you never know the best day of your life is the best day, not until it is happening.
I have been fortunate throughout my life to have enjoyed some powerful, impactful moments. I have ridden down the Gateway of Champions at the Build Ford Tough Youth World Show with my (then 16-year-old) Bay Gelding, an accomplishment we had never dreamed of reaching. My sophomore year of college, I cheered in the last row of the Superdome in New Orleans, watching the Buckeyes defeat Alabama, against all odds, to then go on to win the first College Football Playoff National Championship. I've stood at the podium of my high school graduation as senior class president, addressing peers that shaped my childhood experiences, speculating about who we would grow up to be in the next, five, ten, twenty years. I've linked arms with my closest friends at BuckeyeThon, Ohio's largest student-run philanthropy, an integral part of the millions of dollars the dance marathon would raise for Nationwide Children's Hospital to defeat pediatric cancer.
Yet, I have never experienced a feeling quite like the one I felt when a giant, shiny tiara was pinned to my head; tasking me with not only representing countless quarter horse industries, but also the interest of 4.6 million Americans, and our friends across the globe, involved with horses.
4.6 million Americans. Let's just take a moment to let that number sink in.
I remember growing up showing horses and representing various Ohio organizations on the National Youth Activity Team Tournament, watching the Congress Queens come before me compete tirelessly for the opportunity to be the all-around package of beauty, grace, intelligence, confidence, horsemanship, and every quality of a leader the spokeswoman of the industry should posses in this role.
I cannot even begin to express what an honor and a privilege it is to be selected as Congress Queen, to follow some of my own role models, and to set an example for young equestrians everywhere about what it means to not only be a good member, but a good citizen, humble competitor, and loyal friend.
Without a doubt, this role is one of the most pivotal in the quarter horse industry, but it does not take a shiny crown and a blue velvet sash for someone to have the chance to express themselves and make an impact. While Congress Queen has given me a platform to educate and engage others, I want to remind everyone of the countless individuals, youth, and professional horsemen and women who are making a difference everyday in the lives of our communities. You, too, are empowering others and are a hero to those you don't even know are watching. I look forward to meeting each and every one of you and watching your dreams become a reality throughout 2018 <3 data-preserve-html-node="true" data-preserve-html-node="true"
This year the contest was held during the second week of the horse show with the crowning occurring during the intermission of Congress's favorite Freestyle Reining. The contest consists of an oral interview in front of a judging panel, a written test on the most current AQHA rulebook, a horsemanship pattern, as well festivities throughout the week including thanking sponsors, signing postcards, meeting spectators, and getting to hug all of the children that admire you.
The women running this year were beyond incredible. Each and every one had a platform, an agenda of what their year would look like as queen, as well as a unique story of how the equine industry became their passion. Something I have learned throughout college is the power of a person's personal story. You can never discredit the amount of dedication people have to the things they love, or the obstacles they have overcome to reach success.
Each contestant this year motivated me, inspired me, and encouraged me to be the best that I could be throughout the contest. My journey would not have been the same without their countless laughs, piles of hairspray, and genuine care for each other.
And I cannot forget to mention the fabulous Queen team consisting of Jaymie Drury-Wells, Elaine Wells, Brittany Barker-Hostetler, Jessica Elsass, and Sarah Johnson, our wonderful photographer. They worked tirelessly throughout the year to solidify and steward sponsors, answer all of our pre-contest questions, recruit contestants from various states, put together an amazing test, locate talented interview judges, set up a beautiful booth, print queen programs, and ensure that all patrons had the opportunity to get to know this amazing group of queens. Without their hard work, this contest would not have been possible. Thank you for making every contestant feel special, valued, and a part of this year's All American Quarter Horse Congress!
Also, I could not be where I am today without the love and guidance of former Congress Queen Amy Brown. Amy, thank you for being a faithful friend throughout the year and believing in my abilities to become Queen. I hope we reunite sometime this year!
