By Wrangler Network contributor Miss Rodeo America
Howdy to all from the gorgeous, rolling hills of the Bluegrass! Coming to you from the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, Loretta Lynn, George Clooney, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and the home of THE Kentucky Derby, I am Lauren Johnson, Miss Rodeo Kentucky 2015.
I was fortunate enough to grow up in a family that was heavily invested in the Equine, Rodeo, and Agriculture industries. My mother’s parents, Bill and Donna Brewer, came from Henry County, Kentucky, to Louisville, Kentucky, in the early 1970s. Before the move and even after, they were immersed in grain farming and beef cattle production on the family farm. My grandparents, whom I affectionately call Nana and Papa, sparked my interest in Thoroughbred racing. After school or on Saturday mornings, I could be found reading the Daily Racing Form in the office with my Papa!
My love of rodeo and the western way of life came from my father, Carl Johnson. Aside from his regular weekday job, he started colts and competed on the International Professional Rodeo Association (IPRA) circuit, as well as several other local/regional circuits, for several years in the Bareback Riding. He had me on a horse as soon as I was able to sit up by myself! I was confidently riding by myself before I was old enough for preschool, on my first pony named Rusty. I remember going to rodeos with him when I was very young, and watching the rodeo queens. That is when I decided that one day that I myself would be a rodeo queen.
Growing up, I had the blessing of having a stepparent in the United States Army. This gave me the opportunity to live all over the country and see things that most people do not get to. Over my almost 22 years on this earth, I have lived in Georgia, California, Washington, Texas, Indiana, and of course, Kentucky! Through all of the moving, leaving friends, and changing schools, horses were always a constant for me.
After having settled back in Kentucky for a while, my mother, Marsha (Brewer) Rieckers, married my stepdad, Jay Rieckers, when I was a freshman in high school. We moved to Seymour, Indiana, which is where I spent my high school days. I attended Brownstown Central High School, in Brownstown, Indiana. I immersed myself in anything and everything agriculture. After school, during the summer, and on weekends, I worked in the farm implement dealership with my stepdad, which taught me invaluable knowledge about all aspects of farm equipment. The knowledge I gained working there helped me to win the Indiana FFA District XI Agriculture Sales demonstration, and go on to compete at the Indiana State FFA Convention. During these years, I was heavily involved with 4H and the National FFA Organization, competing in many CDE competitions, as well as on the Livestock Judging and Parliamentary Procedure teams. I also had great success in the show ring exhibiting Boer goats, mainly Market Wethers. In the summer of 2012, my Wether, “Skeeter”, won the title of Jackson County Fair Reserve Grand Champion Wether.
I have enjoyed all of the riding opportunities that I have gotten to experience over the years, including learning the basics of Hunt Seat Equitation with Alitza (Meyer) Zuchlewski in Lakewood, Washington, to riding the ranch horses with my great Grandparents in southern California! Over the years, I have been a serious competitor in several riding disciplines including, Barrel Racing, Pole Bending, Hunt Seat Equitation, Western Horsemanship, Reining, and more! To say I am a well-rounded horsewoman is an understatement. I enjoy any and every activity that involves horses. One of my goals after my year as Miss Rodeo Kentucky is to enter the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover competition!
After high school, I attended the University of Louisville, where I majored in Sports Administration, with a minor in Equine Business. While there, I served as the Social Media chair for the Riding and Racing Club. I thrived as a competitor on both the Hunt Seat and Western equestrian teams, competition for which was sanctioned by the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA). During my two and a half years in “The Ville”, I honed my western horsemanship skills under the tutelage of talented AQHA Congress and AQHA World Show trainer, Rusty Rea, of Rea Quarter Horses. Although I enjoyed the time I spent at the University of Louisville, I will be making the switch to Western Kentucky University in January 2016 to finish out my Bachelors’ of Science in Agriculture with an emphasis on Agribusiness, and a minor in Communications. I am very excited about finishing my degree at WKU, and hope to put it to good use in my work with TVG and HRTV as a production assistant!
Throughout all of my time during High School and College, I competed in various beauty pageants, including Miss Jackson County Fair, Jackson County’s Distinguished Young Women, and Miss University of Louisville, to name a few. But all the while, my childhood dream of becoming a rodeo queen was still in the back of my mind. Even though I hail from the “Horse Capitol of the World”, rodeo queens are not exactly a prevalent fixture in the Bluegrass. I made a few phone calls and sent some emails to see what I could do about solving this problem. I was fortunate enough to have the Miss Rodeo Texas director, Marjorie Murphy, take me under her wing. Thus, the Miss Rodeo Kentucky title was revived. I am the first state queen we have had since 2008!
After officially receiving my title in July in conjunction with the Miss Rodeo Texas pageant in San Antonio, Texas, I have been constantly living in a dream. I have gotten to attend legendary rodeos such as Cheyenne Frontier Days, as well as my hometown rodeos, Lexington PRCA Rodeo, and the Rineyville Optimist Club Rodeo to name a few. Mostly recently, I attended the Tri-State Rodeo in Fort Madison, Iowa! Because of my “military brat” upbringing and true love of being an American, the highest honor I have received as Miss Rodeo Kentucky is to be able to carry “Old Glory”, the American flag, into the arena. It does not matter how many times I do it, I always tear up when I see people from all walks of life stand up to honor her presence.
The other most rewarding experience of being a state queen is getting to meet the young cowboys, cowgirls, and future agriculture enthusiasts at all of my appearances! Agriculture, horses, and rodeo have been such an influential part of my life, and I hope to pass along a little bit of that to each and every person I meet throughout my year as Miss Rodeo Kentucky. In this day and age, we must do everything we can to keep the passion for agriculture and rodeo alive! In the next 9 ½ months that I have left as Miss Rodeo Kentucky, I hope to leave a lasting impression and legacy that inspire the future generations of cowboys and cowgirls!
I am extremely blessed that God has given me the opportunity to represent my great state, rodeo, agriculture, and the western way of life as Miss Rodeo Kentucky. I hope to catch up with all of you out on the rodeo road in the future! Thank you, and God Bless! – Lauren Johnson