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Staff Spotlight: Bennett Barclay

Bennett Barclay, of Elkridge-Harford Hunt in Maryland, is a recent graduate of the MFHA Professional Development Program. Now in its 15th year, the program is designed to enhance and improve the skills of hunt professionals and encourage a career in hunt service. We recently caught up with Bennett to learn more about him and his experience with the program.

How long have you been foxhunting? Can you tell me a bit about your riding background?

Bennet Barclay, photo by Karen KandraBennett Barclay, photo by Karen Kandra

I most likely started foxhunting around age 12. My father was the huntsman for Green Spring Valley for 20 years, and he still hunts with them to this day, so I spent a lot of my teenage years following Green Spring behind him. I started taking riding a lot more seriously when I decided I wanted to get into hunt service professionally, but I knew that I needed to be a better horseman to achieve this at the level I wanted. I spent four years working for steeplechase trainer Billy Meister, one of the greatest timber jockeys and trainers ever to ride over fences and an avid foxhunter himself. That was the best decision I ever made; Billy taught me a lot about hunting, everything about horses, and a hell of a lot about life.  

What is your official role with Elkridge-Harford Hunt? How did you get involved with them?

I'm the first whipper-in at the Elkridge-Harford, though it was somewhat inadvertent. The whole time I was working for Billy, hunt service was the ultimate goal. A few years ago, I heard Elkridge had a kennelman position opening up, so I applied for that. It wasn't quite what I wanted, but at least it was a foot in the door. After I was hired, however, but before I started the job, the currently serving first whip at Elkridge announced that she was moving on to other things. The second whip stepped up into the position, but he only wanted to serve that role for a year, and suddenly I found myself in the second-whip position. I served in that role for a year and when my first season was over and the first whip moved on, I was given the chance to take the position of first-whipper-in.

Why did you decide to go through the Professional Development Program?

I knew the opportunities for networking and expanding horizons that the program provided, and I wanted the chance to take advantage of that. Hunt service is wonderful, but the nature of the work can limit your chances to experience other aspects of the sport beyond your own hunt club. I really wanted to experience the opportunities provided by the program.

What skills did you feel like you improved upon? What else did you learn throughout the program?

After spending time picking the brains of some of the most knowledgeable Masters and huntsmen in the country, I really feel like I have the foundational architecture to establish a breeding program when I find a pack to hunt one day down the road.

Bennet Barclay, photo by Karen KandraBennett Barclay, photo by Robert Keller

What was your favorite part of the program?

The chance to spend time with so many of the best professional packs in the country through kennel visits and an extended visit to a few other packs, all of which is part of the curriculum of the Professional Development Program. The opportunity to get the perspective of so many other knowledgeable and experienced professionals at the top of the game was truly invaluable and will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Do you have any memorable experiences with some experienced staff and/or mentors that you worked with during the program?

As part of the program, I spent a week with Fox River Valley in their Georgia country during the winter. During that time, I had the chance to sit down with [MFHA President and MFH] Tony Leahy and pick his brain. I think some of my favorite memories, not just of the program but in general, will always be sitting at Tony's kitchen table, going over so many aspects of hounds, hunting, leadership, and life in general. He was invaluable to me, and although I'm sure I must have been overwhelming with so many questions, he was always gracious and enthusiastic in sharing his knowledge and encouragement through the whole experience.

Learn more about the Professional Development Program here. Are you a past graduate of the program and you want to share your story, or perhaps you’d like to nominate a deserving staff member? Email us at edaily@covertside.net.

Balding Reflects on Professional Development Program

When asked if I’d like to write something about my experience of the MFHA Professional Development Program, I replied without hesitation that I’d be delighted to as I thought it an extremely worthwhile and excellent course. The course has many applicants every year and few places, which is testament to its popularity, but the fact that few places are allocated allows a much more concentrated and individual approach to the teaching.

These Green Mountains

Originally a New Yorker, Katherine Selby moved to Vermont 31 years ago and hasn’t looked back. A professional horse trainer and instructor all of her working life, Selby serves as kennel huntsman for the Green Mountain Hounds (VT), a drag pack with kennels at her farm in New Haven, VT and territory throughout the Champlain Valley.

The Green Mountain territory consists of fixtures from Colchester to Shoreham and contains open farmland, some woods and coverts, and gentle hills. Although the season can be short, running from August to the end of November (plus a short spring season in June), Selby makes the most of every opportunity in hunting the eight couple Crossbreds and three American hounds that make up the Green Mountain pack, as they attend and host several joint meets, have two clinics, one or two hunter paces or rides, and other events in the year.

In addition to her duties as kennel huntsman, Selby puts her myriad equine skills to work as coach of the Middlebury College Equestrian Team and is equestrian director/partner of two equine dance companies that create performances for dressage riders and modern dancers together.

Career Change

Jamie Hughes was raised on a dairy farm and spent long hours with his family working the farm. He followed in his mother’s footsteps in a career as a secondary school teacher and administrator, earning undergraduate and graduate degrees in education. He first started riding to hounds at the age of 35 and now finds himself as MFH and Huntsman for the Beaver Meadow Foxhounds. He is now in his seventh season hunting the thirteen couple of crossbred hounds (with significant large PennMarydel influence) out of the Beaver Meadow kennels located in south central Ontario, Canada, between the cities of Toronto and Ottawa.

Danny Kerr Will Always Find a Way

According to Danny Kerr, Huntsman for Camargo Hunt, he’s had “a really fun lifetime of horses and hounds.” Before taking on what was to become his long term position at Camargo, Danny hunted hounds at Sedgefield Hunt (NC) before taking a two year break to go on the show circuit with his wife Trena. They made the move to Kentucky shortly after that, and Danny celebrated his 25th season with Camargo this year.

Ticket to Ride

Maley smallLeslie Ballenger photoMaley Coombs, 33, has traveled a long way from her hometown of Gig Harbor, WA, a city of roughly 7,000 residents on the Puget Sound. She traveled east to further her upper level eventing career, living in Virginia, Georgia, and Florida before finding herself in Peapack, NJ, where she recently started her position as First Whipper In for the Essex Foxhounds. Maley is decidedly pleased with the smaller snake population in New Jersey.  

e-Covertside: How did you become involved in hunting?
Maley: I began foxhunting while living in Virginia, but it wasn't until I moved south to the Florida Georgia line that I began working in a staff position made possible by Mr. and Mrs. C.M. Wood III of Live Oak Hounds.
I come from a strong eventing background, having competed at the upper levels for 15 years before I started my career in hunt service. I enjoyed eventing and met some wonderful people, trained with some fantastic trainers and got to travel all over the world. I started fox hunting while living, training and working in Virginia. I used fox hunting for horse fitness as well as I had a few part time jobs hunting horses for people. Eventing gave me a solid base in crossing the country and a huge amount of knowledge in horsemanship and stable management. I use this knowledge in my current job, running the horse side of things here at Essex.

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