Laura Croghan, Kentucky Quarter Horse Association

My name is Laura Brooke Croghan and I am representing the Kentucky Quarter Horse Association at the 2017 All American Quarter Horse Congress Queen Contest. I decided to compete for this title because it was a way for me to not only represent the state of Kentucky, but to also represent my hometown and show the youth that all things are possible when you truly set your mind and heart to it. I am from Hardyville, Kentucky. This is a very small, rural area that can be easily missed. Although my hometown is very rural and agricultural based, there is not an active industry in equine. I currently attend Western Kentucky University, while working part time at Tractor Supply Company. My favorite horse memory was purchasing my first American Quarter Horse. My favorite accomplishment with this horse was winning our first National Title in 2014. An interesting fact about me is that nobody in my family liked or was raised around horses. I was the first one to show any interest in horses, which many people thought was a phase all girls went through. However, it wasn’t a phase, it has grown to become not only a passionate hobby of mine, but has become my life.

Kelsey Dorka, Ohio Quarter Horse Association

Name and association representing:

Kelsey M. Dorka

The Ohio Quarter Horse Association

Where are you from? Tell us a little bit about your hometown?

The city of Chardon, Ohio is located approximately 10 miles south of Lake Erie within the infamous “snow belt” of the Great Lakes and averages 107 inches of snowfall annually. Chardon is also known for its maple syrup industry. The Geauga County Maple Festival takes place on the Chardon Square at the end of April each year – weather permitting! Numerous recreational parks make it easy to participate in different outdoor activities suitable for every season. Additionally, just a short drive from the shores of Lake Erie makes Chardon an ideal neighborhood for water sports enthusiasts. In addition to each of these features, growing up on a family-owned and operated cattle farm certainly kept me occupied in this quaint community.

Why did you choose to compete for the title of 2017 All American Quarter Horse Congress Queen?

When I was 13 years old, I attended my very first All-American Quarter Horse Congress. I can still vividly picture the state quarter horse queens, with their mesmerizing sparkly outfits and huge, curly hair. This initial encounter is a memory I will forever cherish, for at that very moment, I vowed that I would someday become a “horse queen” so I too could wear glitzy outfits and have a shiny hat crown just like those queens I witnessed that day so many years ago. As I grew older, the dream to become a “horse queen” never subsided, but my goals evolved into a more career-oriented focus. That is why my purpose in running for Congress Queen has become so much more important for me, now that I truly appreciate what the Congress Queen icon is meant to represent. Not only is the Queen an ambassador and professional representative of the quarter horse industry, but the Queen is a role model to younger generations of equestrians. Being Congress Queen is not a self-serving affair, but rather an opportunity to give back to an organization that has given me so much to be thankful for, and in addition, being Queen also comes with an inherent responsibility of inspiring the next 13-year old who dreams of becoming Congress Queen someday, just like I once did.

Are you currently in school? Employed?

I am a third year Doctor of Pharmacy student at the University of Toledo College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. When I am not attending classes I work as a pharmacy intern at Shaffer Pharmacy.

What is your favorite horse memory or accomplishment?

I am fortunate enough to have several fond horse memories from over the years, largely contributed by my 4-H experiences. The highlight of my senior year of 4-H was when I was named Grand Champion in the Western Horsemanship class at the Ohio State Fair with my beloved quarter horse gelding, Outlaws Payday.

Share an interesting fact about yourself:

Each Spring, my family produces Pure Ohio Maple Syrup on our 16-acre farm.

Mindy Barr, Southern Ohio Quarter Horse Association

Hello everyone! My name is Mindy Barr and I am representing the Southern Ohio Quarter Horse Association, home to one of the Top 5 AQHA shows, The Madness!

Home of the "Greatest Free Show on Earth" is where I reside. Welcome to Circleville, Ohio, where we take a week out in October to celebrate EVERYTHING pumpkin! We get the nickname "round town" because Circleville is literally in the shape of a circle.

Competing for the title of the 2017 All American Quarter Horse Congress Queen allows to me to combine three of my favorite things; educating, representing, and communicating. I love to educate the public about why I'm so passionate about the Quarter Horse industry, while doing this I get to represent and bring awareness to my favorite organization. The Re Ride Quarter Horse Adoption program has brought so much joy to my family and I, and I am so blessed to be able to share that with so many others. There is no better way to get to know people that share the same passion as you than to be able to communicate with them, and this gives me that advantage!

