What a month

Well the last month has been quite exciting for the Recycled Racehorse team, a display at Liskeard show

followed by one for ROR southwest summer camp at Pontispool equestrian centre one week

Then Phillipa and myself took a trip to visit the wonderful people at Godolphin rehoming  and met Caymans and Shubaat.

They were both lovely,  both appeared to be just what we wanted in temperament, Jo at Godolphin rehoming had worked out what we were looking for and found it

Caymans was an absolute joy to ride , Well schooled and absolutely amazing in that he coped well with everything we chucked at him, despite only having one eye

Shubaat was a pleasure to work with, his only problem was being a Ginger he didn’t fit our sludge brown only rule

We turned Caymans blind eye to his colour and a week later they came and joined us

Whilst waiting their arrival Philippa and I popped beyond Exeter again as we were doing displays for 2 days in the equine arena at the game fair at Hatfield house in Hertfordshire.

We had a few last minute hiccups in our transport so ended up only taking weaam, who amazed us with his calm acceptance of it all, his fantastic behaviour in the ring, down to his choreographed bucking routine at the end when all hawks were safely away

Even better still he allowed the pony racing team to jump on board and fly grace from him, 2 minutes after hounds had gone past

Back home from this the two boys arrived from Newmarket and they have astounded us with their steadiness as we’ve gently chucked everything we can at them, working with a one eyed pony has been a real eye opener, Caymans has such an amazing trusting way with him that his training has been on a par with Weaams, and the only one who did better than this was Tommy who took it all so well we gave up training and just did it.

We also had the opening meet of the Dartmoor Falcons, this was Weaams first attempt at real falconry, and his first outing into the real wilds of Dartmoor.

He was an brilliant, luckily as we had Jeremy Hobson out with us writing an article for field sports magazine

We had to cancel our visit to the British Thoroughbred retraining centre due to the winds forecast which was very disappointing to us but a 600 mile round trip to not be able to perform was not going to be worth it, a great disappointment to us.

Next weekend Weaam and Caymans are heading across the border to Stithians for a display at the country fair then our last display from ponies will be Widecombe fair on September 12th, if you’re at either do come and say hello

Onwards

We’ve had an interesting couple of weeks, Tommy decided he had an Ouchy foot just before Liskeard show ( we think he was pulling a fast one as he didn’t want to return to Cornwall, having escaped once) so poor Weaam, who was supposed to be seconding him got chucked in at the deep end and amazed us by how well he did, completely unfazed by the show ground, behaved perfectly with the hawks and put in a little Buck on his lap of honour just to show he could 

It was lovely to see his owner Annette Nally who had come down to support him.

As he did so well , when we only had transport for the ROR southwest summer camp ( the Landie had gone in for emergency surgery) to give him a last try out before the game fair next week

Again we were delighted with him

Tommy in the mean time has come back into work (having been promised no trips across the Tamar 😂) and has been working with a new starlet for the displays 


We’re more or less certain no one else has used a barn owl with a racehorse ever

We’re also very aware that the time for serious Falconry is approaching and have been using the team to make new Falcons, a job that uncle Tommy excels at with his fantastic good nature and love of all things avian​​​

​Tommy is exceptional in his attitude 

We’ve also got the hunting falcons on a hard fitness regime as our opening meet with the Dartmoor Falcons is only  a fortnight away, and both Tommy and Weaam have been used to stoop Falcons from

The whole team is coming together, Hentry is coming back into work,  ​, Nif is Nif ( what more can I say about him 😂) and we’re looking at another new prospect next week 


We’re getting excited about the game fair, Phillipa is going to be working there with Phillipa and Weaam with myself, if you’re there do come and say hello

Weaam’s Journey

We’ve only ever had One Falconry pony that came here that appeared ready made, and that was Tommy (Myladtommy )…actually he’d never been near a hawk but took to it so instantly that we never had a chance to make him as such it was already in his fantastic personality 

So I thought I’d bore you with the way it should and tell you about Weaam’s ( the Weeble) journey with us, he’s now been with us 7 weeks and his training could have been used to write a text book.

He came from the Wonderful Annette Nally and after giving him a couple of days to settle in and see more of his personality ( he’s a very gentle little soul) we started the gentle introductions , starting on the ground

We’ve always found Artemis is good for first approaches, being hooded she is not going to over react and she has a more deliberate movement, not the sudden sharp flap of a smaller hawk.that all went fine so we introduced him to smaller hawks, bells etc, none of that went badly at all, just a bit of reassurance to him.

A couple of days and I jumped up and rode him round with dusk on board, on the glove she’s a very settled girl, easy to carry and will sit through most things if a horse decides to get all dramatic. 

