Following the cascade of show cancellations and upheaval due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some breed associations have opted to change their youth eligibility age requirements. The goal was to find a way to support members who had a significantly shortened year of eligibility, while balancing the needs of the membership as a whole.
AQHA chose not to make any changes to youth divisions and eligibility, while other breeds like APHA and ApHC have made amendments. The result is a set of rules that are not consistent across the industry. It leaves some exhibitors aging out of youth and becoming an amateur in AQHA, but yet retaining youth status in another association like APHA.
In May of 2020, the APHA Board of Directors enacted their 2020 APHA Stimulus Plan. The rule changes state that any Novice Youth, Novice Amateur, or Green Horse eligible in 2020 will have that eligibility extended until December 31, 2021. Youth Walk-Trot 11-18 cardholders in 2020 are now able to have three consecutive years of eligibility in that division instead of two consecutive years. Additionally, all youth division exhibitors in the last year of their respective division will maintain their January 1, 2020 eligibility for that division through December 31, 2021. For example, any APHA member in his or her final year as an 18 & Under competitor would now have their youth eligibility extended into 2021, rather than move up into the Amateur division. Youth in this situation simply need to maintain their APHA Youth membership through 2021.
Youth and Amateur Activities Director Megan McMullen shares some insights on the extension. “In May, we were in the middle of it with so many shows cancelled and even more facing cancellation,” she says. “The thought process behind it was to give the youth exhibitors a full last year of competition, especially when we had to move the World Show. A lot of people couldn’t go to it in the fall because of school schedules.”