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AQHA Novice Championships


Article & photo by Allison Lail

This year the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) introduced the Novice Championships East and West. I was fortunate to live so close and be able to visit the East Championships, sponsored by Nutrena, held at the Tennessee Miller Coliseum in Murfreesboro, TN, October 5-7, 2012. This show was a huge success! There were nearly 3,000 entries, with 688 horses ridden by 644 exhibitors. The largest class was the Novice Amateur Horsemanship class, with 233 entries. There were numerous vendors, great clinics, beautiful horses and fabulous riders, a good facility, and a sea of horse trailers. This was a great opportunity to give more new exhibitors a chance to compete at a major show during the year. Holly Hover, an AQHA Judge since 1988 and trainer from Cave Creek, Arizona, says, “There is an intermediate group between the very green riders and the seasoned youth and amateur riders. I think adding a Novice Championship Show gives these riders a higher level of competition to show against and gives them a way to gain more experience before moving up and showing at the World Shows.”

The concept of a regional championship for Novice-level competitors was foaled in January 2011 by the AQHA Regional Championship Shows Task Force. Novice competitors could qualify nationally or through affiliate qualifying methods, May 1, 2011 – June 30, 2012. The results were the 2012 inaugural Novice Championships East and West. Novice Championships West, sponsored by SmartPak, were held also on October 4-7 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The AQHA Handbook spells out the rules to follow to determine your eligibility as a Novice. You cannot compete as a Novice in any Novice classes if you match any of the following criteria:
  • Won a world or reserve world, national or reserve national championship title in any other equine breed organization in an AQHA-approved event
  • Won a total of $5,000 in cash and prizes with any equine breed organization
  • Been an accredited horse show judge
  • Earned 25 or more performance points in the AQHA open, novice amateur, amateur, novice youth or youth divisions combined.
Novice points are awarded for an exhibitor’s lifetime points in that Novice class.
Full results for both East and West Novice Championships are available at:

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