Fairmont native named AQHA world champion

FAIRMONT – Former Fairmont resident Ashley Lembke recently won the American Quarter Horse Association’s amateur working cow horse competition in Oklahoma City, Okla.

The 2003 Fairmont High School graduate has been a member of the AQHA since she was 13 and has been working with horses most of her life. Lembke, daughter of Dennis and Lori Rosenberg, now lives in Northfield.

“I got my first pony when I was 4 and have had a horse ever since,” she said.

This year was Lembke’s second year participating in the AQHA competition, in the amateur working cow horse event, which she won with her sorrel Sir Rey Of Oak, earning the $13,900 purse.

“It’s an event that has two components,” Lembke explained. “First they look at your riding pattern, and your demonstration of speed and control. Then they have the cow, and they look at the horse’s ability to control the cow and then the boxing … bringing the cow to center and circle around.”

Lembke’s horse and cow riding experience goes back to speed races in 4-H. Then as a college student at Texas Tech, she competed with the Stock Horse of Texas team.

“The boxing there is a milder version of the AQHA,” Lembke said.

While she has worked with other horses in the past, Lembke now concentrates on quarter horses.

“They’ve been around since the 1700s,” she explained. “They used to race on a quarter-mile track, which is how they got the name. They can be trained for racing or for showing; they’re very diverse.”

The American Quarter Horse Association is the largest equine breed organization in the world, with more than 300,000 members in 86 countries, along with more than five million registered horses in 95 counties.

The Open World Championship Show held earlier this month is the world’s largest single-breed world championship horse show and the pinnacle event for the organization. Exhibitors around the world must qualify for the event by earning a predetermined number of points to compete in each of the 94 classes representing halter, English and western disciplines. There were more than 3,500 entries at this year’s event, representing competitors from 42 states, along with the countries of Austria, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Italy, Mexico and Venezuela.

“It takes a lot of financial investment,” Lembke said of her quarter-horse hobby. “But I’m definitely going back next year.”

Her next competition will be at the National Reined Cow Horse Association in Ft. Worth, Texas, in February.