Alison Beeney, First Whipper-in, FHC Professional Staff
"Meet Alison Beeney, First Whipper-in, Farmington Hunt Club Professional Staff"
By Beth Sutton
Fox Tracks: This is the second in a series of staff profiles to acquaint the membership with these important individuals who play such a valuable role in the Farmington Hunt.
Since arriving in the U.S. in 2001 Alison Beeney has been working as a right hand assistant to her husband of 20 years, huntsman Daron. She took on the job of professional First Whipper-in on the staff, and she is responsible for the six staff horses they use in the field to hunt the Farmington Hounds. According to Alison, her job is to go out in front of the huntsman where she might hopefully see the fox, thinking ahead trying to predict where the fox might lead and keeping an eye out to guide the huntsman as he works the hounds through the covert. To do this well, she needs to have a keen, obedient horse that has the heart, soundness and stamina to cover a wide range of territory and deal with any obstacles in the way, and she needs to have good judgment to make decisions about when and where to restrict the hounds should they go off track. She rides with skill and speed, and her horses are well trained to keep up with the demands of the job. “I am a thoroughbred person through and through”, she admitted, “ I like the ones no one else does-almost a bit “looloo”- but I find they are the ones who can last in the end.”
Alison comes to the job well prepared. Born and raised in Curre, Wales, she first began riding as a toddler- going to her first meet at the age of two on a lead line. Her parents were both dedicated and knowledgeable horse people. Her father's career was in the military service, serving in the Queen's household guard in the cavalry riding with the Blues and Royals. According to Alison, her father's attitude was serious, making sure that she and her two sisters learned to do everything on their own and keeping strict discipline in regards to the horses. “And he could seriously run”, she added. He was accustomed to hunting not only mounted but on foot as well, leading his daughters- and he ran so fast she noted he sometimes scared her younger sibling. Alison learned to ride and hunt at first by “hanging on”, but as soon as she was strong enough to stay on the pony off the lead she was off foxhunting independently by the age of seven. Educated in Public school, she was active in the local Curre Pony Club where she received her first serious riding instruction, then later attended USK Agricultural College, and then Pembroke College where she participated in the Youth Training Scheme, YTS, an excellent working professional riding student program that qualified her to teach riding. However, her dedication to hunting and training horses led her to a career in hunt service. While working exercising and training hunt horses in a hunt stable in Curre, she met Daron at the age of 18. After they married that next year their work took them to other jobs in the UK and ultimately to Scotland, and then to Charlottesville. She has been riding as First Whipper-in ever since. (Anyone trying to keep up with her had better “seriously run” and hang on tight!)
Here's a bit of trivia about Alison: Who is her favorite horse? “I've got to say, Penn. He's got a bit of a buck, but we've had him since he was young- he's ten now and we've gotten to depend on him the most.” What was her favorite hunt this year? “Hidden Fox, (November2nd) despite the distractions and the bear, I have to say when Daron perseveres, and we keep going 'til we get it, with the great run on that fox at the end- its all worth it. They are called foxhounds for a reason you know!”
For more about the Beeneys and their work with FHC, look for “Daron Beeney: Huntsman”, by Beth Sutton in the December 2010 issue of Virginia Sportsman Magazine, available by subscription and on sale conveniently at the Hunt Country Store. For more articles about FHC, its history and interesting members, visit www.farmingtonhunt.org, see FHC in the Press.