Will lowering the 2016 AQHA Incentive Fund cap to 20 points impact your decision on how many shows you attend in the future? Vote in our poll and let us know. Photo © Tiffany Anne Photo

GoHorseShow Asks the Industry: Thoughts on the 2016 AQHA Incentive Fund 20 Point Cap?

Back in its heyday, the AQHA Incentive Fund was a must for all breeders. Potential owners would not buy a horse that wasn’t enrolled in the program. Some would argue that the fund, which was started in 1983, has been struggling the past decade due to several factors such as the economy, resulting in a domino effect leading to a decline in numbers for all programs including registration, membership, breeding, etc. According to AQHA, the year 2001 had the highest number of total nominations (foals and stallions) to the fund of 19,331 compared to just 2,829 in 2016.

In 2012, AQHA implemented a $50 licensing fee in an effort to revive the fund. However, this new fee seemed to backfire somewhat as even more members became disenchanted with the program. In 2016, AQHA did away with the competition licenses and the point cap was changed to one plus the average number of points earned by incentive fund horses during the year.

GoHorseShow reached out to AQHA for clarification on how and when the 20 point cap was approved and implemented, but at the time of publishing this article, they had not responded to our request for comment.

For 2016, AQHA revised the point cap from 200 points in 2015 to 20 points to keep the payout the same without charging the annual licensing fee. However, many exhibitors and breeders were caught off guard and were unaware of this drastic change until they received their incentive fund checks in the mail. The point value for 2016 was $22.01 for owners and nominators; 70% going to the exhibitors, 15% going to the stallion owner, and 15% to the mare owner.

Although the price per point was increased, the result of the 20 point cap meant that exhibitors earning significantly more than 20 points would see substantially lower total payouts for their Incentive Fund horses. For example, in 2015, Amateur Meggen Morrow Baynes from Lansing, Michigan, received $2,313.55 in AQHA Incentive Fund earnings while in 2016, she received $308.14 for roughly the same amount of points. Another Amateur told us the same story – she received $3,700 in 2015 and in 2016, she earned $379 for approximately the same number of points.

We talked to several breeders, trainers, and owners in the industry and asked them their thoughts about the program and the drastic change to the point cap this year. Let’s find out what everyone had to say.

Thad O’Boyle – For the 2016 year, it had appeared to me early on, when AQHA came out with the new configuration for the program, that there was not going to be much benefit for me. The hardest part for me to swallow is knowing that I should be paid for around 1,000 points, and it being capped at 20. I feel that my incentive went to a bunch of people who only made it to one or two shows and earned a handful of points and got paid the full amount – $22.01. I received 30 cents per point. Shame on AQHA to treat the highest point earning horse for 2016 this way.

Let’s get to funding the program. I have a few ideas. Each stallion and mare should submit a fee, but the significant change should come from the transfer of ownership. There needs to be a fee at this point, and each time there is a transfer of ownership. These fees are only mandatory if you choose to be enrolled in the incentive fund. I would be willing to nominate at the time of transfer up to $250.

Tiina Volmer – Being a competitive amateur for over 20 years, I am very disappointed with the incentive fund program. It rewards being average and not exceptional. It does not give an incentive to continue showing after you are qualified for the world show. For over 20 years, I have taken my incentive fund check plus adding more of my hard earned income to an account that was strictly used for showing horses. One hundred percent of my incentive fund money went back into AQHA horse shows. If I put in my total incentive fund check for 2016, it would not cover entry fees for one horse show. Unfortunately, I honestly believe the amateur numbers will diminish rapidly due to the change in the incentive fund and the rise in the cost of competing at horse shows. Obviously, we love our horses and love to compete, but we would like an incentive to show all year along instead of just getting qualified after a few large shows. I am concerned with the state of this association on how they inform and treat their membership; it feels very misleading. I would like to see AQHA be great again!

Hilary Reinhard – It was disappointing getting the check for this year. The press releases from AQHA were pretty vague. So, I had thought they would at least pay for 20 points in the open and 20 in the amateur. But, I guess capping the points at the average makes half the people disappointed and half of them excited. I have enjoyed the yearly checks and have always bought incentive fund eligible horses. But, with the lower payout, I am rethinking if it is a necessity.

Debbi Trubee – I think AQHA would be well served by ending the current incentive fund and consider coming up with something that would be of more interest to breeders. With the incentive fund numbers dramatically declining over the years, it can no longer sustain itself and breeders understand they won’t even get their initial investment back. I would hope AQHA would stop taking money from mare and stallion owners, knowing the fund is no longer salvageable. I would like to add that we still put the stallions and our babies in the fund only because the truth about the decline of the fund hasn’t trickled down to the general buying public. There is still an expectation from those folks that a horse has to be nominated.

