The American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), based in Amarillo, Texas, is an international organization dedicated to the preservation, improvement and record-keeping of the American Quarter Horse. The association sanctions many competitive events and maintains the official registry. The organization also houses the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame and Museum and sponsors educational programs. The organization was founded in 1940 in Fort Worth, Texas and now has nearly 350,000 members.
Currently AQHA recognizes achievement by American Quarter Horses and their owners with a number of awards. Some are annual, some are based on lifetime achievement. AQHA awards points to horses competing in horse show, rodeo and horse racing. AQHA assigns points to animals who win or place in horse shows and on the racetrack. The amount of points given depends in part on placing and on how many other horses were in the class or race. Accumulated points result in annual awards to the top competitors and certain lifetime achievement recognitions for both horse and rider.
Today, people show American Quarter Horses in a variety of competitive events, including, but not limited to, halter classes; western style events such as Western Pleasure, Reining, and cutting; English riding events in the hunt seat style, such as Hunter Under Saddle, working hunter, and hunter hack. Driving classes are available at some shows, as are some timed games. There are also equitation and halter showmanship classes for non-pro exhibitors.
In 1993, AQHA launched Quarter Horse horse racing’s first series of races with a championship-ending day, called The Bank of America Racing Challenge. It is a series of 60 races run throughout North and South America with the winners of each race earning a starting berth into a season-ending Championship Day. The Bank of America Racing Challenge currently offers nearly $6 million in purse and bonus awards.