AQHA competition starts at the Rookie level.

AQHA’s Rookie level is the perfect level of competition for beginning competitors or those with few accomplishments. 

Rookie classes are offered for exhibitors at all ages and riding levels. These classes are great introduction for riders to the AQHA show scene, as well as a terrific environment for exhibitors to try out a new class.



Who is eligible for Rookie classes?

Rookie classes are offered in all three AQHA divisions – open, amateur and youth.

All Rookie eligibility is based on lifetime points (through October 31, 2019) and earnings by class for horse and rider.

  • Consider lifetime points earned in all divisions all levels except for:
    • Exclude all VRH points.
    • Exclude all dressage points.
    • Exclude all cowboy mounted shooting points.
    • Exclude all Equestrian With Disability points.
    • Exclude all walk-trot/jog points.
  • Exhibitor must have earned fewer than 10 lifetime points in that class, any division.
  • Exhibitor may not have won a total of $5,000 or more in the class.
  • Horse must have earned fewer than 50 lifetime points in that class, any division.
  • Horse may not have won a total of $1,000 or more in that class.

**50 point and $1,000 earnings limit does not apply to horses in over-fence classes.



Rookie Championships

The AQHA Nutrena Central, East,  West and AQHA Cattle Level 1 championships also offer Rookie championship classes. 


Meet the revamped AQHA Level 1, formerly known as Novice.

Level 1 allows even the experienced AQHA member try something new to develop his or her horsemanship and exhibitor skills. This division is designed for beginning to minimally accomplished exhibitors. 




Level 1 (formerly known as Novice) is available for youth and amateur competitors, plus open for halter and cattle-event exhibitors.

For a full list of Level 1 eligibility requirements, refer to Rule SHW245 in the AQHA Official Handbook of Rules and Regulations.

Eligibility in a Level 1 class is determined by:

  1. Points earned in the past three years
  2. Lifetime awards won with either AQHA or any equine organization or association with a membership of more than 7,500. (Check here to see AQHA’s recognized equine organization or association membership numbers.)

If an exhibitor has not won any of the achievements listed in Rule SHW245.3 but has pointed out of Level 1, the exhibitor can only return to Level 1 in that particular class if the exhibitor has not earned any points in that class for 10 consecutive years, and the exhibitor must still meet the eligibility requirements per Rule SHW245.3 at that time.

When checking your Level 1 eligibility, if you find that you are ineligible due to having owned a horse that earned an Open superior or placed at the AQHA World Championship Show, and you are not the point earner nor were you the AQHA World Show exhibitor, please contact AQHA regarding your Level 1 eligibility.




To compete in a Level 1 class, you must have a current Level 1 application on file with AQHA; applications must be completed on the annual basis. The great part is that you can complete the Level 1 application at any time, even at the show!

Once you have pointed out of Level 1, based on all points you have earned, excluding Rookie points, in that particular class in the past three years, as well as lifetime awards and accomplishments, you may move on to Levels 2 and 3 of competition. And don’t forget: Level 1 competitors have the option to show up a level, or two, at any time.

Showing a Leased Horse

Level 1 competitors may compete with a horse that he or she does not own.

For example, Level 1 allows you to try out a horse you are thinking about buying. AQHA rules allow a Level 1 competitor to show a horse in a Level 1 class with the owner and his or her immediate family still retaining the ability to show the horse in any class other than the same class as the Level 1 exhibitor.

The top-10 shows/circuits require exhibitors to be the owner or related to the owner of the horse or have an AQHA show lease or permit. If the top-10 show does not allow permits, an AQHA show lease must be on file with AQHA. The top-10 shows/circuits are determined by the total number of entries the previous year and can change from year to year.

Top-10 shows/circuits that will require a permit or AQHA show lease for Level 1 competition in 2019: 

  • All American Quarter Horse Congress, Columbus, Ohio
  • Arizona Sun Country Circuit, Scottsdale, Arizona
  • Oklahoma Redbud Spectacular, Oklahoma City
  • Big A Circuit, Conyers, Georgia
  • Stars and Stripes Circuit, Conyers, Georgia
  • Florida Gold Coast Quarter Horse Show, Tampa, Florida
  • Silver Dollar Circuit, Las Vegas
  • Cornhusker Quarter Horse Show, Lincoln, Nebraska
  • SOQHA The Madness Circuit, Wilmington, Ohio
  • SOJQHA Show, Wilmington, Ohio

The All American Quarter Horse Congress is the largest individual show in terms of entries and will accept show leases but does not allow permits.

AQHA Level 1 Championships – West, Central, East and Cattle

If you’re a Level 1 or Rookie exhibitor, you no longer have to qualify to compete at the AQHA Level 1 Championships. All Level 1- and Rookie-eligible exhibitors are welcome to compete at one of the four Level 1 Championships.

  • AQHA West Level 1 Championships in Las Vegas
  • AQHA Central Level 1 Championship in Oklahoma City
  • Nutrena East Level 1 AQHA Championships in Wilmington, Ohio
  • AQHA Level 1 Championship cattle class will be held during the 2019 Zoetis AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse World Championships and Zoetis AQHA Ranching Heritage Challenge Finals, which are June 18-23 at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma.  



Find Your Level

Need help finding your AQHA show level? Follow these helpful steps.

The Level 1 Championships are offered in the spring, and in addition to Level 1 classes, these events also host Rookie classes, which do not require qualification, but the exhibitor and horse must be eligible for the class and enter before the deadline.

Level 1 Application

1. Visit

2. Choose a division: amateur, open or youth.
3. Choose show year.
4. Choose: exhibitor or horse.
5. Enter ID: membership ID for exhibitor or registration number for horse.
6. Click “Search.”

Note: A Level 1 eligibility application must be filed each year, and all Level 1 exhibitors are encouraged to complete the Level 1 application and return it to AQHA as soon as possible. 

Previous Level 1 application information on file with AQHA may conflict with current eligibility, which would affect the eligibility being shown on the level verification system.



Entering the Level 1 Championships? 

When you enter the 2019 AQHA Level 1 Championships in Level 1, walk-trot or Rookie classes, you will need to provide proof of your level.

  • Follow Steps 1-6 above to generate the print-out to send in with your entry.
  • Even if you have never shown with AQHA, you will still need to provide a print-out of your level eligibility. 
  • As noted above, a Level 1 application must be filed every year. 




Classes are leveled based on exhibitor or horse records. Level eligibility is based on both points and awards earned.

  • Leveled by exhibitor record: youth, amateur, Select amateur, halter and cattle classes
  • Leveled by horse record: open division classes (excluding halter and cattle events)
  • Rookie level is based on exhibitor record and horse record individually. Both the horse must be eligible and the exhibitor must be eligible based upon their individual record. 
    • SHW252 Rookie eligibility is based on lifetime achievements of exhibitor and horse.

Helpful Tips

  • If you or your horse is eligible for a class, the field will show “Y.” If you are not eligible, the field will show “N.”
  • Because Level 1 applications must be filed on an annual basis, an out-of-date Level 1 application may effect your Level 1 eligibility status on the level verification system. If you suspect that you are Level 1-eligible, but the system is saying different, please contact AQHA Customer Service for assistance.
  • When verifying a horse’s eligibility, be sure to select “Open Division.”
  • Additional information regarding Level 2 World Show criteria is available in the World Show Resources.
  • If you suspect an error, please contact AQHA Customer Service at 806-376-4811.