All American Quarter Horse Queen Contest: Journey to the Crown

The 2017 Congress Queen, Sara Laughlin opened the festivities with a welcoming speech where she reflected on her year as queen. Photo © Sarah Johnson

The 2017 Congress Queen, Sara Laughlin opened the festivities with a welcoming speech where she reflected on her year as queen. Photo © Sarah Johnson


The All American Quarter Horse Queen Contest is among the richest of traditions at the world’s largest single-breed horse show. Since Congress’ second year in 1968, a group of young women has competed for the crown to serve as the prestigious show’s ambassador for an entire year. As described on the official Congress Queen website, the queen exemplifies beauty, grace, intelligence and horsemanship.

To be eligible to compete at Congress, queens must first win their home association’s contest. Most states design their competition the same as Congress – contestants must complete a written test over the entire AQHA rulebook, an oral interview, and a horsemanship class. All of these factors added up; it’s clear that success doesn’t come to those who don’t put work in. If you see these talented girls walking around Congress, please be sure to introduce yourself. You won’t miss them in their crowns, sashes and western skirts.

Day 1: Queen’s Kickoff Dinner

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Thursday evening is a chance for the contestants to meet each other and the interview panel. The 2017 Congress Queen, Sara Laughlin opened the festivities with a welcoming speech where she reflected on her year as queen.

“This contest tested me personally and professionally, and I am fortunate that 17 lucky women surrounded me during that time, and throughout the year. The Queen sisterhood supported me throughout my journey to six different states and over thirteen different events. It is true that these friendships last a lifetime.”

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Sara also took the time to offer positive words of encouragement to the eager young women before her.

“We understand how much work you have put into getting ready for this moment, and I promise that every rulebook question answered, pattern practiced and smile will be worth it. While this process may seem stressful now, remember to take a deep breath and enjoy what you have worked hard for. Remember, it is not ‘good luck,’ because luck did not put a crown on your head today. It is ‘do your best’ because determination, perseverance and your passion for the quarter horse breed are some of the qualities that brought you here today as a quarter horse queen.”

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Following Sara’s speech, each contestant introduced themselves and the guests that they brought with them. From there, they enjoyed dinner with the CEO of the Ohio Quarter Horse Association (OQHA) Scott Myers, President of the OQHA Chris Cecil-Darnell, Congress tri-chairman Brent Maxwell, Greg Tordoff and Skip Salome, representatives from Rod’s and the interview panel.

Day 2: Interviews

Friday morning at 8 am brought the oral interview portion of the contest. Each queen has an assigned 10-minute time slot to answer questions from the panel of judges. Questions range from the contestant’s resume, biography, OQHA, and Congress.

Success in the interview requires a strong understanding of the American Quarter Horse and attention to Congress. It also challenges girls to identify standout qualities in themselves that they can speak confidently on when describing their interest in becoming the next Congress Queen. As a spokesperson, the queen’s duties would include public representation at horse shows and other events. Feeling comfortable answering questions and promoting both the horse show and the breed are two critical qualities that judges will look for in the contestants. Showcasing these skills during the interview is a challenging necessity.

After completing the interviews, the queen candidates began making their way around the fairgrounds of Congress. This time is spent interacting with the show attendees and thanking vendors and contest sponsors for their generous support.

Day 3: Test

The quarter horse queens are full of beauty and spunk, but above all, intelligence. On day three, the group has two hours to complete a test over the entire AQHA rulebook. The book is close to 400 pages and covers all things AQHA, including history, running the association, horse shows, violations, class rules, and awards. Easily the most intense and time-consuming part of the contest, queens spend months or even years preparing.

Following the test, it’s time for the queens to relax and celebrate. Friday night’s excitement started with an ‘experience Columbus’ trip. In full queen attire, the girls unloaded the bus at a bowling alley and arcade which included a virtual reality game.


Day 4: Horsemanship

The horsemanship part of the contest was held Saturday morning. Seventeen girls suited up and headed to the show ring to present their horsemanship skills to a set of judges. Each contestant represented their state’s associations with fantastic skill.

The end of day 4 concluded the journey to the crown. During the intermission of the freestyle reining, the 2018 Congress Queen was named after the results from all three parts of the competition.

Day 5: Results


At the intermission of freestyle reining, an already excited crowd watched as a red carpet was rolled out across the arena floor. The 17 queens were escorted in for the awards presentation wearing formal gowns – most of which were worn with cowboy boots.

Sara Laughlin was brought into the arena in a historical, horse-drawn carriage to make her final appearance as Congress Queen.

Results were given in reverse order, placing ten candidates in each portion of the contest. A real test of sportsmanship and respect, the girls cheered on their newfound friends throughout the entire awards ceremony.

We would like to congratulate and help welcome 2018 All American Quarter Horse Congress Queen, Ms. Taylor Foster (pictured right) of the Indiana Quarter Horse Association. The winners of each portion are listed below.


