by Pam Gleason
As the South Carolina Quarter Horse Queen, Amy Brown strives to use her position to help other people.
“The title gives me a great platform to raise awareness for a lot of different things,” she says. Amy’s platform this year, which she shares with the Quarter Horse Congress Queen, is childhood cancer. For the past two years, she has held a horse show during the summer, last year to raise money for breast cancer research and this year for Nellie’s Champions for Kids, a group that helps children and teenagers with cancer. “I think that having this title gives me a reason to talk to people, to contact sponsors and get people to think about different causes. It gives you the opportunity to get a message out to people.”
Amy says that the role of a Quarter Horse queen is to represent the Quarter Horse association, and to be helpful to the members and staff of the organization. Every Quarter Horse association can crown its own queen, and, in October, all the queens come together at the Quarter Horse Congress in Ohio to compete for the congress queen title. The congress queen represents the American Quarter Horse Association for the year and travels to major Quarter Horse shows all over the country. Amy is going to the congress this year, and has devoted almost her entire fall to preparing for the queen competition there.
“It’s a pageant,” says Amy. “It’s judged 40 percent on an oral interview, 40 percent on a written test and 20 percent on horsemanship.” Because there are often just a few points difference between the contestants in the interview and horsemanship phases, the written test can be the most important component. The test consists of 50 questions taken from the AQHA official handbook. “The congress queens are so intelligent,” she continues, noting that one recent queen just got her PhD. “We aren’t just beauty queens. The girls are so smart they make you want to be smarter and to work harder.”
When she isn’t competing, Amy, who lives near Charlotte, N.C., is a senior at the University of North Carolina, where she is studying communications with a concentration on public relations. After she graduates, she hopes to use her new degree to assist in her family’s business.
“Most of the girls who become Quarter Horse queens have a family background with horses,” she says. “I didn’t. I like to say that I grew up with a different type of horsepower.” Amy’s family owns Brown and Miller Racing Solutions, a company that manufactures parts for all types of racecar, from drag and dirt racing cars through NASCAR. Amy, her parents and her older brother are very involved in the racing world, and Amy says that when she was a teenager, she even raced go-carts a little. “I was showing horses too,” she says, “And I needed to pick one.” Horses were the easy winner.
As the only one in her family who loves horses, Amy is not sure how her passion developed. “I was born in California, but when I was 5, my family moved across the country to North Carolina for their racecar business. On that drive, you could see a lot of horses out in the fields, and maybe that is what triggered it in my head, I don’t know. All I know is that by the time we got to North Carolina, everything for me was about horses. It was horses this, and horses that.”
Her parents made her wait until she was 6 to start taking riding lessons, and then for years she lived for her weekly lesson. When she was about 10, she started showing. “I didn’t want to show,” she says with a laugh. “My riding instructor kind of tricked me into it. She was showing a horse for one of her friends and she told me she didn’t really want to show, but if I helped her it would make it a lot easier.”
Throughout her teens, Amy showed in Quarter Horse shows in North and South Carolina, starting out in the Western divisions, and then adding English disciplines to her repertoire. Today she shows in the all-around, which includes halter, showmanship, western pleasure, hunter under saddle and games. This year she even won her first reining point. She now owns three Quarter Horses, including her first show horse, who at 23 is retired.
Amy, also 23, has been interested in becoming the congress queen since she was 18.
“I had never heard of the queen competition when I was younger,” she says. “But at the barn where I rode I ended up being one of the older kids there. There was a girl who was in the junior association, the AQHYA, who was on the judging team. They made it to the congress and while they were there they met a bunch of queens. She called me and said ‘You can do this; you would be excellent at this,’ and so I started looking into it, and spent about two years watching the competitions and studying.”
She entered her first queen contest in 2014, coming in second in the North Carolina Quarter Horse Association competition. The following year, 2015, she won for South Carolina. She ran again and won again in 2016. If she runs again next year, it will be her final time since you are allowed to be queen for just three years. Quarter Horse queens must be between the ages of 18 and 25.
Amy says she is looking forward to the queen competition at the Quarter Horse Congress this October, and is hoping to win the national title.
“I have spent a long time preparing,” she says. “This isn’t just a whim.” She even cut back her class schedule this fall to give herself more time. “I’m all in this year!”
But whether she wins or loses at the congress, Amy says that she enjoys being the SCQHA queen. “Youth look up to you as a role model,” she says. “And I like being able to help out.”
Most of all, perhaps, she enjoys the fact that being a quarter horse queen gives her more time to be around horses. “Horses are so therapeutic,” she says. “It doesn’t matter how you feel, when you go out and you see them, it’s a total breath of fresh air, a huge relief. As soon as you see them, all your troubles go away. You aren’t upset, you aren’t mad, you are just at peace.”
Until this year, Amy’s horses have always been boarded out, but her family recently bought 20 acres, so this fall the horses will be coming home to live with her for the first time. “I’m so excited,” she says. “It will be amazing.”