Quarter Horse Congress celebrates 50 years
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,
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.
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.