September 30 - October 4, 2015
Las Vegas

September 30 - October 4, 2015
Lexington, Virginia


Find out if you are eligible to compete at the AQHA Novice championships, plus learn how to qualify for the event.

AQHA Novice Championship ShowsTo earn an invitation to the 2015 Nutrena East or SmartPak West AQHA Novice championship shows, the exhibitor must qualify in one of four ways.

To verify if you are eligible to qualify for the AQHA Novice championship shows in a particular class, visit Novice is part of the AQHA leveling program, and changes made to Level 1 (formerly Novice) eligibility were made effective January 1, 2013. Visit to verify if you are eligible for Level 1, and read on below to see if you comply with additional Novice championship rules.

1.    Show at 20 shows in a Level 1 (formerly Novice) class; if a show does not offer the Novice class, contact the show manager or show secretary to add the class. Shows will be counted by show numbers on a one-horse, one-rider basis; for questions about how many show numbers a show will count for, competitors should ask the presiding show manager or secretary. As Level 1 halter classes are not commonplace, Level 1-eligible halter exhibitors may compete in the corresponding youth or amateur halter class to count for their 20 shows. Call AQHA Customer Service at (806) 376-4811 to verify how many Level 1 classes you have competed in during the qualifying period. –or–

2.    Place in the top 10 in a Level 1 class at an AQHA Regional Championship Show; the top-10 placing qualifies the rider on that horse only. If your Regional Championship does not offer the Novice class you are interested in, contact the show manager or show secretary to add the class. Again, since Novice halter classes are not commonly offered, a top-10 finish in the corresponding youth or amateur halter class at a Regional Championship will count for Level 1-eligible halter exhibitors. If your region is one that is choosing not to conduct a Regional Championship, you may participate in a region that is offering one. For information on participating in another region, visit to see which regions are hosting a 2015 Regional Championship. Call AQHA Customer Service at (806) 376-4811 or log-in to AQHA's member services area and order a performance record on the horse you placed with to verify your top 10 placing. –or–

3.    Qualify through the exhibitor’s state/provincial affiliate. If the exhibitor’s affiliate does not have a qualifying method listed, the exhibitor must nationally qualify or qualify through another affiliate. To qualify through another affiliate, the exhibitor must be a member in good standing with the other affiliate (other than the state/province you reside in) and be selected by that affiliate as a qualifier. Find your affiliate's qualifying method then contact your affiliate to see where you stand in their list of qualifiers.

4.    Rookie classes will also be offered. Core Rookie classes (showmanship, horsemanship, hunt seat equitation, western pleasure, hunter under saddle and trail) will be offered for exhibitors who are eligible for the Rookie level as of January 1 of the Nutrena East or SmartPak West AQHA Novice championship show year. Keep in mind the horse that you intend to bring for the class must also be Rookie eligible. Call AQHA Customer Service at (806) 376-4811 or visit to verify your and your horses' Rookie eligibility.

Additional Novice Championship Rules

1.     If a horse and rider competed in a performance halter, reining or ranch riding class at the Zoetis Cattle Novice Championship, they are not eligible to compete in either of these classes at the 2015 SmartPak West or Nutrena East AQHA Novice championship shows.

2.    Invitations to the Novice championship shows earned by nationally qualifying are done so on a one-horse, one-rider basis.

3.    Exhibitors must be Level 1-eligible (formerly Novice) at the time of qualifying to earn invitations to the Novice championships.

4.    Level 1 eligibility is based on a calendar year, meaning January 1 to December 31; the Novice championship qualifying period is July 1 to June 30 of the following year. Level 1-eligible exhibitors who nationally qualify before December 31, then graduate out of Level 1 on January 1, would still earn an invitation to the appropriate year’s Novice championship for which they qualified.

5.    An exhibitor must qualify in at least one class to earn an invite to the Novice championship shows; the exhibitor may qualify either nationally or state/provincially, but not both.

6.    If an exhibitor nationally qualifies, the exhibitor’s state/provincial affiliate will not include that exhibitor in their state qualifying list, which gives other exhibitors the opportunity to qualify.

7.    An invitation to the Novice championship shows earns the invitee the ability to enter any class that the exhibitor feels comfortable showing in with that particular horse on which the exhibitor qualified. The exhibitor must be Level 1-eligible in the class at the time of qualifying in order to enter that particular class at the Novice championship show.

8.    There is no restriction on which Novice championship an exhibitor may attend. Exhibitors may only compete at one Novice championship per year.

9.    The rule requiring youths to be 9 years old to compete in halter has been relaxed for the Novice championships.

10.    Exhibitors may qualify, and attend, both a Novice championship and an AQHA world championship show in the same year.

11.    Novice-eligible exhibitors who place in the top two at an AQHA world show will maintain Level 1 eligibility through the end of the year. Meaning, the exhibitor would remain eligible to compete at the Novice championship, provided they had qualified to attend the Novice championships.

12.    Exhibitors who win a class at a Novice championship are ineligible to compete in Level 1 in the subsequent years.

13.    Exhibitors who win a halter class at a Novice championship are ineligible to compete in Level 1 in the subsequent years.

14.    Each horse-and-rider combination will pay a flat entry fee, which will include the entry of up to three classes, office and drug-testing fees, plus one stall. Tack stalls may be purchased for $100, and exhibitors will also need to pay for shavings. Each additional class, after three, will cost an additional $35 per class. No classes are offered on an individual basis without the $325 flat fee being paid first.  

15.    No class entries will be taken on-site, but exhibitors have the ability to scratch from classes at the show.

16.    Should a horse receiving an invitation to the 2015 Novice championships die, the exhibitor may substitute and participate with another horse up to one hour prior to the appropriate class in showmanship, horsemanship and hunt seat equitation; the appropriate show office must be notified, and provided with a statement from an American Association of Equine Practitioners- approved veterinarian verifying the qualified horse’s death. Exhibitors who qualify in any other class may participate with another horse if the qualified horse dies before the entry deadline. When submitting entry to the designated show secretary, a statement from an AAEP-approved veterinarian verifying the death of the qualified horse must also be submitted.

17.    For the Novice championships only, if a horse becomes severely injured or disabled, a substitute will be allowed for the Novice championships that the injured/disabled horse qualified for. In order to replace a debilitated horse, written statements from two AAEP-approved veterinarians stating the severity of the debilitating injury or illness, and lack of probably of short-term recovery, must be submitted to AQHA or the show office at the event and the appropriate show office is notified at least one hour prior to the particular class. [Please note that due to Level 1 rules, the competitor does not have to own the horse that he or she shows at the Novice championships.]