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ASHA Lifetime Achievement Award - Mrs. David Neil


Betty Neil is joined by Fred Sarver and Anne and

Sam Stafford when she was presented with

the ASHA Lifetime Achievement Award.



(Editor’s note: The following speech was read by ASHA Executive Secretary Alan Balch at the Saddlebred Ball, Saturday, Feb. 16, 2008, in Lexington, Ky. This speech was followed by a video presentation highlighting the career and life of Betty Neil.)


Mrs. David Neil (Betty Mayfield Neil) was the American Saddlebred Horse Association’s Breeder Of The Year in 1987 and is among the earliest members of the American Saddlebred Breeders Hall Of Fame. She was the recipient of the Audrey Pugh Gutridge Award at the World’s Championship Horse Show, Kentucky State Fair, in 1989. Her Blythewood Farm has been producing outstanding American Saddlebreds on a consistent basis since the 1940s. Mrs. Neil has carried on the operation as manager since the death of her husband in 1965. She made the decision then to continue their dream alone, and she continues that dream today. The list of great horses bred, trained and/or sold at Blythewood represents years of research, work and sheer love of the breed. The list of Blythewood’s world’s champion produce is stronger today than ever.


Mrs. Neil started riding as a child from her downtown home in Cleveland, where she had her first pony named Dude. Her father supported her interest in horses and continued to ride with her until his death when she was 16. At that time, it was suggested to her mother that she let her go to Happy Valley Farm in Rossville, Ga., to pursue her love of horses. John L. Hutcheson Jr. had hired a horse trainer from Nashville to start a horse operation there, and that horseman, David Neil, became the love of her life. So she started riding and began breeding Saddlebreds in the late 1930s.


They bought their first Saddlebred from the famed Wildwood Farms in Memphis, from Audrey Taylor and Garland Bradshaw. With their marriage in 1942, Betty and David started Blythewood Farm. The first notable horse they raised, CH Something Wonderful, was originally registered as Blythe Gift. She was sold as a very young mare and made history with the unparalleled feat of winning in five different sections of the five-gaited division at the World’s Championship Horse Show. Although they hated to sell her, the young couple knew this mare could put their farm on the map as a serious breeding enterprise that sold top horses. They bred, trained, bought and sold Saddlebreds for the next 23 years prior to her being widowed in 1965. In the early 1960s, she had accompanied David on a trip to South Africa to judge its major show, where they made many friends and began to export horses.


For 65 years she has supported the American Saddlebred through her efforts of breeding between 10 and 35 mares a year and running a farm for both breeding and training. She has served on the American Saddlebred Horse Association board, she is a lifetime member of the United Professional Horsemen’s Association, re-established the Tennessee Futurity and served as its registrar for 17 years. She worked tirelessly to develop a multi-use agricultural center in Bradley County. When it was finished, the covered the covered show ring was named in her honor by the contributors whose donations made it possible.


Blythewood has always been a great source of pride to her, yet she always gives credit to others for its successes and accomplishments. Her daughters, Anne Stafford and Margot Everheart, are also supportive of any effort to benefit the American Saddlebred, and her son-in-law, Sam Stafford, (a major part of Blythewood’s contemporary success) is among America’s most renowned professional horsemen.


One of her greatest pleasures is still the ride or jog she takes most every day (at age 89) with CH AVF Flaming Glory, a gaited gelding, who like her, will not retire. Regardless of the time of year or the weather, she’s somewhere on her farm looking forward to what the day on a true breeding farm may bring.


Blythewood has been noted for such horses as Regal Air, CH Olympic Flame, CH Having A Good Time, Ace’s Refreshment Time, CH Blythewood’s Fire Engine Red, CH Naranda, CH Zoraya and Co-ed’s Delight. The farm has been home to such famous broodmares as Gifted Lady, a member of the American Saddlebred Broodmare Hall Of Fame.


Mrs. Neil’s farm has always had outstanding stallions. King Coe was rated first in the nation in 1958 and 1959. Others have included Kalarama Command, Secret Society, Mona’s Genius, Black Tempest, Grand Command, Moreland Command, Hayfield’s Bold Knight, Fire Lane and The Blythe Spirit. More recently, Blythewood has been home to CF First Night Out, sire of over 19 world’s champions including World’s Grand Champion Three-Gaited Horse CH Yes It’s True and World’s Champion Five-Gaited Saddlebred Stallion I’m First. Other world’s champions or reserve world’s champions by him include Jury’s Out, The First Fling, CH Lady Maya, Teuschers, The Last Straw, Stonecroft Sweet Confection, Outright, Out In Dixie, Just Heavenly, Ginger Blossom, Ah! What A Night and My One Night Stand. As of December 2006, CF First Night Out was the breed’s leading living sire ranked by earnings of get at all USEF-licensed competitions from 2002-2006. The homebred At Night was the leading earner with winnings of over $31,000.


The Blythe Spirit, co-owned by Blythewood Farm, is the sire of Blythewood-bred World’s Champion CH Petra’s Beyond Belief. CF First Night Out is the sire of the Blythewood-bred world’s champions or reserve world’s champions At First Sight, At Night, Busting Out, First Lover, Night Sight, Outright, Performing Nightly and Spend The Night; six of which are also American Saddlebred Registry futurity champions or reserve champions. In all, Blythewood has put at least 25 world’s champions or reserve world’s champions into the ring in the yearling division alone!






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