Weeble didn’t, so we moved on to bigger things, keeping Tommy present in case we needed a responsible adult 


Still everything went smoothly so we decided to fly Artemis from him. Despite her size, her 7’6” wingspan she’s a good starting point with hawks in the air as she’s flying away by the time they may over react.​

As the video shows he was unfazed so we moved onto more flappy stuff and he was so good we used him to take Artemis in to Bovey Castle for a meet and greet for a ladies 87th Birthday ( baby sat by the legendary Tommy)

He was proving to be fine so now the hard work starts, flying falcons to the lure, this involves a falcon coming in at high speeds from all direction whilst I try not to Wack him in the head with a lure

Again he took to this well with the odd duck​  

But this is all very well but what makes the difference between an adequate falconry pony is attitude to the hawks and everything that goes on when left to their own devices, Tommy has it and so does the Weeble as can be seen, after all the drama of his first lure session, including being whacked by the lure, dusk clipping his ear and the dogs getting under his feet this his him at the end of the session​

His attitude has been so good he’s doing his first main ring display in July the 8th at Liskeard show, only just over 2 months after his arrival and if that goes well the equine arena at the game fair at the end of the month ( with Tommy baby sitting on both occasions)and will be in the field with the Dartmoor Falcons in August 

Huge thank you to Annette for passing him our way he’s an absolute model of what can be done with a recycled racehorse

The trail to where we are today

I started using horses for falconry by accident really, I’d just started Dartmoor Hawking, (this was 2001)and was keeping my Hawks and living in a mobile home on a farm near Bovey Tracey, but I kept my horse and was exercising the hawks at Holwell, what was then the family farm near Widecombe in the moor on Dartmoor.
I’d just got back from Exercising Toffee,my then ex-racehorse when Guenevere ,a young  peregrine got her hood off and was fidgeting around in the back of the van.
Without really thinking I asked Gilly Everett,who was helping me out at te time to pass her up while I sorted her out.Toffee didn’t bat an eyelid,and a bulb went ping in my head.
I contacted Nick Fox, who was master of the Northumberland crow Falcons,who was incredibly helpful, and after conversations with him I formed the Dartmoor Falcons, one of only two mounted falconry groups in the country


We had a great couple of years, but Due to various reasons I drifted out of riding,so jumping forward to 2011,circumstances had changed,and I met Sir Lancelot (and Philippa ),
he got me back into riding and I decided to look for something for myself,Philippa suggested looking for a horse on loan,and the lovely Kim Hayward contacted me to offer me Dotty, the spotty pony ,on loan.,


Dotty put up with everything we could throw at her and was up yo my (rather large) weight at the time, and really revived my interest in falconry from horses.
I had a huge amount of fun with Dotty (and still do) but she did lack a certain finesse and as my weight was dropping off we started looking for a second horse for me, and with perfect timing, someone asked us to go and look for an ex racehorse for them.
We saw him,I rode him, liked him,and told them he would be perfect,only to find,without telling me ,that they had already found and brought a horse.
Some things were meant to be so I told Gordon Chambers ,who had him in training, that I would have him.
Enter Skippy (William Percival)


He was bold, confident, a lovely ride,and he just loved falconry.
At this stage we thought it would be fun to bring falconry from horses into Dartmoor Hawking,and with the combination of Skippy and the spotty pony we had 2 great horses to do this from,and so our Falconry from horses days started.
Skippy was doing a huge amount in my personal world as well as with Dartmoor Hawking so we decided he needed a backup, I by now was totally sold on the ex-racehorse as the perfect falconry pony so speaking to Gordon Chambers again along came Ozzy (major buck) a lovely big  stamp of thoroughbred 


He has become a fantastic personal falconry horse but proved to be a bit timid for client work as a nervous rider could give him the wrong signals.
Skippy, unfortunately, cracked his pelvis and had to be put to sleep, a devastating blow to us, so we introduced Ted Ted, a little bog pony, he’s laid back ,unflappable and was the perfect pony for working with clients as they got the hang of working horse and hawk
This still left a hole in my personal team so after a search and passing over several unsuitable horses we went back to Kim who had offered me her racehorse Tommy (myladtommy) who I had originally passed over as too big .


And what a gent he turned out to be,we’ve chucked everything at him and hes not  been fazed he’s done long hard days Hawking on Dartmoor but the next day is quite happy to sit a nervous rider on to fly an eagle

And this is how it led on to where we are to day with a team of five recycled racehorses at various levels of training 

The versatility of the recycled racehorses 

One of the great things we have found working with the Recycled Racehorse is their versatility, so we now work on the assumption that they will do everything we ask unless proven otherwise.

