After her father returned from the Vietnam War, Amy Nell Neuman grew up bouncing between small run downtowns throughout Eastern Montana as her father tried to find a place to settle. He still has yet to settle, but Neuman has found herself quite comfortably established in the role of co-director and professor of equine studies and Rocky Mountain College.
Neuman says that she looks back on her childhood as the battleground that hardened her in her resolve to help horses by educating people about them. She grew up on the backs of horses that Neuman trained herself. She was surrounded by them at every branding and ranch gathering in the communities she was a part of.
“Perhaps they weren’t the best quality horses around, but by god, they were as tame as any 11-year-old brumby child can make a horse,” said Neuman. Neuman said that her mother’s “free-range parenting style” led her and her older brother, Brent Gross, to raise themselves out among the grasses and cattle of Eastern Montana.
When her family got together with their neighbors to move cattle, she would see the other horses, and how they were treated. It only strengthened her resolve to protect her own through education. She followed that genuine pursuit throughout her life by avidly reading the “Black Stallion” chronicles of Alec and his black Arabian stallion.
Amy graduated from high school early, her mind was set on going to college. She claimed that she was “not brilliant, just determined.” However, the multiple degrees hanging discreetly on her office walls might indicate otherwise. She graduated from Rocky Mountain College in 1993 with a degree in equestrian studies, as well as one in philosophy. She then went on to get her master’s degree in equine science from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland in 2011. Neuman justified her philosophy degree when she said, “horses keep your body thinking, philosophy teaches you how to think bigger than your body. That and I genuinely enjoyed the classes.”
Neuman stated her reasoning regarding her decision to teach about horses by saying, “it just seemed natural. If you love something enough, it always sticks with you.” She then went on to grumble about the current pandemic and how annoying it is to teach with. She is grateful that the students still get to ride, though. When asked when she felt most successful as an instructor, she took a moment to think and then said with a chuckle, “When my students leave college and email me years later with some story of how they handled an equine situation. Knowing that I gave them the tools to change the lives of horses and people. It is a powerful moment.”
After Neuman completed her degrees at Rocky, she immediately began instruction at the college as well as becoming a full-time horse trainer at a local horse ranch called The Diamond N Ranch. This is where she raised her two children, Elise and Evan. Neuman made an obvious point of steering the conversation away from her personal life and her children. She stated, “Their stories are their own to tell, not mine.”
She divulged a little more about her personal interests by passionately discussing her enjoyment of researching ancient instances of equestrian horsemanship. She went on to bring up instances in which the Amazons used horses as well as describing the first record of horses trained for riding. Her animated hand gestures made up for the lack of visible facial expressions as they were hidden behind a mask sporting the Rocky logo.
Amy is now a tenured professor at Rocky Mountain College where she has plans to stay and continue teaching young equestrians for many years. “At this point, I think that I teach for the horses just as much as I teach for the students,” Neuman said.