Reader Poll: Should APHA Continue to Split Amateur Classes into Junior & Senior at the World Show?
With the APHA World Championship Show starting in a week (September 17-30), some of our readers wanted us to address the topic of having the Amateur Western Pleasure and Hunter Under Saddle classes split into Junior and Senior, Classic and Masters classes.
Many people in the industry believe that the splits in the divisions help create more opportunities for individuals to win prizes, however, many exhibitors feel the splits are not warranted due to the lack of entries in the classes. Some competitors feel that combining the classes will add more prestige to winning a world show class.
We asked the American Paint Horse Association to address the reasons behind splitting these classes. “The thought behind these, to my best understanding, is that by splitting, it gives more opportunity for the younger amateur horses to compete,” says Dave Dellin, American Paint Horse Association Sr. Director of Judges, Shows & Education. “People that are interested in this topic are always welcome to send emails or letters to APHA staff and the Executive Committee members letting us know their thoughts about these classes.”
GoHorseShow talked to several Paint breeders and exhibitors about their opinions on these classes. Read what they had to say below and vote in our poll below and let us know your position on this topic.
Elizabeth Spike Brewer – This is a question I ask myself every year. If memory serves me right, 2005 was the first year APHA offered the Amateur Classic Jr and Sr options in the hunter under saddle and western pleasure, and the same for the Master’s division. 2008 was the last year the APHA World Show was together with the youth during the summer. 2009 was the first year the Amateur/Open world show was moved to the fall. When you combine all those factors and look at it 14 years later, it does raise some serious questions if the division and horse age splits are still warranted.
It is not a simple black/white answer for me. I can honestly argue it both ways. My argument for why they need left alone and split into the four divisions (Am Jr & Masters Jr, Am Sr & Masters AM Sr) is simple. It’s been done that way for 14 years, and there have been 16 total World and Reserve World Champion Amateur Hunter Under Saddle and Western Pleasure buckles awarded at each world show the last 14 years. Do we want to lower the chances for our amateurs to feel competitive and win the most prestigious award you can win showing the APHA circuit? Just like most equine industries, we need support for our world show and to entice folks to come to show with us, and if you offer fewer rail classes, that could potentially hurt your overall participation in the rail events.
My other reason for leaving it as they are is because if someone has a young futurity age horse. It is hard to show a three or even a four year-old against seasoned and solid senior horses. So it does help level the playing field for the horses and riders with the splits. That is a big reason I am in favor of leaving it as is. That, combined with keeping APHA attractive and enticing folks to show with us, I say leave it as it is.
On the flip side, if you are a numbers guru, it is hard to argue that the entry numbers the last 14 years combined indeed warrant offering the splits the way they are. In multiple years in the past, there have been as few as six horses in a class, so each horse has a 33% chance to earn a buckle. Those are pretty good odds when showing horses at the world show. From a total numbers standpoint and being cost-effective, it is hard to argue why we continue to offer the splits with the horses’ ages based on continuous low entries on a few of the classes.
In closing, again I am torn as to what I think is best. The low-class entry numbers are disappointing to see year-after-year. This year alone, there are Amateur rail classes with ten entries, so barely enough for a Top 10. Is it time to not offer the Jr and Sr classes (based on horses age) and offer Amateur and Masters divisions for the rail events? I don’t know what the answer is, and I would genuinely be interested in feedback from amateurs who exhibit in any of the rail classes at the APHA World Show.
Austin Gooding – I would rather it not be split by Jr and Sr horses. I think it would make for more significant numbers if it was all one class and also bring more prestige to the world title. There are very few people anymore who want or can afford to have a horse for each age group.
Erin Bradshaw – We like them being split because it brings more horses to the horse show and allows amateurs to show more than one horse. If it weren’t split, the class wouldn’t give the young horses a fair chance against winning senior horses. It offers breeders an opportunity to campaign more than one horse from their breeding program and buyers too.
Lana Markway – Currently, it works in my favor since I have junior horses. However, I believe it needs to be all age for the numbers. I like to see big classes at the world show and the levels split into different age divisions with amateur and master is not making for big rail classes.
Lori Ward – I like having it split. I think it’s great. It’s an option that AQHA doesn’t give for amateur riders. It’s a more level playing field for the horses. I think the Paint World is a great, fun show. I love that they offer so many classes. The Paint World and the NSBA World are my two favorite shows as they offer so many classes.
Shannon Vroegh – I think it’s necessary the more I watch. There are multiple exhibitors showing in both classes so I feel like if you worked the numbers, a combined class would not be much bigger. So, you are actually getting more horses to the horse show by splitting it. Also, it being split into two allows more exhibitors to place and be rewarded for their efforts all year long. The world show is their end goal.
Tami Dobbs – I think it needs to be combined, so it is just Classic and Masters. I feel like four classes is a bit much for an Amateur Western Pleasure class. Plus, we don’t have the numbers. I would rather it see it combined to make a larger class.
Megan Brown – As long as the classes are a decent size, then keep junior and senior split. There is a big difference between those two age groups, both in maturity and ease to show. There also aren’t that many hunter under saddle classes at the Paint World compared to NSBA or Quarter Congress, so giving people a chance to show more than one is never a bad thing. Odds are more likely an amateur would own a Sr and Jr horse versus two of the same age. We need entries and horses.
Garth Gooding – I would like it just as an Amateur Western Pleasure and a Masters Amateur Western Pleasure, but I see the point of leaving it as is. The way it is now, forty people go away happy being in the top ten vs. twenty. I think it would mean more and be more prestigious if there were cuts and large classes.
Blake Carney – I think it’s time. I think if we take some time to look back historically, we can see where it was justified but now it seems like an error. A few years ago I was watching and because of some scratches, an entire cut of amateur masters made the finals. That’s a far cry from the early 2000’s where there were many more than two cuts. I believe we need to focus on getting exhibitors back and seeing the large classes at the world show again by working to get exhibitors that are still showing but have stopped going to the world show and see what it would take to bring them back as a yearly tradition. I know from talking to so many people that entry numbers in their respective classes make the trip hard to justify for those who don’t live close.
Meredith Landy – I’m not sure if the age split was about numbers when it was first conceived. It was about the relative differences between junior and senior horses. I have always enjoyed being able to show both a junior horse and a senior horse at the world show and I know several exhibitors who do the same. Also, it gives senior horses a more level playing field against the fresh legged junior horses and junior horses a chance to show against horses that aren’t quite as finished. I would hate to eliminate the split only to have APHA world show numbers get better in the coming years. Once you get rid of the split, I’m afraid it might be very difficult to get it back in the future. So I’m in favor of gritting our teeth through these leaner times, keeping the split and looking forward to bigger numbers down the road.
Do you think these classes should be kept split or combined? Let us know in our reader poll below.