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We Ask Past Exhibitors: What is Your Favorite Thing About the Level 1 Championships?

Trotting down the center of the arena at the World Championship Show is a dream that many members of the horse show industry share. It is also a dream that many exhibitors may find intimidating or unattainable.

The AQHA Level 1 Championships offer a world show experience to the industry’s novice competitors that can serve as a stepping stone to the next level. The East, West and Central Championships have grown in popularity since their inception in 2012, sparking a series of changes to make the show more inviting to a wider variety of exhibitors.

Trainers, owners and exhibitors make the Level 1 Championships a ‘must-do’ item on their show calendar each year, as each competition offers extensive educational, competitive and social experiences that are so important to the future of the industry.

But what exactly keeps these exhibitors coming back? What makes the Level 1 Championships so popular among novice competitors?

GoHorseShow asked a range of trainers and exhibitors to share their favorite parts of the Level 1 Championships to shine some light on this unique and highly valuable show experience offered by AQHA.

Julie Hoefling – The Level 1 Championship show is one of my favorite shows. The vibe is unique and feels extra friendly. I think this is because you are surrounded by people who are just like you: Level 1 competitors. Everyone is encouraging and congratulating each other, which is special.

When I first started showing on the AQHA circuit, my first ‘big’ show experience was at the Level 1 Championships. It is a world show-type experience that any Level 1 competitor can have. Your run is played up on the big screen, you get to trot down the middle in your pleasure class, have your award presented in the arena, and you get to take a victory lap when you win. It feels like a big deal, and it is.

I show at the Level 1 West Championships in Las Vegas at South Point. This facility is hands down my favorite place to show. You are so close to everything, and since everyone is staying at the same hotel, there is a lot of camaraderie between the exhibitors and trainers. I also love the education series and exhibitor parties. The Ride the Pattern clinics are fantastic and usually answer a lot of questions competitors may have about the patterns – where the cones will be, how tight the pattern will be set or where to make a transition. The parties are great because you get a chance in between showing and practicing to chat with friends and fellow exhibitors.

Jessica Daniels – We have been attending the Level 1 East Championships since 2013 and have accumulated four championships, three reserves and over twenty top-ten finishes. My favorite thing about the show is it gives our grassroots exhibitors a chance to show in a championship environment with a more level playing field. AQHA does a great job hosting educational clinics and Ride the Pattern demos encouraging growth for both the horse and the rider.

Kelsey Gonzales
– 2018 was my first year at the Level Central 1 Championship show, and it was so exciting because it was the biggest show I had ever attended. I was fortunate enough to be a finalist in the showmanship and top ten in the western pleasure. I had a lot of favorite things at the Level 1 Championship show, but by far my favorite thing was seeing everyone’s hard work, practice and preparation come together in the show arena. It’s rewarding, not only for them, but their families and coaches as well, when all of their dedication pays off in the ring.


Keegan Lammers
– Last year at the Level 1 East Championships, I was sixth in the Rookie Youth Showmanship, a finalist in the Level 1 Youth 14-18 Showmanship and ninth in the Youth Walk-Trot Horsemanship. My favorite thing about the Level 1 Championships is that exhibitors of every ability level receive equal recognition. Having a show with a level playing field gave me the confidence to go into a pattern riding class for the first time in two years. It was incredibly special for me because this was my last big show with my new horse, Zipped In Platinum, before I was to leave for college in the fall. I had gone through a lot of tough times with horses and having a world show experience for Level 1 exhibitors offered me a fairytale ending to my show career.

Ryan Kail – My favorite thing about the (West) Level 1 Championship is the schedule and facility at South Point. Sometimes, novice riders take a little more time and prep when they are showing, so with the Ride the Pattern and a schedule that gets done at a decent hour, we can adequately prepare for each class. Novice exhibitors are an incredibly important part of our association, and when we have events like this one, they are center stage.





Riley Dosa – At the 2018 Level 1 Championships West, I was second in the Rookie Youth Hunter Under Saddle, fourth in the 14-18 Horsemanship, seventh in the 14-18 Youth Hunter Under Saddle, seventh in the 14-18 Youth Performance Halter Geldings and seventh in the 14-18 Western Pleasure. I’m excited about this year’s Level 1 Championships because of the community and the facility. By far, the South Point Casino and Spa is the nicest facility I have shown. It’s super convenient to have the restaurants, horses and pool within walking distance from our room. The coolest part about the hotel rooms is you can turn on your television and watch the show pen. The way the facility is set up allows everyone to be in an area where they can freely communicate with one another. The open atmosphere of the grounds makes everything feel fun and inviting.

Ashley Yoder – My horse, Pretty And Good and I had one top-three, one top-five and two top-ten finishes in the youth all-around events at the 2018 Level 1 East Championship show. My favorite part of the whole show was getting to compete against people from all over the East Coast. It was so fun to be able to show with other kids who you do not usually see at the regular weekend shows in Ohio.



Victoria Ingstad
– I have had great experiences at the two (Central) Level 1 Championships I have attended. The atmosphere is warm and super friendly. AQHA puts on a first-class show for Level 1 competitors. The Ride the Pattern seminars are very informative and highly attended. All Level 1 competitors should try to attend a big championship show geared just for us.




Jessica Copeland
– 2018 was my first year at the  Level 1 East Championships. I was Reserve Champion in the Rookie Youth Western Pleasure. This was my first big award with my horse, so I was ecstatic. My favorite part about any horse show is getting to spend time with my friends. Horse showing has introduced me to some of my favorite people. The Level 1 Championships bring people from all over the eastern part of the country to compete. This gave me the opportunity to meet new people and hear their stories.


Holly Edgar
– I placed sixth last year in the horsemanship at the Central Level 1 Championships. That was our first year attending, so this year, we will go back. I’m like the ‘horse show mom’ that has gone back to showing, so I like the system now; I think it gives us Selects an opportunity to get back into the show pen. I enjoyed it. I loved that it had the feel of a big show, but gave us a chance as novice exhibitors. It provides us with a place to be.




Paisley Anderson – Last year was the first time I showed at the Level 1 Central Championships. It was also my very first horse show with my new horse, I’m Unleashed and my first show loping. I placed sixth in the 13 and Under Showmanship and seventh in the 13 and Under Hunt Seat Equitation. I like the Level 1 Championships because I get to see my best friend who lives in Oklahoma. I also like the fact that they give the awards out in the middle of the arena. It’s enjoyable to practice and show at this show because the arenas are neat and the stall area is very nice. The other competitors are excellent, and it makes me want to do the best that I can. I also can’t wait to try the omelet bar at the Embassy Suites.

Matthew Siefker
– My first time showing at the  Level 1 East Championship show was 2018. I was incredibly nervous about this show because it was my first big show for both me and my horse, Grace Zipsinthe Rein. I placed in just about every class, won the Rookie Youth Showmanship and then went on to win the 14-18 Youth Showmanship later that same day. This show meant a lot to me; it was the first show that got my name out in the AQHA community. We then went on to have the best show year of my life. I also met some of my best friends at this show who I will continue to be friends with for the rest of my life. I wouldn’t trade this show for the world; it indeed is one of my favorites that AQHA has to offer.

GoHorseShow Intern Kassidy Lammers is a Junior in high school from Ohio. She has been showing Quarter Horses for six years and has been a member of the Interscholastic Equestrian Association for five years. She hopes to continue her equestrian career at the collegiate level.