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MSU hosts state's oldest AQHA show
STARKVILLE -- The Mississippi Horse Park at Mississippi State University hosted nearly double the number of last year’s contestants at the American Quarter Horse Association’s Quarter Horse show March 10 and 11.
The oldest Quarter Horse show in the state of Mississippi has grown quickly over the past two years. In its 53rd year, the AQHA is still going strong, and contestants have been reaping the benefits of the new, more affordable flat entry fee.
In 2011, the Mississippi Horse Park evaluated the show format and made some significant changes that resulted in a 267 percent increase in entries. In 2012, the trend continued with a total of 3808 entries over the course of the two-day show, a 91 percent increase from the year before.
“These numbers are staggering,” said Bricklee Miller, Mississippi Horse Park facility director and show manager of the AQHA at the Horse Park. “Many of our classes were just as large, or larger than the ones recently held at the prestigious Dixie National Quarter Horse Show in Jackson, so this is a big deal to the Quarter Horse contestants. The larger the class numbers, the more points the contestants can earn.”
Contestants can earn points toward their qualification to compete in Oklahoma City at the AQHA World Show later this year. Because they were able to earn more points, many contestants completed the qualification process for their horses at this single show.
Cash and prizes were awarded for the all-around champions in each division. Mary Gracen Reed won the novice youth all around, Marietta Booth earned the select championship, and Amber Watts took top honors in novice amateur all around. Taking home the $500 cash prize in the open was Shawn Hays, riding Bringing On The Best. Kalee McCann was the leader in the youth division, showing Gotta Get Hot. Clinching the amateur division was Brooke Ware and her horse RI A Sudden Cover.
The average contestant drove 500 miles to attend the weekend’s event and started arriving as early as Thursday. Contestants came from seven states and the horse park rented out all but 38 of its 350 stalls.
“We don’t think we’ll have any empty stalls next year,” Miller said. “We knew it was going to be tight when our online pre-registration started booking up so quickly. People really enjoy being able to register before they arrive. The new format allows online entries, confirmation emails containing stall and RV assignments, and special requests.”
Miller said the economic impact of the weekend event was $140,324 for the Starkville community and that the event was another success story for MSU and the Mississippi Horse Park, a division of MSU’s Extension Service. The facilities host 40 major events every year, bringing new dollars to Oktibbeha County.
The next event at the Mississippi Horse Park is the Everything Garden Expo March 24 and 25. There will be vendors, plant sales, expert speakers, educational exhibits and children’s programs. Admission is $5; children 6 and younger get in free. For more information, contact the Starkville Area Arts Council at (662) 324-3080 or www.starkvillearts.org.
For continued updates and upcoming events at the Mississippi Horse Park, follow them on Facebook at MS Horse Park or call the event line at (662) 325-0508.
Writer: Jennifer M. Brignac