Maureen “Reenie” Brown’s father, Garry Ingram, grew up on a farm, and he even rode a horse to school. “His love for horses carried over,” Reenie says. At 3, she had her first pony, and six years later, she joined the 4-H Club. Soon, she joined the Pony of the Americas, a national horse organization.
A passion for horses developed at an early age for her husband of 20 years, Dennis “Denny” Brown. Denny grew up around horses and listened to his great grandfather, Dan Carmical, tell stories about his life driving cattle. When Denny’s sons, Michael and Patrick, wanted ponies, their passion led to numerous wins at horse shows across the country.
The Browns met at a POA show more than two decades ago, and their shared interest sparked their love. Today, they own and operate a 21-acre horse farm in Boonville, Ind. They’ve been involved in numerous horse organizations — breeding, breaking, training, and showing world-class champions.
They’ve passed their passion onto the next generation by teaching youth about horses, care, and riding. Girl and Boy Scout groups are frequent guests, and the Boonville High School animal science class visits every year where they learn facts such as the difference between a pony and a horse. (The technical difference is generally height. Horses are taller.) The couple also teaches students to ride and show, and those children perform in local, POA, and American Quarter Horse shows. Some have victories at the Indiana State Fair 4-H show, the POA World Show, and numerous state and regional shows. So inspired are some that they go on to work animal-specific careers such as veterinarians and professional horse trainers.
Reenie juggles time to ride and show horses with a full-time marketing job at a skilled care facility. A 32-year construction career has saddled chances to ride for Denny, who had two knee replacements, but the couple’s decades of dedication earned the two their most recent honor — inductions into the POA’s Hall of Fame. This summer is jam-packed with training sessions, horse shows, and judging competitions. Recently, Evansville Living caught up with them to talk about their love for horses and why they do it.
Evansville Living: What is it like to work with your spouse day in and day out? Be honest.
Denny Brown: I love it. It’s pretty nice to be married to your best friend. Even though I can’t ride much anymore, I love to watch her on a horse. I could sit all day and watch her ride. We work together as a team. We train together, work with kids together, and attend horse shows together — all as a team.
EL: Now that you are unable to ride very much, are you still involved in the farm and with horse shows?
DB: I can’t ride much more than 30 minutes at a time, but I still do quite a bit around the farm. After working for 32 years in construction, I retired about 10 years ago. (Denny helped build much of the Lloyd Expressway and I-164.) On a daily basis, I take care of feeding the horses, cleaning out the stalls, and letting the horses out for exercise. By the time my wife gets home from work, I’ve got them saddled up and ready for her to ride. Everything is a joint effort.
EL: You recently were inducted into the Hall of Fame for the POA. What did this honor mean to you?
Reenie Brown: When I heard we’d been inducted in the Hall of Fame for the POA, I thought, “Wow!” It was such an honor. I was just floored. I compare it to a country/western singer being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. It was humbling that someone thought enough of us to nominate us. It was amazing that we both were nominated at the same time. You are nominated individually and inducted individually. So for both Denny and I to be inducted at the same time was really special. We were only the second couple to be inducted at the same time. And the icing on the cake was my sister’s horse, Lickety Split, was also inducted as well. It was wonderful to share it with a room full of family and friends from all across the country; there were a lot of hugs and smiles.[pagebreak]
EL: What’s the most rewarding thing you get out of your participation with the various horse organizations?
DB: It’s like any other activity or hobby; you get out of it what you put in. Whether it’s baseball, basketball, or golf, the more you put in, the more you get out of it. Through our dedication and love for horses, Reenie and I have met some amazing people all over the country. It’s been so rewarding to meet all those folks over the years and to maintain those relationships. It’s nice to think there is a huge network of people out there. It’s like a second family.
EL: If you won the lottery tomorrow and you could do anything in the world, what would it be?
RB: I’d love to open a farm for disabled children and adults. It’s a dream for when I retire. The nursing home where I work full time is one of the few nursing homes that allows pets. I see the enrichment animals bring to the seniors. It’s amazing what can happen when you offer that kind of interaction for people of all ages.
EL: I always have been intrigued by horses’ names. What is the most outrageous name of a horse you have had?
DB: Shine My Lacy Socks. He was out of a mare, WDF Sugar Lace, and our quarter horse stallion, Socks of Doc. He was a very pretty, very talented horse. He was a pleasure to work with and show.
EL: Do you have plans to stay in the equine business?
DB: I would like to stay involved as long as I can. I can’t imagine doing anything else. We always will have horses, and I will keep judging as long as they ask.
EL: You’ve dedicated so much of your life to helping children succeed. Why do you do it?
RB: Through my work teaching and coaching aspiring equestrians, I’ve learned that a lot of times if you give a kid an extra five minutes, it can make all the difference in the world.
EL: What are your plans for the summer?
DB: The summer is our busiest time. We are working to break a 3-year-old horse. (“Breaking a horse” is an industry term for training a horse for a ride.) We are hoping to show him this summer. I’m also really busy with judging horse shows over the next few months. I’m booked almost every weekend. I’ve judged all over the country — as far west as Utah and as far east as New York. We’ve traveled to about 14 or 15 states for horse shows. I’ve been doing it since 1979, and it’s something I really enjoy. Someone must think I’m pretty good at it because I have to turn down more shows than I do.
For more information on the Pony of the Americas, visit www.poac.org.