The 2012 Calaveras Saddle Queen almost didn’t compete for this year’s crown.
2011 First Princess Natalie Harp, 18, a Calaveras High School senior from Valley Springs, said her friend and this year’s First Princess Rachelle Snitchler, 18, also of Valley Springs, convinced her to make another run at it.
It paid off.
“I grew as an individual the past year,” Harp said. “I’ve been wanting to be Saddle Queen since I was a little girl … I just looked up to all these queens.”
She rode her sister’s horse, Bear, for the competition Thursday at the Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee and won the knowledge quiz, equitation and barrel competitions.
Harp plans to attend California State University, Fresno, this fall and study to be a large animal veterinarian.
“I’ve always loved horses,” she said. “I want to care for them and heal them.”
Natalie’s mother, Lisa Harp, said her daughter “overcame a lot” to win the competition, including a hearing impairment that has forced her to learn to read lips.
“She’s shown her pigs and goats and whatnot since she was a little kid,” Lisa said. “She loves the fair.”
Each of the four competitors shined in their own right.
Snitchler won Miss Photogenic and top interview honors. Second Princess Cassidy Davis, 17, of Angels Camp, won the queen salute competition. Third Princess Krista Maisch, 16, of Copperopolis, won the reigning pattern and punctuality portions of the contest.
The Saddle Queen will promote the Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee at other county fairs throughout the summer in their agriculture division.
The queen also partakes in grand rodeo entries, parades and community events around the community.
Harp received a silver crown, buckle, a saddle pad and a $1,000 scholarship, while Snitchler and Davis received $600 and $400 scholarships, respectively, along with rhinestone crowns and saddle pads.
In April, the contestants began a rigorous rehearsal schedule including being coached in public speaking, interview skills, horsemanship and poise.