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The History of Fox Chase Farm

The History of Fox Chase Farm

By Shane Patrick

     In a county where subdivisions have dotted the bucolic landscape, the region continues to hold on to its most notable resident … the horse. This part of Loudoun County will always be horse country. Even General Robert E. Lee’s famous horse Traveller is from the area. 

Many people drive Route 50 and pass by the landmark equestrian facility Fox Chase Farm and its recognizable 1.2-acre outdoor arena on their way to work or when they visit this area on the weekends, without realizing the history it represents and what its equine residents have contributed to the sport. 

Historical records indicate the farm dates back to 1876 and has always been a haven for horses. In 1965, a young man from Brooklyn, New York, arrived in Middleburg and fell in love with the property. The young horseman, Benny O’Meara (brother of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders), who formed The Colony Corp., became an icon in the horse world.

From his start as a groom and blacksmith to legendary horse dealer, show rider and trainer, O’Meara’s meteoric equestrian career was tragically cut short when at 27 years old, the refurbished World War II fighter plane he was piloting crashed shortly after takeoff from the Leesburg airport. In his brief but illustrious career, O’Meara successfully trained horses including Jacks or Better and Untouchable, the horse that famed equestrian Kathy Kusner brought to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and three years later rode in the Ladies’ European Championship. 

What Benny O’Meara built was a Cadillac of a barn.

— Maureen Hanley, director of operations at Fox Chase Farm

Bill Steinkraus, the United States Equestrian Team’s chairman emeritus, said of O’Meara, “I don’t think I ever saw anyone develop faster than he did, both as a rider and as a person, or in more original ways.” O’Meara was posthumously inducted into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame in 1989.

O’Meara died without a will or insurance, leaving his family to step in to run the farm until November 1975, when a group of investors joined them to create the Virginia Stallion Station. Redskins football stars Billy Kilmer and Pat Fischer, Leesburg-born trainer Stanley T. Greene and Lucien Laurin, best known as Secretariat’s trainer, were among the new owners. 

The 60 horses residing at the farm included the stallions Beau Marker, Issue and the corporation’s first purchase, Spanish Riddle, famous for sporting a leather brace and artificial hoof on his right foreleg after losing his foot in a racing mishap. After his death, the celebrated stallion was buried on the property.

Ashley DeWoolfson and On Watch. Photo courtesy of Fox Chase Farm.
Ashley DeWoolfson and On Watch. Photo courtesy of Fox Chase Farm.

In mid-May 1985, the farm was purchased by newspaper visionary Allan H. Neuharth, founder of USA Today, and the Virginia Stallion Station became Paper Chase Farms. It was during Neuharth’s ownership that the farm’s focus changed from a strictly horse-centric barn to an instructional facility for equestrians. 

In 2000, the Neuharth family sold the farm to area business owners and horse enthusiasts Timothy and Eileen Hanley, who renamed it Fox Chase Farm. Their eldest daughter, Maureen, became director of operations. Hanley, a former NPR producer, recognized that the most successful direction for the facility would be to stage events, such as horse shows, clinics and charity events. 

In 2009, she offered Fox Chase as the first farm in Virginia to sponsor a Susan G. Komen Ride for the Cure, generating a then-record-breaking $130,000 for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Soon after, Hanley instituted a division at her horse shows called The Benefit Hunter Division, with proceeds going to many local charities. 

Francesca Burby and When I Think of You. Photo courtesy of Fox Chase Farm.
Francesca Burby and When I Think of You. Photo courtesy of Fox Chase Farm.

Major renovations are always happening at the farm, but it has a solid base. “What Benny O’Meara built was a Cadillac of a barn,” says Hanley. “The indoor arena is over 50 years old, and we’ve only had to replace the roof and hip rafters once.” 

Farm upgrades over the past few years have included new footing, custom-made jumps and the recent installation of a state-of-the-art watering system. Currently, a new barn is being built where Benny O’Meara housed his aircraft.

“Running Fox Chase Farm is a labor of love,” says Hanley. “It’s a unique space in a great location — it’s got a famed equine history with individuals who’ve all made significant contributions to both the farm and Virginia horse country. My goal is to make Fox Chase accessible; not only to equestrians, but also to non-horse people who want to enjoy a signature facility, watch world-class athletes compete or take a special tour to experience the area’s
remarkable equestrian history. 

“I’m grateful to continue the legacy of the farm and all of its previous owners. Fifty years ago, Benny O’Meara built this state-of-the art facility. We honor his memory and look forward to moving forward for many more years to come.”  ML

Fox Chase Farm: 23323 Fox Chase Farm Ln., Middleburg, VA 20117; 540-687-5255; or email

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