Our first foray into film work was “a couple of hours , nothing strenuous “…..8 hours of filming with an eagle, a pack of foxhounds would be enough to test anyone’s  sense of humour, by the end Original Ozzy was the only one still relaxed to produce this trailer for a film that will be released at the end of July

The Darkness of the Moor

(Click link to see film)
A few months Later we had Ozzy 2 galloping across the moor under spotlights at 3 am


The weeble will be standing in for the film Launch as apparently not mowing down journalists is one of the things Ozzy 2 can’t do well .

Falconry proper is where they excel, we try and push in with this quite quickly, and putting up with a hawk they either will or they won’t, if they won’t they will never be settled enough with a hawk to push them through a long desensitisation program, it’s not fair in them, but if the introduction is right 3!weeks from arrival they could be accepting this


And this


And finally putting up with this


After this the hard work starts 😁

( so I hand over to Phillipa)

From racehores to real job

I’m so often asked how we achieve what we do with reputedly scatty thoroughbreds.

Unfortunately, thoroughbreds do get a bad press, very unjustified as a whole, I Remeber being told years ago by a rather pompous woman on a rather round cob that if I was going to use horses in my falconry I would need something like that as no thoroughbred would let you on board with a hawk.

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I obviously bowed to her superior knowledge.

The journey from racer to falconry can be a long one but as a whole straight forward, as a rule, we can judge fairly well which horses are likely to be worth taking on to give it a go, the only one who deceived us was Nif , who waited till his feet were well under the table before telling us that he thought hawks were evil incarnate and should never be allowed in his presence again.

Normally wed start in the ground with a small hawk like a Harris, just introducing them and seeing how the response is , backing off if a problem , closer and flapping if the pony is happy, 

A couple of days of this and we introduce Artemis, our eagle,

If they tolerate her it’s time to get on board

First time up we  always use a Harris hawk, normally Dave , these are fairly easy going and will just sit in the barn if they have to be released if a pony doesn’t like them

If this is accepted we’ll fly the hawk to me whilst on board ,again judging the response to see how it goes

​This goes on until a pony is happy to have a hawk flying over its head, this can take a week, or in the case of Henry five minutes

If all that goes smoothly we’ll get Artemis on and see how happy they are with her

From there it’s short steps to flying an eagle over their heads

After that it’s on to teaching


Display work

Film work

And most important of all, falconry proper

The recycled racehorse 

Combining the two arts of Falconry and riding, Using an intrinsically wild animal along with one of our longest domesticated species, the ultimate predator in conjunction with one of the ultimate flight/prey species…..A recipe for disaster  or an amazing combination?wp-1479848326638.jpg

Just to make it more interesting I only use -Recycled racehorses to fly pursuit falcons and eagles

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Reasons being they’re fast ,quick on their feet, very important over the varied terrain of Dartmoor, the good ones have an incredibly sane temperament, vital when you have an eagle with a 7′ wingspan leaving straight over your head and on a personal level I just love thoroughbreds, they suit me down to the ground and I would not ride anything else (I was accused of being a horse snob a few days ago,it was  one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me)

It’s one of the great joys of my job, bringing on a new falconry pony as they go from nervous to accepting,to enjoying working with the various falcons and eagles (and in the case of Tommy utter adoration, he loves them and ambles off to see Artemis “his” eagle anytime he has the opportunity)

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Working with ex-racers is so rewarding, but it does have its heartbreaks as well,l as both my original thoroughbreds had to be put to sleep as old racing injuries that were beyond repair surfaced, but I look at the fact that both had a fantastic life with me and achieved things that very few horses in the world will ever do

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We’re currently working with a team of 5, Myladtommy is the number one pony, an absolute stalwart does everything from teaching to main ring displays


Saint Guru (Ozzy 2) a very personal falconry horse, to sharp for teaching as to much leg at the wrong time can have a dramatic effect on the unwary but great with me, and has done all our recent film work


Our two new additions, Doctor Henry and Weaam are both taking to the hawks really well and we have great plans  for them over the next few months, Henry is the trickiest to work with as he is a bit of a glutton so we’re never sure if he’s noticed that there are hawks in what he does as he’s too busy eying up the next snackimg_1524-1

Henry adopted Philippa very soon after arrival and will do anything for her, Weaam took a big shine to me

Last, but definitely not least is Nif, he gave a wond erful interview to get here, totally unfazed by his first introduction to Charlie and Artemis

But once he’d got his feet under the table here and we’d fallen in love with him he decided hawks were the devils own invention and he wanted nothing more to do with them, he’s our outrider, our flanking pony, and hours of mindless amusement

we have a great team here and will update on everyone’s progress as things develop