Whitney Turner was 5 years old when she rode in her first horse show.
Twenty years later, she is still competing and may add a national title to her collection.
After being named the 2012 Mideast Kentucky Quarter Horse Queen in June, Turner will travel to Columbus, Ohio, in October to compete in the All-American Quarter Horse Congress.
“It’s been a childhood dream since I was little. Everything that the queen wins is on display in a booth (at the Kentucky Horse Park), and I would walk by it and see that,” Turner said.
The Congress is the largest single-breed horse show in the world, and queen contestants have to prove their knowledge of quarter horses through a written test, an interview with judges and by actually getting in the saddle.
“It’s a really neat show. I recommend it to people that are just starting to learn if they are wanting to get involved in quarter horses or not,” Turner said.
In addition to the queen competition, which features regional congress winners from throughout the United States, the national show displays all quarter horse riding styles with hundreds of competitions.
“It’s a world-renowned show,” Turner said.
The queen will win $100,000 worth of merchandise from show vendors, including a horse trailer, boots and riding clothing.
“If you name it, they give it away,” Turner said.
But the prizes are only part of what motivates her to compete. Turner is hopeful the queen experience will lead to more opportunities in the future, particularly a career in the horse industry.
“I’m kind of hoping that the queen thing will be a good way to meet people in the horse industry,” Turner said.
Horseback riding has been a life-long hobby for Turner, whose parents put her on a horse for the first time when she was just a toddler.
“My mom said that was one of my first words, ‘horsey,’” Turner said. “I grew up in 4-H. I rode from the time I was 9 until I was 18 in the Clark County 4-H Ponies and Partners.”
Fifteen women will be competing for the title. Because the competition is only open to women ages 18-25, this year will be Turner’s first and last attempt at the crown.
“I think it would be neat to bring that back to Kentucky,” Turner said of the national title.
She will show 20-year-old Scandalized, a horse her parents, John and Donna Turner, bought for her. Scandalized will travel to Indiana Sunday to work with trainers before meeting Turner in Ohio to next month for the competition. The 4-H Ponies and Partners Club gave Turner a $500 donation to help with competition-related expenses.
Throughout the Congress, Turner will have the opportunity to meet other riders as she hands out ribbons to winners and the queen contestants sign autographs. The queen contestants also will participate in a style show, modeling fashions contributed by show vendors.
Regardless of the outcome of the competition, Turner plans to continue riding and working with horses. As a graduate of Morehead State University, Turner is now employed by Lexmark, but she hopes to make her horse hobby a bigger part of her life in the future.
“I just kind of always had a love for them, ever since I was little. ... I pretty much spend a lot of my time riding and horse showing and things like that,” Turner said.