Quar­ter Horse Congress cel­e­brates 50 years

Record Observer - - News - By DOUG BISHOP dbishop@kibay­times.com

COLUM­BUS, OHIO — This com­ing Oc­to­ber, the Al­lAmer­i­can Quar­ter Horse Congress cel­e­brates its 50th an­niver­sary. Be­gin­ning in 1967 as a three-day week­end horse show, it has grown to a show of over three and a half weeks, Oct. 6-30, the largest sin­gle-breed horse show in the world. It has been de­scribed by some as “the Disney World of horse shows.” It has ev­ery­thing any­one wanted to know about horses, par­tic­u­larly the Quar­ter horse breed, and more.

It’s the largest an­nual con­ven­tion in Colum­bus, Ohio. The show is held an­nu­ally at the Ohio State Fair Grounds, a stone’s throw from Ohio State Univer­sity, just a cou­ple miles north of the cen­ter of down­town Colum­bus.

The city of Colum­bus has in re­cent years com­mit­ted it­self to keep­ing the Quar­ter Horse Congress there by hav­ing a new, huge, sta­teof-the-art 1,015 stall horse barn built on the grounds to go along with all of the other re­lated are­nas that host the event. The show hosts some 6,000 horses mov­ing in and off the grounds over the three-plus week time pe­riod.

For those who may not know, the Quar­ter horse breed is an Amer­i­can cre­ation, crossed in 1756 be­tween an English Thor­ough­bred stal­lion, “Janus,” brought to North Amer­ica and bred to Span­ish colo­nial mares — it pro­duced what be­came the foun­da­tion stock of the Amer­i­can Quar­ter horse. From that time on the horse was used pri­mar­ily by what even­tu­ally would be called cow­boys to cut cows from herds be­cause the horse was ex­tremely quick and ver­sa­tile be­ing able to stop and turn.

The name “Quar­ter horse” came from early Vir­ginia set­tlers racing the horses along straight quar­ter-mile paths in about 20 sec­onds. The horse is also known for its calm and co­op­er­a­tive tem­per­a­ment, a val­ued qual­ity with any breed horse.

Gen­er­ally, the Quar­ter horse ranges from 58 to 62 inches tall, and weighs be­tween 900 and 1,250 pounds, fall­ing into a cat­e­gory of “light horses.” The Amer­i­can Quar­ter Horse As­so­ci­a­tion, to pro­mote the breed, was formed in 1940.

In the mid-1960s, “Congress” founder Blair Folck pro­posed the event be­fore the Ohio Quar­ter Horse As­so­ci­a­tion Board. Sev­eral Board mem­bers ex­pressed se­ri­ous reser­va­tions. “They were wor­ried that with only $2,000 in the trea­sury, a loss on Congress could bank­rupt the lo­cal as­so­ci­a­tion,” said Dan Evans, chair­man of the board of Bob Evans Farms, one of the orig­i­na­tors of the Congress.

The first Congress in Novem­ber 1967, net­ted $15,000. Since then the event has grown be­yond the wildest dreams of its founders with sev­eral hun­dred thou­sand equine en­thu­si­asts com­ing ever y year. The show is pos­si­bly the most com­pre­hen­sive any­where. It has vol­umes of qual­ity com­mer­cial ex­hibits lo­cated pri­mar­ily in “Congress Hall” — ev­ery­thing from horse trail­ers, tack, eques­trian at­tire, stylish jew­elr y, spe­cial­ized horse nutri­tion­ists, equine art, col­leges that have eques­trian sport, and more. There is also a very pop­u­lar “Puppy Al­ley,” where dog breed­ers of all kinds of­fer pup­pies for sale.

The QH Congress pi­o­neered mix­ing ed­u­ca­tion with com­pe­ti­tion. Each year a lengthy pub­lished list of equine spe­cial­ist guest speak­ers talk about the horse in­dus­try’s hottest top­ics, all avail­able with the cost of ad­mis­sion.

Even with all this, the cen­ter­piece of the Congress has al­ways been com­pe­ti­tion. Fol­low­ing its suc­cess­ful first year in 1967, the Congress was quick to add com­pe­ti­tions that in­cluded youth, seiz­ing on the idea that young peo­ple were the fu­ture of the in­dus­try.

In 1968, the first Na­tional Youth Ac­tiv­ity Team Tour­na­ment (bet­ter known as NYATT) was held with 14 teams from across the na­tion com­pet­ing in four dif­fer­ent classes. A team from Ok­la­homa was the first to win the tour­na­ment. Since then there have been six com­pet­i­tive list­ings for NYATT: Show­man­ship, Western Plea­sure, Horse­man­ship, Hunter under sad­dle, Rein­ing, and Bar­rel Racing. For the 50th an­niver­sary of Congress, a new class has been added, English Equi­tation, bring the to­tal to seven classes.

Each team must have no fewer than four mem­bers, and each is al­lowed up to 14 team mem­bers, not ex­ceed­ing the age of 18. Two team mem­bers can com­pete in each class, how­ever, no one team mem­ber can com­pete in more than two com­pet­i­tive NYATT classes. The tour­na­ment, which will be Sun­day, Oct. 23, start­ing at 7 a.m., clearly brings to­gether many of the most tal­ented young eques­tri­ans in the na­tion.

Along­side the NYATT tour­na­ment, a five-day com­pe­ti­tion for the pres­ti­gious Congress Queen. The con­tes­tants for Queen come from state QH as­so­ci­a­tions. The en­tries com­pete in three cat­e­gories: oral in­ter­views,

PHOTO BY DOUG BISHOP

Wait­ing for the com­mand to be dis­missed by the Show­man­ship judge at the 2015 “Small Fry” com­pe­ti­tion, Mad­die Rippeon of Cen­tral Mary­land, was a fi­nal­ist in this youth event last year. Small Fry Show­man­ship is sched­uled for Satur­day, Oct. 15, be­gin­ning at 8 a.m. in­side the Cooper Arena dur­ing the 50th All-Amer­i­can Quar­ter Horse Congress in Colum­bus, Ohio.

PHOTO BY DOUG BISHOP

As is with ev­ery win­ner of each event at the All-Amer­i­can Quar­ter Horse Congress, they are pre­sented with the fa­mous Quar­ter horse statue. This was the win­ner of the “Small Fry” Show­man­ship class in 2015. Small Fry Show­man­ship is sched­uled for Satur­day, Oc­to­ber 15, be­gin­ning at 8 a.m. in­side Cooper Arena.

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