Amy Hollar: Miss Congeniality

by Victoria M. Howard

The popular, hard working, wild and crazy woman named Amy Hollar is one of the most liked women in the business and, for that, deserves harness racing’s Miss Congeniality Award.

Hollar’s story began at Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, OH. Kenneth Harvey (Hollar’s grandfather) owned a stagecoach and operated a family business where he gave pony rides. Harvey’s daughter (Hollar’s mom), learned how to drive a team of horses and began touring the Ohio fairs giving children rides. Toting along her three daughters, Amy, Jennifer and Stacy, the girls slept in the pony trailer at night, learned how to count change at the ticket booth, and stay atop a saddleless stubborn pony as they rode through the woods.

While at the fairs, Hollar’s granddad got involved in harness racing.

“He was just amazing with a horse. He was very patient and quiet — traits I did not inherit,” Hollar said. “Granddad eventually ended up having a nice training and driving stable of his own, as did my mom, Melanie Williams. He also stood a few studs and had a broodmare band at the family farm.”

Hollar is married to trainer Calvin Hollar. She met Calvin while she was attending Kent State. “I would drive to Toledo to paddock for my mom and met Calvin there. He talked me into transferring to the University of Toledo and, like a love struck fool, I did. My husband would be nothing without me. Everyone knows that, but him,” Hollar said, laughing.

“We have always worked together and I doubt he’ll read this so I will say I am very proud of him, for unlike myself, he was not born into the business. He started working for Michigan trainer Ron Bateson as a teenager and worked for several trainers throughout the years before going out on his own. After we married, we built our own stable while trying to raise kids and ride the ups and downs. When our children were still at home we had 20 to 25 head, but now that the free labor is gone, we feel every ache and pain, so we cut back to 10 to 12 horses.

”I’ve been in arguments with my husband about what I can and can’t do. I tell him, ‘I can do ANYTHING,’ but there are some things you can help me with to make it easier. So, are you with me or without me? Because either way, I’m gonna get it done.

“I’m in the barn every day. I used to stay away on Sundays, but these days I look forward to a couple hours by myself, doing some cleaning, listening to NPR on Sirius and hope nobody talks to me. As far as women in the business today, I think it’s amazing the changes that have taken place. I know what a struggle it was for my mother and Ohio horsewomen like Barb Lewis and Debbie Rucker to gain respect.

“Women like Casie Coleman, Linda Toscano, Paula Wellwood, and Nancy Johansson are ushering in newfound respect, and rightfully so. My ma, Melanie is my ‘idol’ in the business. Her stubbornness in continuing to race horses seemed foolish at times, but if you’re going to be a fool, you better at least be a happy one! But it wasn’t always easy. There were times when she had to wait tables, deliver mail and make sure the house was quiet so my equally awesome Pa could sleep for his third shift at the factory, but overall I don’t think she’d change a thing.”

Hollar has also been the Ohio rep for harness racing since 1992.

“My job is trying to help horsemen with whatever issue they may have or else I make a good excuse as to why I can’t and hope it is good enough that they don’t end up hating me,” Hollar said.

As far as getting more people interested in the business Hollar said, “It needs to start with each and every one of us not looking around for someone else to do it. I love giving backstretch tours and answering questions. We need to make the business not so intimidating. Show people the great care we give our horses and introduce them to the grandstand. Gambling is our bread and butter so we need to get new fans before we, the older generation dies out.”

Getting back to the Miss Congeniality Award…

“Oh, I could introduce you to a few who may beg to differ,” Hollar said. “I often get accused of ‘riding around on my sister Jennifer’s significant other’s (renowned trainer Brian Brown’s) coattails’ and I don’t disagree one bit. I will argue that I do try to pick up the restaurant check as often as possible, but otherwise I’m totally loving the new places and people I’ve gotten to meet following the Brian Brown Stable around the Grand Circuit. I never dreamed I’d be able to hob nob with ‘the east coast elite’ and come to find out most of them are just like us Buckeyes back in Ohio. Go figure!”