Angela Fox – Other than being completely unaware of this change, the most frustrating part is that, as an all around exhibitor, we enter the most classes, spend the most on entry fees, and often haul to a larger number of horse shows to get qualified. Usually, this results in a larger amount of points earned, which was rewarded by the incentive fund. Now, everyone mostly earns the same amount.

Joanne Garnett – Like everyone else, I am pretty upset and frustrated with the incentive fund checks. I guess some of it is on me for not knowing the changes that were made. I do feel AQHA lacks in communication to their members and transparency on issues. I feel changing a program yearly is also a bad idea. I feel that AQHA got people to nominate studs and foals based on a payout system. If you are constantly changing the rules every year, you are not fair to the people who nominated their studs and foals based on a certain result. If the fund is short, maybe AQHA needs to look to some business advisors to come up with a program to make the system sound. I think they owe that to the people that they continue to take nominations from. I also feel that decisions about programs and world shows need to be made on a sound financial basis instead of just what the AQHA Executive Committee wants.

Jason Martin – All it means is that the incentive fund is a non-issue anymore. It will not affect anyone’s choice in buying a horse. It will also not pay back the stallion owners for their investment, and, in my opinion, will not be around much longer.




Kerry Bradac
– As a stallion owner/mare owner, I feel my money would be much better spent offering incentives to those buying foals from my program. Reward the exhibitor for earning their superiors, ROMS, and championship titles. Many breeders are offering incentives for AQHA Congress and World Champions and/or Top Ten Champions by their stallions or out of their programs, but at the end of the day, many exhibitors don’t go to those select few shows. It is the “Weekend Warrior” who has been the backbone of the industry. I would rather reward the exhibitors that support my program versus paying into a program that my hard earned dollars go into a pot that pays team penners, team ropers, and ranch riding exhibitors. I would rather give something back to my customers.

Beckie Peskin – I think it’s complex. While it sounds like it’s a small increase for a large number of folks (those who earned less than 20 points earned more per point), how much of an incentive is $4 or so more per point which equates to about $80 more to that 20 point earner? I’m not sure what another $80/person is going to get them to do. That wouldn’t cover a stall fee at most weekend shows. On the flip side, it’s surely not an incentive to those that haul a lot to keep doing so. I would expect that many of them may haul enough to get qualified and then consider cutting back…using their vacation days for an actual vacation. If they are specifically hauling for a year-end title, then they will keep going, but that’s a minuscule percentage of folks. For me, it’s not a huge blow. I can’t show as much as I used to. I’m not hauling for titles, and the shows in my area are small, so while my horse is home, there aren’t many points to be had. My fear is, though, that shows will continue to get smaller. A lot of all around folks will now stop going so much.

Larry Spratto – The AQHA Incentive Fund has evolved since its inception from a major plus in horse buying to a little-asked question in our dealings. I have not had a client who is horse shopping list the incentive as a requirement in years. I think it is just a sign of the times – breeding is down, state futurities are down, there is little incentive for breeders. There are also other organizations offering incentives that have taken the place of the AQHA Incentive Fund. The dynamics are changing for sure.

Ariel Herrin – I understand that funds are limited, and there needs to be a change that allows for more room in the budget, but as an amateur, it’s honestly a huge deterrent to only be paid for twenty points. I have paid my college tuition with my incentive fund money in the past. This year, I will be able to pay one month’s rent. The people out there getting all the points are the people promoting AQHA, spending the most money by showing, and thus, accumulating the most points. Therefore, AQHA is essentially demoting the value they place on the people showing the most by limiting the money they return to their exhibitors by such drastic measures. I have worked hard for every point I have earned and have been fortunate to earn more than 20 points in a single horse show on a fairly regular basis. By only being paid for those 20, it devalues the rest of the points and leaves a bad taste in my mouth, as someone who loves this association and has committed so much time and money to it. I sincerely hope this is a learning opportunity for AQHA on how not to treat their most loyal members.

Jessica Baird – As an amateur exhibitor, I find the current state of the incentive fund program to be incredibly frustrating. In years past, I have been fortunate enough and extremely grateful to accumulate and be paid on all points earned resulting in incentive fund payments of $5,000 plus. That money made was then reinvested into my personal showing budget for the following year. When you haul all year long and accumulate hundreds of points only to be paid for 20, I feel there is a definite flaw in the system. Why haul all year all over the United States when I reached my payment cap on incentive fund points in one show? I accumulated 200+ points last year and to receive a check for $374 which doesn’t even cover last weekend’s show bill. It causes me to wonder, why should we continue to pay into this program?

