Beverly Ruth Allen was 2 years old when her mother died in a motorcycle accident. After the accident, the young girl and her two older siblings, Charlie and Amelia Allen, moved in with their grandparents Randy and Barbara Chappell at Colt Hills Farm in Warrenton, Virginia, where the couple breeds and raises Welsh ponies.
Grappling with the loss of her mother, Rachel Gray, a whipper-in for Piedmont Fox Hounds (Virginia) and a jockey, Beverly struggled to adjust to her new circumstances and had a hard time sleeping. For her equestrian-oriented family, turning to ponies was a natural choice to help soothe her.
“I really think the ponies are what brought her around,” her grandmother Barbara said. “This was her calling, to be around the ponies, and it just helped her through a lot of tragedies when she was little because she never missed a beat.”
Beverly, now 8, is headed to USEF Pony Finals next week, Aug. 9-14, in Lexington, Kentucky, where she and Vanessa Mazzoli’s 11-year-old Welsh pony gelding Partly Cloudy (Rollingwoods Raisin Ruckus—C Ponderosa Ginnie Mae) will contest the small pony hunter division. “Dezi,” a two-time winner of the Kym K. Smith/USHJA Young Hunter Pony Championships (Virginia), is a Pony Finals veteran, having made several successful trips there with previous riders Mazzoli and Eamon Snyder. This will be Beverly’s first trip to the Kentucky Horse Park.
“I do get nervous showing but only sometimes,” Beverly said. “But I can also trust [Dezi] because I feel like he’s getting to know me, and I’m getting to know him. He’s pretty easy to just get on and trot around. And then on some days we just go on some trails, and he’s really easy about that, like you can just keep him on a loose rein, and he’ll be good.”
Although the Chappells breed Welsh ponies, Barbara opted for a show-ring veteran to help her granddaughter. She saw Dezi win the Young Hunter Pony Championships in 2020, and decided to lease him for Beverly last year.
While the gray gelding knows his job is to be fancy in the ring, he’s also dependable outside of the competition arena. Nothing rattles him, Beverly’s aunt Jessica Chappell said, and he can be ridden bareback in a halter.
“He’s just amazing,” Beverly said. “He loves his apples.”
With Dezi and the rest of her family’s ponies mere steps away, Beverly rarely rides fewer than six days a week. She often can be found at the barn doing chores, sometimes even when she isn’t supposed to be.
“All the time, I’m like ‘Beverly, you need to go into the house and get into bed’—especially when school starts, ” Barbara said. “So I’ll have to sometimes say, ‘You need to go on and get to the house you have school tomorrow,’ or, ‘You have a show in the morning; I’ll finish this, I’ll finish this.’ She’s not a kid who expects to come to the barn and the reins are handed to her.”
Beverly and Dezi travel to Woodhall Farm in Aldie, Virginia, to take weekly lessons with Dale Crittenberger and Peter Foley.
“Beverly is for me—and [for] everyone who has taught her—an ideal student,” Crittenberger said. “She wants to learn; she is very enthusiastic; she is willing to try new things; she’s brave and wants to do well and wants the animal to do well. She wants to know if something goes wrong, how she can fix it. So for me, as an instructor, she has all the right qualities, those of a sponge.”
Not one to limit herself to the competition arena, Beverly has foxhunted since she was 6 years old. These days, she’s a regular with Rappahannock Hunt (Virginia) aboard her aunt Jessica’s Connemara gelding Belview Rocky.
“She’s getting even more adventurous. I think she’s interested in dabbling in different disciplines. We play with a little dressage, and she’s been in the cross-country field a couple of times. She won’t tie herself to a course of just eight hunter jumps,” Jessica said.
And as she grows up, Beverly has no shortage of equestrian role models: in addition to her grandparents’ breeding operation, Jessica is an active eventer. In total, Colt Hills Farm is home to 19 horses, ponies and foals, giving Beverly ample time in the saddle on her own ponies and her grandmother’s breeding stock.
Outside of the barn, she is an active member of her equestrian community. Like her mother and her aunt before her, she sits on the Warrenton Pony Show Junior Committee.
“The committee does a silent auction; the kids help in the office. They do the ribbons; they help set up; they paint the jumps every year,” Jessica said.
Beverly’s family anticipates that ponies and horses will be a permanent fixture in her life.
“It’s not just riding and then, ‘OK, let’s throw him in the stall’ for her. She likes just being around them,” said Barbara. “I really think she will stick with this, [that ponies will] continuously be a part of her life. She does have a natural talent of connection.”