When is comes to work, I am a full time volunteer at Re Ride. We have some rehab horses here at our home currently. I also have a little boy that I mentor and "babysit" throughout the day. I am currently a State Tested Nurses Assistant. I will be attending the Ohio School of Phlebotomy in November to become a licensed Phlebotomist to elaborate on my nursing career.

I adopted a horse in January of 2017 from Re Ride. Together we show in Halter, Showmanship, Horsemanship, and Western Pleasure. After just a few short months together we attended our first AQHA show. A few weeks later we received a letter in the mail stating that we had won the Youth All around together. That definitely has to be the most rewarding accomplishment I've received thus far.

An interesting fact is that my family and I have two pet wallabies, Oliver and Olivia. It's kind of a qua-incidence because I've always wanted to visit Australia!

Autumn Thompson, Tri State Quarter Horse Association

Name and association representing:

My name is Autumn Thompson and I am representing Tri State Quarter Horse Association in this years Congress Queen competition. Tri State serves members in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

Where are you from? Tell us a little bit about your hometown?

I have lived almost my entire life in Baltimore, Ohio. We are small but friendly, with two traffic lights and the best mom-and-pop ice cream shop around- Shaffner's Drive In. Our village motto is "A Place You Can Call Home."

Why did you choose to compete for the title of 2017 All American Quarter Horse Congress Queen?

Mostly, I love the opportunity to create magic in young exhibitors' and visitors' Congress experience. The firsthand excitement in handing out awards is fun too! I am hungry for the chance to represent an organization that I have admired from afar for quite some time.

Are you currently in school? Employed?

Currently I work in a supervisory position in a national call center for Chase. I enjoy a flexible schedule that allows me to spoil my personal horse, Honey.

What is your favorite horse memory or accomplishment?

I am still super proud of my 8th place in 14-18 Showmanship at the Ohio State Fair my last year in 4H. It wasn't a trophy, but I had the chance to show Perfect Glow, and you never forget the first big click with a special horse.

Share an interesting fact about yourself:

I was back on a horse three weeks after I broke my neck!

Katelyn Clapp, Ohio Michigan Indiana Quarter Horse Association

Name and Association representing:

My name is Katelyn Clapp, but I usually just go by Kate. I will be representing the Ohio Michigan Indiana Quarter Horse Association (OMIQHA) in the 2017 All American Quarter Horse Congress Queen Contest.

Where are you from? Tell us a little more about your hometown.

I was born and raised in a suburb just south of Detroit, called Southgate. Growing up I was always considered “the horse girl” as a many of the children in my school had never seen or rode a horse before. The location of my hometown gave me the opportunity to go to the barn to ride horses, play with livestock, and get down and dirty in the mud, all while going back home to the city. My love for both the country and the city hasn’t changed, as I continue to ride, and I attended a private university downtown. I believe this shaped me into the person I am today, as I am able to appreciate the beauty and quietness of the country, and the hustle and bustle of city life.

Why did you choose to compete for the title of 2017 All American Quarter Horse Congress Queen?

I chose to compete for the title of the 2017 All American Quarter Horse Congress Queen because I believe in this association and the lessons learned, friendships made, and memories created by it and the American Quarter Horse. We are absolutely blessed to have the opportunity to own, ride, and be around this amazing breed of horse, as well as compete with them at any level. Being able to continue to spread knowledge of the breed, the joy it brings people, and the opportunities and experiences this association allows are all things that I truly care about. Also, having the chance to become a role model for the youth and the young children of this association is extremely important to me.

Are you currently in school? Employed?

I graduated from the University of Detroit Mercy with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA) with concentration in Finance, and a minor in Financial Economics, in December 2015. From there, I received a Master Degree in Business Administration (MBA) in May 2017, from the same university. Through school, I was lucky enough to work part-time for 4 years at Merrill Lynch. Currently, I work for Daimler North America Corporation, Mercedes-Benz Financial Services as a Liquidity Management Analyst in the Treasury Department. 5) What is your favorite horse memory or accomplishment?

