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AQHA’s Justin Billings Discusses AQHA World Show Changes

GoHorseShow sat down with AQHA's Chief Show Officer Justin Billings to find out the scoop on an AQHA World Show that will surely be one for the record books.

Sure there is no Congress this year, but fortunately, the arrival of Fall brings us many other exciting shows on the horizon, and likely the biggest will be the 2020 Farnam AQHA World Championship Show, scheduled for November 2-21 at the OKC Fairgrounds in Oklahoma City.

AQHA has implemented numerous changes to the show to accommodate exhibitors this year. One of those changes involves the qualification requirements. Like the AQHYA World Championship Show back in August, AQHA has waived the qualification requirements for exhibitors, welcoming all exhibitors to compete for the coveted gold globe.

To find out the inside scoop on this year’s show, GoHorseShow spoke with AQHA Chief Show Officer Justin Billings.


GHS: What changes can exhibitors expect to see at the Farnam World Show this year?
Billings: One of the most notable changes is combining six championship events into one; Open, Amateur, Select, Ranching Heritage Challenge Finals, Level 2, and Level 1 Championships have all been combined into one mega event. This allows AQHA to hold still many of the championship shows, unfortunately, canceled earlier in the year because of the pandemic.

We are also offering a series of new classes that were member-driven initiatives. From the Level 2 2-year-old western pleasure to working hunter under saddle, ranch trail, dressage and western dressage, working western rail, and 3-year-old western pleasure, there is truly something for everyone at this year’s World Show. Not to mention, the ever-popular Pleasure Versatility Challenge and $151,000 Halter Bonanza are both returning this year.

What is new regarding the World Show jackets this year?
The beloved World Show jacket is back this year and with a twist. Contestants will receive a complimentary jacket for every horse they enter in the show, courtesy of AQHA.

GHS: How can exhibitors enter the World Show?
Billings: Entries are available online for the first time since the World Show debuted in 1974. Our team is excited to offer this as an enhancement to the show experience.


GHS: What scheduling challenges did AQHA have when planning this massive event?
Billings: The World Show schedule is a challenge in any year, let alone when factoring in a pandemic and the combination of six championships into one event. I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the countless hours our council and committee members put into helping build the most workable schedule possible. They lent their expertise to help us account for the needs of so many different disciplines and created a schedule that serves the overall good of those groups. A special thank-you to our council and committee members for their dedication to the industry.

GHS: What new events can exhibitors and spectators see?
Billings: Several new events will take place during the show, including the 41st Triangle Fall Sale. Managed by Jim Ware, the event debuts at the World Show on November 6th and 7th during the first week of the show. His sale supports western performance classes, including cutting, reining, cow horse, and the like.

The Headley Quarter Horses $25,000 Working Western Rail open and amateur classes are slated during that time and will surely be a crowd favorite. We are also hosting the Western Pleasure Challenge for the first time, where $15,000 additional dollars will be up for grabs, all without an entry fee.

Zimeta is generously sponsoring a $5,000 3-year-old Western Pleasure, which includes an additional $5,000 bonus from O3 Animal Health Equine Omega Complete for exhibitors who haven’t placed in the top ten at the AQHA World Show in open western pleasure and for horses who haven’t earned more than $5,000 as of August 1, 2020.

Also, Lynn Palm is scheduled to offer a free ‘Ride the Pattern’ clinic to cover the new Western Dressage and Dressage classes, both first-time offerings at this year’s World Show.


GHS: What COVID restrictions should exhibitors and spectators expect to follow?
Billings: Exhibitors and attendees should expect similar protocols to the Youth World. The health protocols were developed under the CDC and local health authority guidelines. While the facility does require the event to be closed to the general public, contestants and industry connections are welcome.

Face coverings will be required indoors except when astride or at halter. AQHA and OKC Fairgrounds staff will be wearing face coverings and required to have daily temperature screenings at the show. Social distancing signage and hand sanitizing stations will be placed throughout the facility, as well.

The fairgrounds will continue to mark every other row off in the stands to encourage physical distancing. The facility will also be sanitizing and cleaning highly trafficked areas more frequently. Every exhibitor packet will include a complimentary AQHA face covering with additional masks available for purchase in the show office while supplies last.

GHS: Is there anything else you want potential exhibitors to know about the show?
Billings: At the end of the day, our goal is to host the safest and most successful show possible where our members can enjoy their passion for the American Quarter Horse competition. Our priority is always the safety of our members, staff, and horses, which will be more apparent this year than ever. If you have been considering competing at the AQHA World Championship Show, now is an excellent opportunity to be part of the Farnam AQHA World.

About the Author: A native Mississippian, Sabrina Turner, graduated from Mississippi State University in 2019 with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance, Risk Management, and Insurance. Sabrina currently attends The University of Alabama, where she is pursuing her Master of Arts in Advertising and Public Relations. Sabrina shows in AQHA amateur all-around events with her horse VS Ona Good Impulse.
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