Courtney Sturgill To Represent American Quarter Horse Association
LAKELAND (Dec. 5, 2011) – Florida Southern’s Courtney Sturgill has been riding Quarter Horses since she was a little girl. As a youth growing up on her mother’s farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western Virginia, Sturgill not only acquired top-notch horsemanship skills but also learned to communicate intelligently and effectively with audiences both large and small. Now, for the next year, she will put both of these talents to work as she assumes her new role as the public face and spokesperson for the American Quarter Horse Association.
Sturgill, a statuesque senior at FSC, won the title of the 2011 All-American Quarter Horse Congress Queen at the AQHA Congress in Columbus, Ohio, in October.
“I am absolutely thrilled to have this opportunity,” Sturgill said. “The horse industry has truly shaped me into the young woman I am today and taught me the values of hard work, dedication and setting goals for myself.”
Even though she is no stranger to beauty pageants and won the 2007 Miss Teen Virginia competition, she didn’t earn this Association honor for her appearance alone. Rather, she earned the Congress Queen crown based on knowledge of the American Quarter Horse Association, communication skills and horsemanship. She had to take a written exam and undergo an interview, each of which counted for 40 percent of her score, and she was also judged on how well she put her horse through its paces.
Sturgill said the written test was the hardest part because it covered the rules and regulations of the AQHA, a 272-page book covering everything from breeding and registration of horses to competition rules to the number of members in the association.
“I had 7,000 note cards. My friends thought I was crazy. I’d hand them the cards and say, ‘Quiz me.’ I competed last year, and it came down to studying. It really weeds out the competition,” she said.
The Congress is the world’s largest horse show, running for more than three weeks and drawing more than 18,000 entries in dozens of competitions.
“It promotes the versatility of the horse. They do everything from showing and racing to more rodeo-style events,” Sturgill explained. “I show Western and English (saddle) events. You’re judged on your riding. You do a pattern with the horse, and you’re judged on your seat position and your control of the horse.”
Sturgill’s mother, Elizabeth Wills, owns Mountain Crest Farm in Wise, a small town in far Western Virginia, where she owns and breeds quarter horses. Sturgill grew up riding and competing. She was a member of a youth team that won a national championship, and she was a two-time Virginia Quarter Horse Association Queen before winning the All-American crown.
As Congress Queen, she will make appearances representing the Association at a series of shows and events during the year. Her first appearance will be in Tampa just after Christmas at the Gold Coast Horse Show at the State Fairgrounds, and she will travel to several states over the spring and summer.
“I am so excited to have the opportunity to travel as a spokesperson for this industry, educating others about the Quarter Horse and what it has personally taught me,” Sturgill said. “This really is a once and a lifetime opportunity and I intend to fully embrace every moment of it.”
Sturgill has managed to balance her studies with her new duties as Congress Queen so far. She’s majoring in public relations, and she said her professors have been supportive of her efforts. She has been a Dean’s List Student each semester at FSC, and she is Recruitment Vice President, PR Chair, and Scholarship Chair of Alpha Delta Pi sorority.
After graduating from FSC in May and completing her year as Congress Queen, Sturgill will consider her options. She is interested in public relations, but she also comes from a family of lawyers, and she may apply to law school.
“I’m interested in communications law. Within the family, they feel I have a knack for it,” she said.
For more information about Sturgill and the AQHA, visit: www.myvqha.com .