From the Queen’s Saddle

Miss Rodeo America 2016 Katherine Merck shares her experience in horsemanship from the pageant to the arena.

The American Quarter Horse Association

Katherine helps an array of American Quarter Horse enthusiasts from experienced high school rodeo participants to beginning riders with minimal experience with horses. (Credit: courtesy of Miss Rodeo America)

The thrill of a rodeo would not be complete without the spectacle of a grand entry. Cowboys blazing in ready to compete for glory, stock contractors representing their brand and a crowd favorite, the rodeo queens waving to each and every fan as they take their hot lap around the arena. The only thing brighter than their outfits is their smiles, reaching to the highest points in the stands, welcoming each and every rodeo fan to the event. Young girls aspire to ride like the women representing rodeo in the arena and one day join them in the parade of champions. 

Horsemanship to rodeo royalty is of upmost importance. Miss Rodeo America 2016 Katherine Merck of Spokane, Washington, shares her AQHA journey across the nation this year representing the sport of rodeo, western lifestyle and the American Quarter Horse. Through the course of her year, she rides on average 75 registered American Quarter Horses at the rodeos and events she attends. In some instances, she may ride multiple horses through the duration of one rodeo performance to execute tasks asked of her. As the first lady of rodeo, Katherine will push cattle, carry sponsor flags or assist in other aspects of the performance. She will also ride outside of rodeo performances in parades and horsemanship clinics to help younger horse enthusiasts with their skills. 

In June, Katherine attended three state pageants to crown rodeo royalty that will be representing their respective states. She was present at the rodeo queen pageants for Miss Rodeo New Mexico, Miss Rodeo Colorado and Miss Rodeo Nebraska. At these pageants, contestants for the crown competed in horsemanship, which accounted for one third of their total score. They were evaluated based on a pattern, flag presentation, rail work and a freestyle pattern presentation. They also completed a horsemanship interview to test their knowledge in equine sciences, rodeo knowledge and equine management. This portion of the competition is arguably the most important because the state queens travel and will be asked to ride horses they aren’t familiar with. 

“Horsemanship is an integral part of any rodeo queen pageant because our horsemanship is continually tested – I’ve ridden up to five horses at a single rodeo, and I’m often asked to present the American flag on a horse that has never done so before,” says Katherine. “Generally, I borrow stock-contractor horses, which can mean their saddle horses or pickup horses.” 

While in Nebraska, she demonstrated pattern work on a horse named Hooked On Pepper, a 2004 bay gelding by Annies Little Pepper and out of Ill Be A Diamond by Ill Be Smart. Hooked On Pepper and Katherine demonstrated patterns and completed a reined cow horse pattern. 

Katherine helps an array of American Quarter Horse enthusiasts from experienced high school rodeo participants to beginning riders with minimal experience with horses. She believes in safety, fun and learning when it comes to instructing riders. Her top priority with instruction is to teach young riders and future rodeo queens how to be safe around horses and manage different situations that will arise at events involving horses. 

The end of June went off with a bang at the 95th annual Greeley Stampede in conjunction with the Miss Rodeo Colorado pageant in Greeley, Colorado. Katherine was able to ride horses provided by Beutler & Son Rodeo present the American flag to hundreds of Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association fans. 

AQHA is proud to sponsor Miss Rodeo America. As part of the sponsorship, Katherine received an AQHA life membership as a coronation gift and subscription to The American Quarter Horse Journal. AQHA also awards the winner of the MRA pageant horsemanship competition a $1,000 scholarship and saddle. Every year at the pageant, AQHA also has an AQHA representative on the Miss Rodeo America judges panel.

Follow Katherine on her journey as Miss Rodeo America 2016 on Instagram and Facebook to hear her stories of riding American Quarter Horses across the nation, and look for her blog, “From the Queen’s Saddle,” this year on