The Ohio Quarter Horse Association was established in 1951, and made its mission to encourage the breeding and competition of Quarter Horses in Ohio, as well as to provide educational opportunities about the breed. In the beginning, OQHA sponsored classes at open shows in the state, later establishing its own breeder's futurity, and eventually year-end awards for AQHA-approved events. The association hosted a two-day clinic in 1962 at the Ohio State University that included discussions on nutrition; breeding management; parasites; grooming, fitting and equipment; and demonstrations on showmanship, horsemanship, reining, roping and cutting. With the success of that event, other clinics soon followed.
With its activity and popularity now on the rise, the association lobbied and received approval to host the AQHA convention in Cincinnati in 1966. The event was one of the most talked-about conventions for many years, with its hospitality, jam-packed agenda and an unforgettable " Over the Rhine" themed
cocktail party. Blair Folck overheard a departing guest exclaim: "I had a heck of a good time, but I didn't learn a thing about Quarter Horses."
The casual comment spurred Blair Folck to action. At the May 1966 OQHA board of directors meeting, Blair Folck, owner of National Equine Sales and an OQHA past president, reported on his attendance at the Charolais Cattle Congress in St. Louis, Missouri. Folck raved about the success of the show, and stated that the enormity of the state-sponsored cattle event dwarfed any promotional events that the national association had ever done. He further predicted that the same type of program could be adapted to Quarter Horses and hosted by OQHA.
His idea was received with mixed emotions by the board. Many people were excited about the idea, but others were concerned about the financial liability. After deliberating and reviewing its options, the board agreed at an emergency board meeting in January 1967 to host the Congress under one condition: $10,000 was to be raised before May 1, 1967, or the show would be cancelled.
With much more than the $10,000 goal in signed contracts thanks to Dr. W.P. "Pete" Drake, OQHA president for the first three Congress shows, and Blair Folck, the association decided to proceed with the first annual All American Quarter Horse Congress, November 3-5, 1967 at the Ohio State Fairgrounds,
Columbus, Ohio. More than 5,000 horsemen and women came to the first Congress, and the event was a hit, netting the association $15,000 over its three-day run.
After Congress paperwork outgrew three rooms in Dr. Drake's Richwood, Ohio, home, office space in the Union County village was rented and eventually an executive secretary was hired to manage the show. As the Congress grew, so did the OQHA office staff, to its current six full-time employees.
From its initial three days, the show grew to include more and more events and eventually evolved to the three-week schedule seen today. After a fire in 1995, OQHA purchased land and built its permanent headquarters in Richwood. The association also maintains rented office space on the Ohio Expo Center grounds.
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