My favorite horse memory has to be competing on my High School Equestrian Team. For most of my high school career I competed for my school as a one woman team, as no one else rode horses. My freshman, sophomore, and junior years I won both Districts and Regionals- and then I was the Reserve State Champion my junior year for my division. Even though I had great success competing, my favorite memory would be all of the great friendships that participating brought me.

Share an interesting fact about yourself.

I am a volunteer for a 501(C) 3 Nonprofit Corporation called Rock CF, which is dedicated to improving the lives of people living with Cystic Fibrosis. Since March of 2014, I have assisted its founder in organizing fundraisers, golf outings, 5k’s and Half Marathons, along with the help of an amazing core group of volunteers. In addition, we manage a killer merchandise line that is sold to people all over the world. This work heightens public awareness of Cystic Fibrosis. Keep on rockin’!!

Melissa Wozniak, Western New York Quarter Horse Association

My name is Melissa Elizabeth Wozniak and I am representing the Western New York Quarter Horse Club Inc. I am from Springville, which is south of Buffalo, NY. I currently live in an area called Zoar Valley, which is home to a gorge where hikers and outdoorsman can explore for days. Surrounding the gorge and the Cattaraugus Creek is farmland where soybeans and corn are planted every year. In Springville you can find produce auctions every Wednesday and a small town like atmosphere. I chose to compete for the crown at The All American Quarter Horse Congress because I was finally in the position with school to have the entire month of October off, and wanted to grow my horse-related achievements. I stopped showing for a period of time due to pharmacy school and wanted to re-enter the horse world. Right now, I am in my P4 year of pharmacy school at D'Youville College School of Pharmacy. I also work for CVS as a pharmacy intern when I am not on rotation. As far as my favorite horse related achievement, when I was growing up I purchased a grade quarter horse from an auction (in Springville) and worked to transform him into a show horse. Through 4-H, we received All Around Grand Champion for the year in 2008. That horse was definitely one of my best accomplishments. One interesting fact about me is that I hate chicken wings, and yes I know I am the only one from Buffalo who does!

Alexis Ziemak, Ohio Quarter Horse Racing Association

My name is Alexis Lee Ziemak and I’m representing the Ohio Quarter Horse Racing Association for 2017! I’m from a small township in Ohio, called Sharon Township. It is an area where everyone knows everyone. We all rode the same bus to school and on drive your tractor to school day, you best believe that the tractors came out! I have so many inspiring people in my life that shaped me into the young woman that I am today. It has always been a dream of mine to run for Congress Queen. In the beginning of 2017, someone I looked up to passed away and the last thing we spoke about was me one day running for Congress Queen. It was then, when I decided that this year was going to be the year that I was going to run. Denny was a huge part of the AQHA industry and had forgotten more about AQHA then I could ever live to know. He is someone I aspire to be when it comes to AQHA. He always had a leader mentality and I truly believe that being AQHA’s First Lady is at the top of the leadership board. I am currently a junior at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. I will be graduating with a double major in chemistry and biology with a focus on pre-med and a minor in psychology. The medical field is one of the most interesting fields to me. My favorite memories always include the times when my horse and I are the last ones standing in the arena, at that time you know all your hard work has paid off. Horse shows with your best friends are always one for the books! When I think of myself I can never seem to think of any interesting facts but one in particular that seems to always come to my mind is that I played rugby in high school. When I tell people that I played rugby they seem to instantly become intimidated of me, but I can promise you that I am a very kind hearted, loving person!

Alexis Taylor, Northern Ohio Quarter Horse Association

My name is Alexis Taylor and I am representing the Northern Ohio Quarter Horse Association. I am from Grafton, Ohio. (Close to Cleveland) my hometown is small but we are known for our football team. I chose to run for the All American Quarter Horse Congress Queen because I have wanted all my life to be an ambassador for AQHA as well as a positive role model for the next generation of AQHA members. Currently I am a full time student at Stautzenberger college obtaining an associates degree in veterinary technology. On top of being a full time student I also work full time as a manager for McDonald's. My favorite horse memory has to be winning the reserve world champion Jumping with my horse Dudley who we bred, raised and trained. I still consider it my greatest accomplishment. And finally, one interesting fact about myself is that I showed at the congress before I was even born! My mom was 7 months pregnant with me when she showed in the hunter under saddle at the 1996 congress. So I guess you could say that I've always been riding horses.