Equine enthusiasts at the Franklin County Fair began the Franklin County Horse Royalty Program 40 years ago.

Equine enthusiasts at the Franklin County Fair began the Franklin County Horse Royalty Program 40 years ago.

This year, six young women from different 4-H clubs decided to participate in the program with the coronation taking place July 22. Columbus Alternative High School student Iris Morrison was named the 2009 Franklin County Horse Royalty Queen, excelling in both equitation and the interview competition.

Morrison said she has been riding since she was three years old. The horse she used in the Royalty Ride this year, Bryes Opener, is a retired race horse and she sought help with retraining from 2002 Royalty Queen Allison Applegate.

Dolores Tewell, who has shared the responsibility of advisor with London resident Lisa Miller for the past five years, said the contest is much more than a pageant.

In order to be crowned king or queen or be placed in the top three, the youths are tested on their knowledge of the 4-H rules handbook, complete an interview, write an autobiography, and participate in showmanship and English equitation or western horsemanship.

After spending time together before and during the fair, the participants also vote on the most congenial of the group. This year Samantha Born, of Westland High School, was named "Most Congenial" by her peers.

At the first meeting, Tewell said, they gathered at a restaurant and she and Miller passed out handbooks, shared past autobiographies and went over the rules with the contestants.

Most years they get about six contestants, but the year that her daughter was a contestant there were 13 riders involved.

This year the contestants included; Morrison riding the Quarter Horse Bryes Opener; Born riding the Arabian Saddlebred Ace of Spades; Kalista Braughton, of Grove City High School, riding the Palomino Mitas Eastern Sun, was the first runner-up and winner of horsemanship and tied for autobiography; Morrison riding the Quarter Horse Bryes Opener; Abby Russell, of Hilliard Darby High School, riding the Quarter Horse Sometimes I'm Good, was third runner-up and won in showmanship; Amber Vannoy, of the Ohio State University and formerly a Hilliard student, riding the paint Mack, was the second runner-up and won the test portion of the event; and Melissa Wilhelm, a home schooled student from Canal Winchester, riding the Rocky Mountain Horse Majestic Max, tied for autobiography.

Wilhelm said her club won the crown two years in a row, so she strived to make it a trifecta, but failed, as she worked with her rescued horse which was not ridden for two years.

"I would definitely do it again, I had fun," she said. "I got to meet a lot of friends."

Wilhelm said the process challenged her in learning life skills. She said some of the things she learned in the interview will later help her as she seeks a job.

This wias the third year that Vannoy and Morrison have entered the contest.

Tewell, a resident of Galloway, said the riders are allowed to enter as many times as they like, but once they claim a crown they are disqualified from future participation.

Vannoy, who walked rather than rode Mack into the arena, said she has spent a lot of time working with him.

She was told when she got him a year ago that he was a good fair horse, but she has since learned that he is skittish around the speakers and crowds.

"He's great on trails," she said. "Everybody says it wouldn't be the fair if Amber's horse wasn't being nuts. It is extremely frustrating, but it makes me a better rider."

Patience, Vannoy said, will help her in her animal science studies at OSU.

After two years of participating in the contest, Morrison said, she discovered that writing the autobiography has helped her with her school work and grammar.

Born, who entered the contest for the first time, said the test was difficult.

Tewell said it equates to a high school final examination and the judge this year is a high school advanced placement teacher who focuses on grammar and spelling.

Born cannot remember a time when she did not ride. Her mother, Melissa Born, said she rode when she was pregnant with her daughter.

"If a horse and a girl could be the same, it would be these two," she said nodding toward her daughter and Ace of Spades.

After eight years of riding, Braughton said, she learned general things about horses she did not know by being a participant. She is now employing some of the nutritional aspects learned in her studies as a contestant.

Braughton hoped her leased horse would help her earn the crown since Mitas Eastern Sun was ridden last year by the winner, and she came close as first runner-up.

Russell's horse whinnied and stamped making her Sometimes I'm Good name obvious outside the arena.

"I used to get frustrated with her," Russell said, shrugging her shoulders with the evident decision to take things in stride. "In general she does everything I ask."

Sometimes I'm Good is capable of English equitation, western horsemanship and jumping helping her rider earn a placement.

"She has so much character," said Russell. "She is always a horse, but she acts like a little human being."

Russell said she slid off the side of her horse one time and Sometimes I'm Good tramped on her. To the mare's credit, Russell said, she was trying to avoid the fallen rider.