From the Queen’s Saddle

Katherine Merck shares how the different American Quarter Horses she rides throughout the year as Miss Rodeo America 2016 impact her life.

The American Quarter Horse Association

Katherine Merck riding BS ISA Hancock. (Photo: courtesy of Katherine Merck.)

Stop and think about the average number of American Quarter Horses you ride each year. For most of us, that average is no more than what you can count on one hand. In other cases, you may need two. In Miss Rodeo America 2016 Katherine Merck’s case, you couldn’t count them all even if you used your fingers and toes. On average, Miss Rodeo America rides 75 different registered American Quarter Horses from when she receives the crown in December at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo to when she passes the crown one year later.

Katherine is able to experience the versatility and diversity the American Quarter Horse breed has to offer by riding different horses at rodeo performances, horsemanship clinics, parades and other appearances. She has partnered with barrel horses, roping horses, cow horses, pickup horses and performance horses throughout her travels. The variety she has ridden has allowed her to learn new skills, and she believes her horsemanship has truly benefitted from each ride.

Some of the “AQHA all-stars” Katherine has ridden are featured on her Facebook page, chronicling the time she spends in the saddle. She has also shared a few of her favorite equine friends with us from her recent travels across the United States. These companions are generously donated by rodeo stock contractors and families for rodeo queens to use during a performance, parade or horsemanship clinic. Horseback duties include carrying flags, pushing cattle, parades, horsemanship clinics, riding in the grand entry, doing a queen’s run and much more.

Katherine’s travels have allowed her to meet special American Quarter Horse companions that made an impression on her. During the Cody Stampede Rodeo in Cody, Wyoming, Katherine rode Moons Pirhana owned by Scott and Mandy LaFevers. Moons Piranha is a 2004 bay gelding sired by Movin easy Whiskey and out of Leroy Moon by My Leroy Brown. He is an all-around family horse and accompanies his owners during different events. He takes Scott through pack trips through the Shoshone National Forest, carries Mandy through Cowgirl Up Rodeo Drill Team routines and patiently teaches their daughter, Kintla, as she learns to ride and chase her own dreams.

At Rodeo Corpus Christi, Katherine rode a descendant of American Quarter Horse Hall of Famer Joe Hancock. BBS ISA Hancock is a 2006 brown gelding sired by Junior D Hancock and out of LJSR Miss Adair by Hayden Wano. Rex Bugbee of Frontier Rodeo Co. owns the gelding and affectionately calls him “Bill Bailey” after his breeder. Bill Bailey serves as a pickup horse, flag horse for Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association judges, queen’s horse and a kid’s horse. Outside of the rodeo arena, he can be found teaching the next generation of American Quarter Horse enthusiasts.

Katherine and Hooked On Pepper, also known as "Hooker".

During the Nebraska Land Days, Katherine participated in the Buffalo Bill Rodeo in addition to the 2016 Miss Rodeo Nebraska pageant. She rode Hooked On Pepper, also known as “Hooker,” a 2002 bay gelding sired by Annies Little Pepper and out of Ill Be A Diamond by Ill Be Smart. Hooker is owned by Miss Rodeo Nebraska board member Karen Troyer and has carried numerous state queens and Miss Rodeo America titleholders in his years. He performs as a working cow horse, in addition to having a winning record in 4-H events and junior rodeos. Katherine thoroughly enjoyed riding this special horse for the Miss Rodeo Nebraska horsemanship competition and presenting the American flag during the rodeo performances.

Katherine looks forward to her visit in Amarillo coming up soon for the Tri-State Fair and Rodeo held September 16-24. During this event, Katherine will be at the rodeo in addition to visiting with rodeo fans and sharing what it means to be involved with the western way of life.

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