How did you get into horses?

When I was three years old I spent my days with my loving grandparents and enjoyed riding with my grandfather to take care of his Black Angus cattle every day. Occasionally, we would have to take his truck to his mechanic, Phillip. Instead of us leaving while the work was done, I would beg that we stay so that I could ride the horses. One of the very first memories that I can recall is riding across the pasture, bareback, with the Phillip’s daughter holding on to me.

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A little bit about “Dillon” and your riding goals with him?

I purchased ‘These Irons Are Strait,’ lovingly known as ‘Dillon’, in March 2017.  He is a 2013 model, gorgeous 16.3 hand AQHA Palomino sired by the spectacular ‘These Irons Are Hot’ and out of the mare ‘Barbie Strait To You’.  ‘Dillon’ and I clicked from the very beginning and oddly enough, his coat color matches identically with my red hair!  In 2017, we were honored to have been named World Champions in the Novice Amateur Hunter Under Saddle, Amateur Hunter Under Saddle, and Reserve World Champions in the Amateur Hunter In Hand.  In July of this year, we were able to go back to Tunica, with this year’s goal being to compete for the Amateur “Golden Horse”, which is the Palomino All-Around, awarded to the pair in their division that earns the most points.  Under the guidance of my trainer, Carey Ready, ‘Dillon’ and I placed all top 5 or top 10 in the Amateur Color, Performance Halter Geldings, Equitation, Showmanship, Road Hack, Horsemanship, Hunter In Hand, Hunter Under Saddle, and Ranch Riding.  Plus, we won the world in the Amateur Hunter Under Saddle, Amateur Road Hack, and Amateur Hunter In Hand.  This left us with enough points to win the Amateur Golden Horse!

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What’s the SCQHA process?

The SCQHA and Congress Queen contest is composed of three sections. 40% on an interview with 3 to 4 judges, like a parent type interview with questions on career ambitions, why you are running, as well as questions about the history of the Quarter Horse Breed and opinions on the humane treatment of horses within the show world. 40% on an extremely difficult test on the AQHA Handbook, which is 312 pages!  It is all short answer, no multiple choice, so anyone that is thinking about competing for the crown best start studying now.  And finally, 20% on a horsemanship pattern and rail work, which almost always encompasses a flying lead change.  The candidate with the highest combined total of the scores takes home the crown.

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What does is mean to be Congress Queen and the SCQHA Queen?

Representing the South Carolina Quarter Horse Association has been an absolute dream come true for me, a dream that I had to work hard for. he requirements for applying for the South Carolina Queen, as well as the Congress Queen, are very similar.  For SCQHA, the applicant must be a SCQHA current member in good standing, between the ages of 18-25, and cannot be married or have children.  You must submit an application, along with a headshot, resume, and a list of all the shows one has attended in the past year.  Once a queen is crowned, her duties for the SCQHA include attending the annual meetings, the annual awards banquet, and handing out the awards for the annual Futurity class in June of each year.  The state winner is also required to compete for the All-American Congress Queen Crown.  After the new Congress Queen is crowned in the middle of Congress, in October, they are required to stay at Congress throughout the end of the show, to attend AQHA Youth World as a representation of the Congress to hand awards, and to attend the Congress of the next year to crown the new queen.  These are the “written” requirements.  The “unwritten” requirements include making thousands of little boys and girls smile by giving them an autograph, thanking all the vendors and sponsors for their support, and being outstanding role-model and a shining example for all the future Congress Queens to come.

What’s an award that means a lot to you?

One award I received that is very dear to my heart happened when I was about 15 at a Cabarrus County Saddle Club Open Show.  During one of my classes, while we were standing in the line-up, another girl’s rein fell down.  I walked my horse over and picked it up.  I didn’t think anything about it, that was just the right thing to do.  At the end of the day I was award the Judge’s Sportsmanship Award, which I didn’t even know existed!  I still look back on that day and it reminds me that is what horse showing is all about.  It may be an individual sport, but I feel that helping each other out can only make yourself better.

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Any advice for young riders?

As a current Youth Advisors for the SCQHA I am constantly trying to give advice to our youth. This position is not only prestigious, but also highly gratifying to me on a personal level because of my love for children and the American Quarter Horse.  I care deeply about nurturing future generations of horse enthusiasts for the AQHA and, because I was once one of those children who benefitted from mentorship, I know what an influence I can have as a youth advisor on a child’s life-long goals and dreams.  My advice for any young rider is to listen with your ears wide open to any advice that your trainer gives you.  There are so many kids that would give anything to have someone at every show guiding them and giving them advice so never take that for granted.  Also, never forget to thank your parents for giving you the opportunity to ride horses.  For many children owning a horse never becomes a reality and we are lucky to be able to be a part of such a wonderful and uplifting community.

Best advice you received as a young rider?

The best advice that I ever received was to always look confident.  I used to get nervous to go into the show pen and then I had a good friend tell me to just be confident in my riding ability, in myself, and in my horse.  The judge can always tell who thinks that they are meant to be in the pen and who thinks that they are in something that they can’t handle. Look in the mirror and tell yourself that you are awesome! That you have gotten this and once you start to believe that, then everything else will just fall into place.