Salt and pepper hair, crystal blue eyes, and a rugged tanned complexion describe Germantown, Tennessee native, Beanie Cone.
Beanie’s birth name is Gene, and as a young boy, his family and friends called him “Gene-Bean.” Over the years, the name “Beanie” stuck. Now at age 50, he is simply known by all as Beanie.
Beanie is a horseback riding instructor at Hunter’s Edge Stables in Memphis, where he teaches riders of all ages and abilities the intricacies of the equestrian sport. In a typical day, Beanie teaches roughly 25 people, from young children to adults.
His days begin before the sun comes up – the farm animals depend upon him, so his job starts early. Upon arriving at the barn by 7 a.m., the horses are pawing and nickering in their stalls. They are hungry, and have no patience, as they wait for their breakfast.
The smell of nighttime urine and manure hit like-a-brick as Beanie opens the barn doors for fresh air. He and his staff members begin to feed, medicate, and turn-out the 30+ horses in his charge. They sweep the barn aisles, muck the stalls, and put away the previous night’s clean laundry (saddle pads, towels, leg wraps and so forth).
The barn cats try to rub against the workers’ legs looking for an approving pat from the staff. This morning, one has laid a dead mouse at Beanie’s feet, which confirms the cat’s importance in the barn.
The smell of fresh hay wafts past his nose as a new bale is split open and tossed into the stalls, while approving grunts can be heard from the horses as they dig into their meager rations.
“My mornings are long and tiring, and I know they’re also exhausting for my staff,” he said. “I am always here ready to help in every way I can.”
Currently single, Beanie has two sons, ages 20 and 18, who primarily live with their mother in Wellington, Florida. The boys visit multiple times a year, and Beanie travels to Florida to visit them.
The morning rituals can sometimes take up to two hours depending upon how many workers arrive first thing, since all of them have children at home. Beanie’s affable nature is not impacted when one of his regular workers is a no-show. He seems understanding and appreciative of his staff.
By 9 a.m., Beanie is hopping onto his first horse of the day. He has been riding since the age of 4, competing since he was 13, trained by top Olympic trainers, and he has owned his own stable business managing and training horses and student riders since the early 2000s. Schooling horses comes second nature to him.
The sun is still rising in the sky, and he has already started working with his first horse of the new day. He begins slowly, getting the horse’s muscles warmed up. The clip-clop of feet and dusty clouds rise from the ring as he passes by.
Each horse has its own personality and abilities, and Beanie is tuned-in to what they are feeling and thinking. He can tell if a horse is cranky or doesn’t feel sound; he can work on areas of weakness so the horses are better able to respond when inexperienced students ride them later.
Beanie prefers to complete all of his “schooling rides” before the heat of the day. His working student, Alex Joerg, is there to help groom and tack-up each horse, and he brings them out one-by-one to the ring ready-to-go. As Beanie finishes one horse, he moves immediately onto the next without missing a beat.
Joerg also helps set the heights of the jumps in the ring, so Beanie can stay atop each horse without having to get off to adjust the cross-rails and poles as he “schools” the horses over fences.
Beanie said he loves doing training rides. “It’s a chance for me to focus only on myself and the horse,” he said. “Each horse is so different that I am always presented with a new challenge. It is like a puzzle, and I have to put the pieces together.”
Between Beanie and Joerg, five horses get training rides and full baths before the heat of the day. An adult client arrives for a quick private lesson on her horse, which Beanie also juggles in between other activities. When the hectic morning comes to an end, stomachs begin to rumble.
“Many days, we just forget to eat,” said Joerg. “Most of our clients have started to realize this and will often bring us some food when they arrive for their horseback riding lessons. It’s a welcome treat when a client brings us a freshly baked muffin or homemade sandwich.”
Car loads of giggling kids begin to unload at the farm which means school is out, and lessons begin full-tilt. Lessons are in groups of two to five children and last for a full hour.
Mothers meander to ringside viewing benches while children run into the barn to see which mounts they’ll be riding for their lessons.
Some riders keep their privately-owned ponies or horses at Beanie’s barn, while other students ride Beanie’s farm horses kept just for the lesson program.
Riders are paired together with other students who are in similar riding levels, so Beanie can give everyone the appropriate attention they deserve.
The sun has started to set, and lessons are still taking place. Darkness doesn’t hurry Beanie along; he keeps the same positive attitude and kind temperament with every student, no matter what the hour. Each lesson has the same principles, but are altered based upon the experience levels of the riders in the ring.
“I love teaching lessons,” said Beanie. “I love when the kids show up and are able to put aside their normal day to spend an hour connecting with a horse. I have never seen a child leave here without a smile, and that is the most satisfying for me.”
Two years ago, Beanie also become the head coach and trainer of the Ole Miss Equestrian Team. The team has brought him roughly 20 new riders of all levels. Having the team is “new and exciting. I am so used to working predominantly with little kids, that it is nice to add in college students. Everyone comes with such a positive attitude, and it brings a new dynamic to the stable,” said Beanie.
Adding the Ole Miss Equestrian Team to his list of duties has caused Hunter’s Edge Stables to change how they run slightly, particularly on weekends. Beanie needs to be available to travel to area competitions with the collegiate team.
Joerg has been able to take on more responsibility when Beanie is off-site.
“I love the Ole Miss Equestrian Team,” Joerg said. “It has given me so many new friends, and the team has also allowed me to take more control at the barn when Beanie is gone.
“I am able to teach lessons and be the barn manager during his absence. It has given me the opportunity to grow as a person, and see what it is really like being a Horseback Riding Trainer.”
Hunter’s Edge Stables is constantly growing and evolving. Everyone who works there is always positive and willing to help in any way necessary.
When the sun finally sets, Beanie can finally wind down and get ready to go home. He checks on each horse to make sure they have plenty of food and water, no injuries, and are settled into their barn stalls for the night. He sweeps the aisle one last time, turns out the main lights, and locks the barn doors before heading to his truck.
Upon arriving home, Beanie makes a quick and easy choice for dinner. Pasta! With a click of the stove, the pot of water swiftly begins to boil on the burner ready to receive the noodles. Belly full and clean from a shower, Beanie and pup, Honey, crawl into bed exhausted.
A day as a horseback riding trainer is a lot of work. Not only does Beanie teach many clients, but he is responsible for the staff and facilities, as well as caring for every horse on the property. “I love my job, and wouldn’t ever change what I do. I am a people person and love horses, so this is a great balance for me.”