COURTLAND, Minn. - Shannon Voges has loved horses as long as she can remember. Starting at age six with Chester, a pony that bucked her off innumerable times, Voges has "climbed the ladder" to become an outstanding equestrian. So outstanding, in fact, that she was crowned "Miss Horsemanship" when the Western Saddle Club's Association royalty was named last September.
It's not a title that one earns easily. Shannon first needed to be named the queen of her own saddle club, the Prairie Wind Riders of Redwood Falls, then apply to be a participant in the WSCA Royalty Contest.
That's when the real time commitment began. Queen candidates were required to attend an all-day royalty event and banquet in early August. They completed written tests, took part in three personal interviews, presented a prepared speech, and answered an impromptu question at the Royalty Banquet. Then, during the five-day WSCA championship show September 18-23, candidates executed a salute ride, competed for the title of Miss Horsemanship or the title of Miss Games, were scored by secret judges, presented awards, worked in the barn/show office, and entered a stall decorating contest. Candidates also sold royalty fundraiser raffle tickets.
Shannon Voges, Miss Horsemanship 2014, as a member of the WSCA royal court.
Shannon Voges in competition in an Intercollegiate Horse Show Association event in North Carolina. IHSA and AQHA equestrian competitions are a true test of a rider’s ability. At them, host colleges provide the horses. Riders draw for a horse to ride, but are allowed no practice time and don’t mount the horse until their class is up.
When all the events were done, members of the WSCA Royalty Court were named, with Voges being crowned Miss Horsemanship. Joining her in the court were Zoey Kunkel of Woodbury, WSCA Queen; Bobbie Johnson of Braham, WSCA Princess; and Kristin Olson of Maple Plain, Miss Games. The WSCA has members from five states - Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota, and South Dakota - but all of this year's royalty are from Minnesota.
Along with the title, Voges received a belt buckle, a saddle, the use of a crown, and $500.
As royalty, the four young women work together at numerous events during their yearlong reign. Prior to the recent Minnesota Horse Expo at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in St. Paul, the women put on a Royalty Clinic for prospective 2014 queen candidates. At Expo, they manned the WSCA booth, and promoted the association throughout the three-day event.
Other duties of the royalty include taking part in the March and October WSCA general meetings, participating in a royalty show June 28, visiting Gillette Children's Specialty Hospital, attending the Royalty Banquet and the St. Paul Winter Carnival, and presenting awards at the Minnesota State Fair and this fall's WSCA Championship Horse Show. They also volunteered as bell ringers for the Salvation Army and attended saddle club banquets.
Voges plans to travel to more than 20 shows this summer.
She explained, "We have a show every weekend from Mothers Day until the middle of September. We sometimes hit two shows in a weekend."
That's quite a change from her youth when she was pretty much limited to one show a year. Enrolled in 4-H from Discovery all the way through her first year in college, Shannon showed horses at the 4-H show at the Nicollet County Fair from first grade on.
"The only shows that we would compete in were the county fair, and sometimes the Brown County Fair, if they didn't fall on the same weekend. It was a treat for us to be able to compete in two," Voges said. "It was a dream of mine to be able to travel to horse shows every weekend and now we are doing just that."
As her skills improved and she became old enough, Shannon won the right to compete in the State 4-H Horse Show, held at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.
Shannon went on to major in animal science and equine studies, and to minor in agribusiness, at North Dakota State University, graduating in December 2013.
While at NDSU, she participated on the college's equestrian team in Intercollegiate Horse Show Association competition for four years.
Of that experience, Voges said, "Being in IHSA, I was able to go places that I never dreamed of, just to show horses. I traveled to Ohio, Delaware, Texas, Oklahoma, and Kentucky and was able to ride some amazing and talented horses. My last year on the equestrian team, I was the Regional High Point Rider, which allowed me a spot to compete at Nationals that spring. There I placed eighth overall. That fall, I received an email from AQHA, saying they were hosting a first-ever competition at the AQHA World Show in Oklahoma City. It consisted of eight riders from IHSA and eight riders from NCAA. It was an experience I will never forget."
Shannon is the daughter of Dale and Donna Voges of rural Courtland. She is currently living in Lake Crystal and is employed by Hubbard Feeds in Mankato. She now has six Quarter Horses and a Shetland pony for her nieces.