Amy Mackie Smith – As a stallion owner, nominator, and amateur exhibitor, the capping of points hits me all around. I find it very frustrating to pay into a program, to believe in my club, only to have them pull the rug out from under my feet. Twenty points? That’s insulting. It truly is. I can’t show one horse at my local AQHA show for that. I feel that AQHA needs to step back and take a look at their internal infrastructure. They need to be making our club, “exhibitor” friendly again. It’s gone through a lot of changes in the last few years. They need to listen to their members’ frustrations and advice. NSBA is rapidly gaining ground over AQHA with their incentives, prizes, and mission to please the exhibitors and horse owners. The NSBA World Show is one of my favorite shows. I can tell you that I will continue to enroll my foals into the NSBA BCF/SIF. Unfortunately, I will be giving much consideration on whether or not to register my foals in the AQHA Incentive Fund.

Cole Gower – My thoughts are: 1) All caps that AQHA has should be explained as of Jan. 1st of a current show year and not be changed. I think for the Association, it should stand to what it’s put in the rulebook, as some of its members use and rely on that money for their annual horse show budget. 2) For a 20 point cap, most of the world show qualifying points are close to the 20 point cap. In the case of showmanship, the qualifying is 20 points. With many exhibitors showing and qualifying in multiple events, the AQHA Incentive Fund is barely covering them showing in one class.

Meggen Morrow Baynes – I am a registered nurse who makes an honest living. My family sacrifices a lot so that I can show my horse. I am an amateur that usually earns about 150-200 AQHA points per year. I depend on that incentive fund money every year to pay for at least half of my entry fees and stalls at AQHA shows for the upcoming season. Today, I have already canceled five AQHA circuits that I typically attend every year. I can’t justify spending that kind of money to attend shows and “earn” points that are of no value. As a do-it-yourself amateur on a strict budget, I have almost zero incentive to show more than just the local AQHA shows. Let me also mention that earning points to attend the World Show is pointless for me; I can’t afford $250-$400/class. I have now already booked stalls at several open shows as I could potentially win more money in a single weekend than I can earn with incentive fund for an entire year. I would rather be paid out $5/point on all points that I make. As the Vice President of the Michigan Quarter Horse Association, I will continue to support MQHA shows, but that’s about it.

Darcy Reeve – I, like many fellow AQHA members, was blindsided by the 20 point cap rule. Receiving a check for two horses that each earn well over 20 points every year is something we always look forward to. It helps with the costs of showing all over the country and makes the long hauls seem worth it. That’s just not the case anymore. I do not remember this being discussed with the members, and it seems detrimental to the program. It discourages breeders from nominating, which just hurts the program payouts even more. This change is just another hit from AQHA that turns people to other associations and impacts the World Shows.

Suzanne Mayo – I feel as though the owners who show year round and are the biggest supporters of the shows have become the biggest losers under the current scheme. What is my incentive to keep showing after my horse has gotten 20 points? The mare I show now got that many points in Florida alone this year, so she is already over the cap for 2017. It was an incentive to keep on hauling if you had a nice horse. Now…not so much. I hope they will reconsider for the future.

Carey Nowacek
– It is very sad. I know most amateurs use their incentive fund money to pay for the next year’s shows. A lot of people feel blindsided by AQHA on this. Maybe if they had reached out and gotten some input from the people receiving the incentive fund checks, there might not be as much push back on it. AQHA needs to work on getting more input and thoughts from exhibitors.




Kaleena Katz Weakly – It’s a huge disappointment. I earned 550 points last year with my all around horse, and I’m only getting paid for 20 of those points. In 2002, I earned 739 points with my all around horse at the time and received a check well over $20,000 which I was able to put towards my next all around prospect. Back then, they paid you for every point. I am also a breeder, and it doesn’t make sense to invest in enrolling my foals in the program. There are other programs available that offer a much wiser investment.


Sarah Elder Chabot
– I am sure it is a complicated issue to maintain the incentive fund. I wish I were headed to the AQHA convention not only to learn more but to actively participate in the discussion and find out how as a member, I can better impact change. Specifically for the incentive fund, of course, I am disappointed. I typically only buy horses that are in the fund, but as it becomes less impactful, it does less to make me want to buy those types of horses. Also, as an amateur, it was one way to recover some of the costs of showing. With the cap, it certainly doesn’t encourage me to go to more shows.

Charlie Cole
– With the current point cap and amount per point, it’s pretty much obsolete. I believe AQHA should have done a two-year payout and ended the program. It’s basically dead now.





Kathryn deVries Mitchell – I understand they are trying to spread the wealth and keep more people involved, but the people that put in the miles and work hard to get points on their horses lose out with the new point cap. One horse’s check before could pay for a whole big show. Now, it will hardly pay for their stall, with no change of money I have to spend to get the same points. It makes the program so much less appealing to someone that shows regularly. I will continue to nominate the foals I breed, as any advantage helps, but when I buy a horse myself, it won’t matter to me anymore if it’s in the program or not.



What do you think about the point cap for the 2016 AQHA Incentive Fund changing to 20 points? Vote in our poll and let us know!

Will lowering the 2016 AQHA Incentive Fund cap to 20 points impact your decision on how many shows you attend in the future?

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