Show Format Descriptions

Find out which type of show format is right for you.

Most AQHA shows offer a variety of classes (English, halter, western) and divisions (youth, amateur, open) for competitors of different skill levels. Some shows may offer Level 1 classes for the youth and amateur divisions, and some offer the special Select classes for amateur exhibitors who are 50 years of age and over. Below are additional show formats that various show managements offer to meet exhibitors' needs.

All Level 1 Shows 

Have some fun showing while getting your feet wet at all-Level 1 shows. These events are specially-designed for eligible youth and amateur exhibitors who are eligible to compete in Level 1. This means you'll compete in classes with people of similar skill and experience levels. All-Level 1 shows are hosted by AQHA state and provincial affiliates, and are usually held as stand-alone events or can be held during an open show.

Visit to learn more about AQHA's Level 1. 

Introductory Shows 
AQHA is introducing AQHA-approved classes to run during any open or 4-H horse show; in fact, these AQHA classes themselves can be held within other classes at the show. For example, AQHA members exhibiting in the open show’s western pleasure class can also receive points based off their placings against other AQHA members in that class. The shows are Level 1-driven, but show management can choose to offer open, amateur and youth classes, as well. Though classes will incorporate some relaxed rules to accommodate their new format, they will continue to uphold the core AQHA show standards and rules. Exhibitors will be able to earn AQHA points as is the case for all other AQHA shows, and all classes will be judged by AQHA judges.

Livestock Shows and Fairs
Some of the largest AQHA shows are held during livestock shows and fairs. These collective events, which feature shows for other livestock, offer all levels of competition including strong youth classes. The number of entries may be high and you can find competitors seeking points due to the large class size as well as the casual exhibitor.

Regional Championships
The AQHA regional championships delivers the ultimate American Quarter Horse experience to 10 destinations across North America. In addition to a fun and relaxed AQHA competition, you will experience great shopping, test rides on an American Quarter Horse and AQHA Professional Horsemen clinics and seminars.

Special Events 
Want to meet more people who show in the same event as you? A special event just might be the ticket. Special events,­ as the name implies­, may feature two single events like team penning and cutting, barrel racing and pole bending or roping events like team roping and tie-down roping. The serious and the casual competitor attend these special events. A single set of points is awarded at each special event.

Double Judged / Double Point 
Want to earn points fast? Then a double judged/double point show might just be the ticket for you. This format features one show with two judges, meaning that your top placings could earn two sets of points without having to exhibit twice. Double judged/double point shows are primarily found at major livestock shows where there are a large number of exhibitors. The majority of exhibitors who attend these shows are highly competitive, so expect top-quality exhibitors and American Quarter Horses. Expect to pay two entry fees.

Split Combined 
Another efficient way for exhibitors to rack up more points is to attend a split/combined show. Any two consecutive shows (like a Saturday and Sunday show) can be combined into one show and split over two days. There are two judges and two sets of points and the class is held only once, a real bonus for exhibitors who are trying to qualify for the world shows or earn year-end awards. Expect to pay two entry fees which is the norm for most split/combined shows.

Alliance Shows 
You can earn AQHA points by competing at shows hosted by AQHA alliance members ­ National Cutting Horse Association, National Reining Horse Association, National Reined Cow Horse Association, National Snaffle Bit Association and United States Team Penning Association. These approved events award points based on the AQHA system to those exhibitors who like to show in both organizations. You can expect all levels of competitors from the Novice to the professional. AQHA rules are applicable and exhibitors must meet AQHA ownership and eligibility requirements.

Meet AQHA's alliance partners.

Versatility Ranch Horse Competition
Versatility Ranch Horse competition demonstrates the versatility of the working ranch horse in five categories – ranch riding, ranch trail, ranch cutting, working ranch horse and ranch conformation. To be eligible for points in the Versatility Ranch competition, one rider/one horse must enter all five classes. Credits will be applied per class according to the placing received based on the number of horses competing in that particular class. AQHA points are awarded based on the total earned credits that determine the final placing. There is an open division, as well as an amateur division for horses shown by the recorded owner or by immediate family members or or the cowboy division for horses to be shown by a full-time employee (six months or more). A youth division also is offered to exhibitors 18 years of age or younger (age as of January 1) as long as they are the recorded owner or exhibit a horse owned by his or her immediate family members. Youth exhibitors may show horses owned by a ranch where the exhibitor's family is a full time employee (for six months or more). The Versatility Ranch Horse competition promotes the athletic ability and versatility of the horse.

Equestrians With Disabilities
AQHA and AQHYA members have a new type of competition that offers people with certain mental and physical challenges the thrill of showing an American Quarter Horse. It provides an arena for everyone to enjoy the rewards of hard work, determination and perseverance. This program allows you to earn points for year-end high-point awards, along with the satisfaction of a job well done.

Learn more about the Equestrians With Disabilities program.



May-June 2024

  • Craftsmen Will and Marissa Boedeker are embracing ranch life, leatherwork and building a family.

  • These jockeys-turned-ropers appreciate equine athleticism.

  • Nearly 900 AQHA members attended the 2024 AQHA Convention in Las Vegas.

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