Recently, the MFHA announced that Andrew Barclay would be joining the team at headquarters as the new Director of Hunting. Andrew and his family have been long-time supporters of the MFHA and have also been active members of the sport for decades. We caught up with Andrew to get to know a bit more about him and also his plans in his new role.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your hunting background?
I started hunting in 1970 with Rose Tree in their York, PA country at age sixteen. Because it was two hours away from home and we only had a one-horse trailer, I had to wait until I got my driver’s license and could drive myself. After graduating from school, I was looking for a way to make a living with horses, so I tried numerous different jobs, including riding for a traveling show. In 1974 I answered an ad in The Chronicle of the Horse for a whip’s position at Green Spring Valley Hounds in Glyndon, MD and got the job. I whipped-in for seven years to legendary huntsman Les Grimes, one of the truly great huntsmen of the post WW II era. As he started to age out, I was given the chance to hunt the hounds on bad weather days. By my fifth season I would hunt them a lot after January 1st, but when the weather got nicer in March, Les would take them back. In 1981, Les retired and I took over for him. I hunted the hounds for twenty seasons, until I had to stop due to the accumulative effect of too many falls.
You've been a major part of the growth and success of the Professional Development Program for many years. Why do you think that program is so important and how has it helped instill the skills and experience for some up-and-coming professionals?
The Professional Development Program was initiated by Tony Leahy, Mason Lampton and Randy Waterman. I got involved in 2005 in the planning stage, and in 2006 we started with our first class. It was very much a work in progress, but over the years I think we have developed a good program.
We started the program to supplement the education that staff get on the job. In days past, it was a long and difficult road from Kennelman to Whipper-in to Huntsman and most people got their education during those years. Most hunts now cannot afford to have that many employees and people are moving into huntsman’s jobs without the background they would have gotten in the past. Our idea was to try to fill in the gaps.
Aside from an extensive library that each student receives and gets tested on over the year, we also do kennel tours, hound shows, hunt visits and other opportunities to network with some of the best hunt staff in America. From these opportunities, many of our students made connections that continue to this day.
What other MFHA initiatives are important to you?
Obviously, the education of staff and masters is important to me. I also feel that the work the MFHA has done over the years in their efforts to promote conservation has been outstanding. Over the years our members have put aside huge amounts of land into easements. I am also very proud of the work our Hunt Staff Benefit Foundation does in helping past and present hunt staff when unexpected financial issues come up. Over the years it has been a huge help to some very deserving people.
What was it about this new role with MFHA that interested you and what is your vision for the association? Do you have any specific goals or areas you'd like to focus on or help grow?
Foxhunting has been a major part of my life for almost fifty years. There was a void in the leadership when Dennis left that has been very hard to fill. I have been on the periphery of the MFHA for a long time with my involvement with the PDP. It is my hope that because of my familiarity of the workings of the organization, that I will be able to fill that void. We have someone who handles the business side wonderfully in Billie-Jo Pearl, the Director of Operations. If I can cover the hunting and hound side as Director of Hunting, then we should be in good hands.
While the MFHA is a governing body for mounted foxhunting, it is my hope that we can also be an educational resource for masters, staff, as well as for subscribing members. It is also my hope that we can have regional educational seminars, as well as our bigger bi-annual ones. I would like to expand our educational reach to include new masters and new staff.
While we have been working with hunts that needed advice and guidance for some time now through an aspect of the PDP, it is my hope that we can expand our influence and be a resource for hunts experiencing assorted difficulties as well as a resource for best practices for hunts not experiencing any issues at all. It is my intention to take an active role in assisting anyone hoping to start a new hunt, in the hopes that by starting them the right way, we will minimize problems down the road.
And finally, I would like the MFHA to be seen by its members as a worthwhile organization that works for the betterment of hunting and rural life in general. One that we gladly belong to and are actively involved with.
You have decades of experience as a huntsman. What was your favorite part of that role?
When I was retiring as a huntsman, I would say that the thing I missed most was sitting on a good horse with hounds in full cry and a bunch of line fences in front of me. When asked what I missed least I would reply, sitting on a BAD horse with hounds in full cry and a bunch of line fences in front of me.
I think that the thing other than the actual hunting that I enjoyed most was the breeding aspect. It kept me fresh to see if my thought process on who to cross to whom was right. To watch the puppies mature and become young inexperienced hounds and grow into becoming real foxhounds was a privilege and one of the most rewarding parts of the job.
Can you tell us about one of your favorite hunt horses you've had over the years, and what made them so special?
I was very fortunate to have had some really wonderful horses over the years. I had a few that were not so great, but that I still became very fond of. I did have one horse that was very special, Beech Prince. He was Jay Griswold’s timber horse who Jay rode in the Maryland Hunt Cup five times, finished all five times and was second at least twice. After his last time around the Hunt Cup, I was in Jay’s barn the next day when he came to look at him and I mentioned that I thought he’d be a pretty good huntsman’s horse, to which Jay replied that he’d try him in the field first. After a few times in the field, Jay decided that this was a horse who wanted to be in front and sent him to me to use. This was a horse that could jump anything and loved to hunt. He had a reputation and the days I hunted him, the field knew it was apt to be exciting. I had five wonderful seasons and jumped lots of good stout fences on him before retiring him at age twenty.
What do you enjoy doing when you're not busy with your new position at the MFHA?
We have a small pack of beagles that is very much a family affair. My son Bennett, who whips-in at Elkridge – Harford Hunt, hunts them, and my wife Dawn and I whip into him. I also have a lovely small place in Maryland that I enjoy tinkering around on.
What's something many people might not know about you?
I’m really quite shy, and not a great public speaker.