The 2016 AQHA Level 1 Championships will now be in the spring: the SmartPak AQHA West Level 1 Championships will be April 20-24 at the South Point Equestrian & Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, the Nutrena AQHA East Level 1 Championships is slated for May 4-8 at the Governor James B. Hunt Horse Complex in Raleigh, North Carolina, and the newly added AQHA Central Level 1 Championships April 13-17 at State Fair Park in Oklahoma City. 

The SmartPak West, AQHA Central and Nutrena East will all offer AQHA's core and over-fences classes; the AQHA Central will be the only show to offer cattle classes. View the show-by-show class list for 2016.

For 2016 only, AQHA has also changed the qualifying rules. To be eligible to enter the 2016 Level 1 Championship, an exhibitor must:

  • Be Level 1 eligible in the class they wish to enter as of January 1, 2015.
  • Be an AQHA member at the time of entry and at the time of the 2016 Level 1 Championships.
  • If a competitor graduated out of Level 1 in the 2015 show season, he or she is still invited to enter the event.
  • If you win a Level 1 championship in 2015, you cannot show in that same class at future Level 1 Championships, including the 2016 Level 1 Championships. However, you can still show in that class at AQHA shows (excluding the Level 1 Championships) until you meet the point level. You can still show at the Level 1 Championships in any other class(es) for which you are still Level 1-eligible. Learn more about AQHA Rule SHW245.3 in the AQHA Official Handbook of Rules and Regulations.


Incentive Fund Changes for 2016

Owner, exhibitor and breeder feedback is driving changes to the Incentive Fund. To make the program more beneficial to all competitors, effective January 1, 2016, competition licenses will no longer be required, and the point cap will change to one plus the average number of points earned during the year.



Helmets Required in Youth English Classes

The requirement for ASTM/SEI-approved helmets in all youth English classes is effective January 1, 2015.

Effective January 1, all exhibitors in youth English classes will be required to compete in an American Society for Testing and Materials/Safety Equipment Institute-approved hard hat with harness. This requirement will apply to both flat (hunter under saddle and hunt seat equitation) and over-fences classes.

The hard hat requirement is an amendment to Rule SHW320.2 in the AQHA Official Handbook of Rules and Regulations. The amendment was announced December 13, 2013, after it was approved by the AQHA Executive Committee. The amendment was a recommendation from the AQHA English and Dressage Subcommittee, and it was approved by the AQHA Show Council.

'Exhibitor safety is a paramount concern at AQHA events,' said AQHA Executive Director of Shows and Judges Pete Kyle.

'This amendment solely affects the youth division, and in so many other sporting events, youth wear safety helmets, so this really is about safety first,' Kyle added.

Per Rule SHW320.2, amateur competitors are required to wear approved helmets in over-fences classes. Although helmets are not required in other AQHA classes, riders are encouraged to wear protective helmets at their discretion.

AQHA News and information is a service of the American Quarter Horse Association. For more news and information, follow @AQHAnews on Twitter, watch the AQHA Newscast and visit

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