptable. Sitting the regular trot and lope is recommended; though standing in the stirrups at the extended trot and extended lope, or posting the extended trot is acceptable.

  • Allow as permitted equipment a linked mouthpiece with minimum 3/8” diameter that is smooth with movable links that are solidly attached to the shanks.

  • Any equipment and/or bit considered legal in an AQHA-approved class may be used on any horse for training purposes on show grounds, whether or not the horse will be shown in the class in which the equipment and/or bit is legal; for example, equipment and/or bits legal for barrel racing classes may be used on horses of other disciplines for training on the showgrounds

  • Amend SHW437.1: (Three (3) points): Obviously looking down to check leads. SHW437.2 (Five (5) points):  Obviously looking down to check leads.

English and Dressage Subcommittee

  • Amend Rules SHW621.2.1, SHW621.2.2 and SHW621.2.3: Maneuver evaluations and penalty applications are to be determined independently. The following penalties will be applied for each occurrence and will be deducted from the final score:

  1. SHW621.2.1: (Three (3) points)

Break of gait at the walk or trot up to 2 strides

Over or under turn from 1/8 to 1/4 turn

Tick or hit of cone

Obviously looking down to check leads or diagonals

Missing a diagonal up to 2 strides in the pattern or on the rail.

  1. SHW621.2.2: (Five (5) points)

Not performing the specific gait or not stopping within 10 feet (3 meters) of
     designated location

Missing a diagonal up to for more than 2 strides in the pattern or on the rail
Incorrect lead or break of gait at the canter (except when correcting an    
     incorrect lead)
Complete loss of contact between rider’s hand and the horse’s mouth

Break of gait at walk or trot for more than 2 strides
Loss of iron, head carried too low and/or clearly behind the vertical while the
     horse is in motion, showing the appearance of intimidation

  1. SHW621.2.3: (Ten (10) points)

Loss of rein

Missing a diagonal for more than 2 strides in the pattern or on the rail

Use of either hand to instill fear or praise while on pattern or during rail work

Holding saddle with either hand

Spurring or use of the of crop in front of girth

Blatant disobedience including kicking, pawing, bucking and rearing

  • Amend Rules SHW621.2.1 and SHW621.2.2: Maneuver evaluations and penalty applications are to be determined independently. The following penalties will be applied for each occurrence and will be deducted from the final score:

  1. SHW621.2.1: (Three (3) points)

Break of gait at the walk or trot up to 2 strides

Over or under turn from 1/8 to 1/4 turn

Tick or hit of cone

Obviously looking down to check leads or diagonals

Missing a diagonal up to 2 strides in the pattern or on the rail.

  1. SHW621.2.2: (Five (5) points)

Not performing the specific gait or not stopping within 10 feet (3 meters) of
     designated location

Obviously looking down to check leads or diagonals.

Missing a diagonal up to 2 strides in the pattern or on the rail
Incorrect lead or break of gait at the canter (except when correcting an   
     incorrect lead)
Complete loss of contact between rider’s hand and the horse’s mouth

Break of gait at walk or trot for more than 2 strides
Loss of iron, head carried too low and/or clearly behind the vertical while the
horse is in motion, showing the appearance of intimidation

  • Appoint a task force to consider adding a new eventing rule, SHW686.

  • Appoint a task force to consider adding a new eventing rule, SHW686.1.

  • Appoint a task force to consider adding a new eventing rule, SHW686.2.

  • Appoint a task force to consider adding a new eventing rule, SHW686.3.

  • Appoint a task force to consider adding a new eventing rule, SHW687.

World Show Subcommittee

  • Continue the 3-year-old western pleasure class at the AQHA World Show as a stakes class.*

  • Offer an optional jackpot at the AQHA Youth World Championship Show to serve as a self-funding scholarship opportunity. Staff to review and implement specific details to include the percent of payback given to the scholarship, the payback scale (to be consistent with other scholarship formats) and the 501c5 and 501c3 implications.*

Halter Subcommittee

  • Amend Rule SHW567.6: Exhibitors may qualify and show more than one horse in ranch conformation classes. Not allowing these horses to be shown by other exhibitors will make them ineligible for the all-around, which will also affect the overall all-around results for other exhibitors. Open exhibitors cannot show another youth or amateur horse; however, a youth or amateur exhibitor can show other youth, amateur or open horses. The preference is for another family member to show the additional horse(s). This guideline is similar to SHW369.4 for other halter classes. For additional rules concerning halter not addressed in ranch conformation see SHW350 HALTER CLASSES.”*

View more on AQHA’s rules and regulations.

Read additional highlights of approved agenda items from the 2021 standing-committee reports.

*Pending further review regarding feasibility of recommendation, including but not limited to available resources, budget constraints and necessary computer programming.

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