Horsemanship: Taylor Foster, Indiana QHA

Test: Taylor Foster, Indiana QHA

Interview: Ashton Williams, Arkansas QHA

Miss Congeniality: Lexy Ziemak, Ohio Racing QHA

Photos © Sarah Johnson

I am Lauren Harrington

Published by EQUINEINMIND  | November 2015

Recently, I had the opportunity to chat (via email) with the newly crowned Quarter Horse Congress Queen, Lauren Harrington.  A brief conversation is all that’s needed to confirm why she was the right choice for the title.  To begin with, I asked Lauren to share her one minute introduction speech that was required as part of the interview portion of the competition…


“On most Sunday mornings, you can often find me trail-riding – either along the shores of Lake Erie or through the fields on our beautiful family farm. If I’m not there, my horse and I are probably enjoying some of Pennsylvania’s four million acres of public land available for trail riding.

When I am not taking advantage of our state’s natural beauty, I am attending one of Western Pennsylvania Quarter Horse Association’s 26 approved Quarter Horse shows. Our association is one of the fastest growing and most active in the East. We host some of the largest classes in the region for youth and novice riders.  But most importantly, we welcome everyone to come cherish a weekend with family, friends, and of course, your horses. Read more...

Congratulations 2015 Quarter Horse Congress Queen- Lauren Harrington!

Published by The Equine Chronicle  | October 2015

By: Brittany Bevis

2015 Queen Lauren Harrington

As 2014 Congress Queen Carly Kidner’s reign as come to an end, so another begins. After a long few weeks of Queen competition, the new 2015 Quarter Horse Congress Queen has been named and she is Miss Lauren Harrington of the Western Pennsylvania Quarter Horse Association! Read More

2014 All American Quarter Horse Congress Queen crowned

Published by The News-Herald  | December 2014

Carly L. Kidner, 23, daughter of Chris and Lesley Kidner of Ashtabula, was crowned the 2014 All American Quarter Horse Congress Queen on October 19, in Columbus, Ohio at the world’s largest single breed horse show. Annually the All American Quarter Horse Congress boasts over 20,000 entries and houses 6,000 horses over its three week duration bringing over $180 million to the central Ohio economy.

Since 1968, young women representing their state quarter horse associations have traveled to Columbus to compete for the prestigious title of Congress Queen. The Congress Queen serves as an ambassador for the show and for the Quarter Horse industry. Because of all she does during the show, the Congress Queen is the most recognizable face of the Congress each year. This year as the Congress Queen, Kidner will travel to American Quarter Horse shows and events throughout the country as well as 4-H events to share her love and knowledge of the American Quarter Horse.

The Congress Queen competition is a challenging one consisting of three parts. The first portion of the contest worth 40 percent of the overall score is a written examination of the American Quarter Horse Official Handbook of Rules and Regulations. This is the most demanding portion of the contest because the AQHA Rulebook is 288 pages. Kidner began studying for this portion of the contest in 2012, by making several thousand notecards and often waking up at 5am to study a few hours before attending her classes at Hiram College. Read More...

Congress Queen Candidates Participate In Fashion Show To Benefit Pediatric Cancer

Published by | October, 2013

Meet Nellie, creator of NC4K! She encourages everyone to “wear the gold ribbon” to support childhood cancer

The new Congress Queen has been crowned (Congrats Meghan!), but would like to share what the Queen Candidates get up to beyond their competition. Every year, the Queen candidates put on a special fashion show organized byNellie’s Catwalk For Kids, an organization whose efforts go to benefit pediatric cancer. Read More...

Sunday Night At The Congress: Congrats New Queen Meghan!

Published by | October, 2013

Congrats Meghan Murphy!

As we open on the final week of Quarter Horse Congress, the weekend closed with a bang! New Congress Queen crowning, NYATT award ceremony, and a mounted shooting demonstration wowed spectators. The Super Sale carried on late into the evening, and had a great turnout of spectators. Read More...

A Video Peek At 2013 Congress

Published by | October, 2012

So far, the 2013 All American Quarter Horse Congress has been filled with amazing horses, spectacular competition, all the shopping you could ask for, and friendly faces all around! and Show Horse Today have been on the grounds since things got kicked off in early October, and we can’t wait to see what the last 10 days have in store!

Check out some of the highlights from weeks 1 and 2 below, including an interview with 2012 Congress Queen Emily Messing, and a video and photo montage of what’s going on around the grounds. Watch the Video...

In the Spotlight: 2012 Congress Queen Candidate Leona Parr

By Tara Christiansen
Published by The American Quarter Horse Journal  | May 2013

From 4-H member to 4-H extension agent, Novice amateur Leona Parr shows that things in life have a habit of coming full circle.

Leona Parr

Everything in life comes full circle. Or so they say.  

Leona Parr, 23, grew up on a dairy farm in Newberry, South Carolina. Leona’s spark for horses was lit at a young age since the Parrs had horses around the farm. Unfortunately, the dairy industry went downhill in South Carolina, forcing the Parrs to disband their bovine and equine herds. Just a few years later, though, horses were back in Leona’s life.  Read More...