Hoof Print In History: The Quarter Horse Congress
[Originally published in the October 2015 issue of Show Horse Today]
In 1966, few would have guessed that the idea just being tossed around by Blair Folck (the owner of National Equine Sales) would grow to the magnitude the All American Quarter Horse Congress has become today. Based on a Charolais cattle event Folck had seen in St. Louis, he wanted to create a similar event in Ohio that would become one of the premier events in the quarter horse industry.
As is often the case with change, Folck’s ideas were met with mixed reviews. Some of the Ohio Quarter Horse Association board members entertained the plan while others met it with skepticism. After all, even today putting on just a weekend show is a big financial commitment, much less a show with hopes of becoming a multi-week event as the Congress has become.
In January of 1967, a tentative agreement was made on the condition that $10,000 (equivalent to a little over $71,000 in 2015) could be raised by the May 1 in order to support the show. Otherwise, the show would be canceled, and Folck’s dream would fail to become reality. Folck and Pete Drake, who would serve as OQHA President for the first three years the Congress took place, began fundraising and pitching the idea to interested parties along with securing exhibition permits. By the May 1 deadline, they had managed to outraise their goal of $10,000 and the All American Quarter Horse Congress was born.
Held November 3-5, 1967 at the Ohio State Fairgrounds, the first Congress cost exhibitors $20 for the entire show, $15 for the weekend, and $5 for Sunday only.
On the official Quarter Horse Congress website, Drake writes, “There would be no free rides. We had heard a report that the National Reining Horse Association had incurred a $4,000 debt in their effort to put on their first Futurity in 1966 and we surely did not want to duplicate their errors. We decreed that every trustee – working or not – must pay his own admission to attend. Everyone must also pay their own expenses, i.e., hotel, transportation, etc.”
Their management decisions paid dividends and the inaugural Congress saw a whopping 5,000 horsemen and women in attendance, and brought in over $15,000 for OQHA in only three days. That was only the start for what would become the world’s largest single breed show, spanning over three weeks in length, and boasting more than 17,000 entries. Additional events and attractions have come and gone, like the Million Dollar Stallion Avenue and the Amateur Versatility class, but new events have taken their place and familiar favorites continue to highlight most of the month of October, when thousands descend upon Columbus, Ohio.