Mane Passion: Library director McLean spent years showing, riding | Mclean County

For Owensboro native and Maceo resident Aimee Newberry, being around horses has been the norm since she was young.

“My mum loved horses all her life and my granddad (too),” said Newberry, 61. “Their spring break as kids, which would have been in the 1930s and 1940s, was at Keeneland. And that was when you were dressing up – all the girls had hats and gloves and the nine yards.

Newberry started riding at the age of 5 before entering the competitive world at the age of 8 in the summer of 1969 when she got her first horse, an American saddle horse. named Red Jester.

While Newberry’s brother and sister showed an interest in horses at one point, Newberry was the only one who continued to stick with it.

“If you’ve never ridden it’s hard to describe it because there’s nothing like it,” Newberry said. “I knew the first time I got on (a horse) that this was where I had to be.

“(There was) something about it (that) I knew was my niche.”

Newberry had the good fortune to train with big names in the horse world such as Don Harris, who became the recipient of the American Horse Shows Association (currently United States Equestrian Federation) Rider of the Year award. in 1980 and the American Saddlebred Horse Association award. (ASHA) Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009, among other honors.

At first Newberry began showing saddle horses before moving on to Tennessee Walking Horses and American Quarter Horses and was first known as a riding rider before competing in all five amateur gait classes.

Newberry believes she entered the court at the best time.

“The world of horses has changed radically since our beginnings. I came in at the right time,” Newberry said. “When we were kids you could have a barnyard horse and compete and do great things at county fairs and there was a class at the state fair that was for county fair winners where you had to qualify for so many county fairs in order to Show. They weren’t necessarily the $100,000 horses in this class like they are today – they would have been cheaper but (it was) a lot more fun….

After years of keeping their horses in a show barn in Rockport, Indiana, Newberry’s family purchased their own farm on Yelvington-Knottsville Road in the community of Maceo during their senior year of high school where they were able to s occupy and train horses on their own property.

Although she was competing, Newberry was not focused on winning, but rather on giving her horses a platform to show off their skills.

“I knew I was going to be able to show my horse and that was the most important thing,” Newberry said. “…It’s more of an opportunity for (the horses) to do what they are capable of doing.”

The now 125-acre farm is where Newberry currently houses and cares for five retired horses ranging from quarter horses to mountain pleasure horses.

During his 40-year career, Newberry personally owned about 10 horses.

In the early 1980s, Newberry married a horse trainer and moved to Shelbyville, Tennessee, where she became a licensed horse trainer with the Walking Horse Trainers Association for four to five years and began getting into the sport. full-time competitive field.

However, Newberry wanted to make sure she had a backup plan and earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and teaching at Kentucky Wesleyan College.

“In the horse business, somebody has to have a good job,” laughed Newberry. “It’s an old joke that behind every successful horse trainer (that) there’s a woman with a job in town. It’s kind of the same thing.”

Newberry said there was a downside to getting a license, as she was not allowed to show her own horses in the amateur classes she used to compete in.

After the couple separated, Newberry returned to the area and began working as a substitute teacher in the McLean County Public Schools District before becoming a first-grade teacher at Calhoun Elementary School and pursuing her master’s degree in education at the Western Kentucky University.

The move also allowed Newberry to train his walking horse Ebony’s Toby with late Sacramento farmer and rider Jim Woodburn after Newberry returned to amateur status.

“Ebony’s Toby was one of a kind. He has his own ideas about everything and wanted to do it his way,” Newberry said. “…He was like a big version of a big dog. He was a real cool horse.

Soon after, Newberry received a job offer as a corporate trainer with United Cities Gas (now Atmos Energy Corporation) in the Nashville area, where she and Ebony’s Toby performed in shows throughout the area. from Middle Tennessee and felt like they had a career outside of the horse industry. helped her to appreciate the nature of competition again.

Newberry found her way back to the Midwest by moving to Henderson to work as executive director of the Tri-County Training Consortium, where she rode Ebony’s Toby and a black walking horse named Lamont which she obtained from a friend in Nashville and befriended Tommy and Crystal Miller. , who had quarter horses and thoroughbreds and started trail running together.

During his career, Newberry has shown horses at the Rock Creek Horse Show in Louisville, the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville, and the International Grand Championship in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, while also making appearances at cup shows at Bowling Alley. Green and Franklin, Tennessee.

She also used her education skills to teach students how to ride horses, safety and basic horsemanship.

She pointed to an experience when she lived in Henderson where she taught students with cerebral palsy who used wheelchairs to get around and the experience helped their livelihoods.

“After (they) rode about three years, they could at least walk with a cane,” Newberry said. “Horseback riding (develops) all of your abdominal muscles completely.”

Newberry said the work behind the scenes in preparing for a horse show can vary depending on the type of horses and their individual behaviors and traits.

“…It’s not NASCAR,” Newberry said. “You can’t get on (a) horse and do 50 laps… doing the same thing. It’s not a car – you don’t turn them on and off and put them back on; that’s not how it works. They breathe, live, feel individuals and each of them is an individual. They all have their own mindset, their own thoughts on things….

And seeing horses as individuals “wearing fur suits” is one of the reasons Newberry has continued to be in the field to some degree.

“I kinda like to understand (how) their minds (are) – what are they thinking, what are they doing, how they react to me, how I react when they react; that stuff,” Newberry said. “…It’s not a mind game, but it involves your whole being and not just your physical senses.”

Currently, Newberry is the director of the McLean County Public Library in Livermore, where she has been for 11 years and recently decided to retire from horse shows earlier this year after being diagnosed with spinal stenosis.

She still takes care of the horses on the family farm and attends shows simply to observe and enjoy the environment.

But the love and care for horses remains intact and said being able to spend quality time with the horses without worrying about training has made Newberry appreciate them more.

“I don’t know how to describe it. It’s in my genes, I guess,” Newberry said. “…When you pull the door, you know why you (do it). It’s just kind of relaxing and you’re at home where they are.”

Clyde P. Johnson