If you, or someone you know, is interested in running for 2018 Congress Queen, please contact our Queen team via the Facebook page link on the main page of this blog. Or, follow the link here: https://www.facebook.com/qhcongressqueen/
At this year's Congress we awarded over 24,000 entries with $3 million worth of prizes. It was an absolutely incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience to hand medallions to riders I grew up watching excel in the show pen. To me, winning the Congress is equivalent to winning an Olympic Gold Medal. To wear a blue neck ribbon, or walk out with a top-15 medallion, after competing with some of the world's most talented horses and exhibitors is no easy feat. It was an amazing experience to be able to share in this joy with all of the exhibitors!
Throughout the entirety of the show, I worked closely with OQHA's executive board, show staff and volunteers, as well as the awards committee. Many of you commented on how I was magically able to pop onto your computer screens in each of the three arenas every time a class was placed (with the exception of heading to school every now and then!) and I truly would not have been able to stay organized without the help of all of these individuals.
In addition, I have an entirely new appreciation for the show staff, announcers, awards volunteers, and all of the individual efforts it takes to put on a horse show, especially one as big as the All American Quarter Horse Congress. Sometimes they miss lunch, sometimes they miss sleep, but every morning and midnight they had a smile on their face as they were contributing to an event that they love. This experience has really taught me to appreciate those who work behind the scenes to provide the opportunities to show and grow as an exhibitor and as a Queen.
Some of my favorite Congress memories:
Presenting youth trail awards While I cannot recall your name at this exact moment, you sponsored this trail class in honor of your daughter who passed away from cancer. While the Congress was her favorite show, trail held a special place in her heart, and giving our medallions in her memory made me realize how special horses were to my childhood.
What I failed to mention in those few moments was my current job involves working with BuckeyeThon, Ohio State's Dance Marathon program, and how we raise funds to help with pediatric cancer research at Nationwide Children's. Our slogan is "every kid deserves to be a Buckeye" and while I do believe that is true, I can now blanket this statement to "every kid deserves to be a Congress champion." You reminded me how different passions throughout my life can intersect and how powerful it can be to have a community come together to accomplish common goals. I have no doubt she was smiling as you honored her memory.
All the lil' kiddo hugs
I don't think hearing "there is the princess" will ever get old!!! No doubt some of my favorite memories include getting to hear from our future. From favorite classes to show, horse's names and colors, meeting our state princesses, and even other fun facts (like Shane Gilliam's love for reptiles and her pet lizard Spike) the love our children have for horses will always continue to warm my heart!
Oh my, oh my. Nothing is an adventure quite like stallion halter in the Cooper arena.
Behind the Scenes Life Chats in the Awards Office
I learned so many nuggets of wisdom from Jaymie, Elaine, Denise, Dixie, Michelle, Mindy, Liz and the rest of the awards crew. In case you were looking for guidance on any life decisions you can take away these tidbits of knowledge: holding one medallion at a time looks better in pictures, nobody looks good in a nose ring, and always say yes to ice cream at lunch. Cannot wait to catch up at our winter outing!
Meeting my county senator and the Columbus City Council
Having lived in Columbus for the past six years it was amazing to meet some of the leaders creating positive change within my favorite city!
Learning from our sponsors and vendors
Our sponsors and vendors take a great deal of time to have their business support the Congress and our Queen's contest. Whether it be sunglasses, jewelry, tack, fashion, boot insoles, or other equine organizations, it was a pleasure to spend three weeks getting to know everyone involved. Without their generous support, we would not be able to bring $285 million into the central Ohio economy each year.
The OQHA Foundation Gala
I had so much fun "at the races" and supporting the Foundation's work with scholarship and crisis funds! I can always count on Carey Cooper for fashion advice, President Chris Cecil Darnell for the perfect photo booth picture, and Skip Salome and Dr. Scott Myers for the biggest hugs. Thank you for inviting me to be a part of this amazing event!
Learning about hunting with AQHA President Ralph Seekins and his wife, Connie
It was a pleasure to meet Ralph and Connie and learn about their lifetime dedication to quarter horses. Did you know Connie has quite the shot?! I'm sure I could learn a thing or two!
It's banquet season - Looking forward to culminating an amazing year and celebrating our exhibitor's successes at the Eastern Ohio, Ohio, and local 4-h club banquets. Follow my blog for the latest and greatest updates on my life and travels. See you soon!