PUBLISHED BY MORGAN MCCARTHY WARDA FOR GOHORSESHOW
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
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.”
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.”
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