The team

We call ourselves a team for a good reason, everyone who works here, Hawks, Hounds, Horses and humans have to work together happily, not just tolerate each other, but to get this takes time, consistency, and (luckily ) a huge amount to fun.

Dogs and hawks are easy, the pointing dogs are obsessive hunters, bred for their game finding ability, so they see the hawks as an excuse to do what they do best.

The hawks very quickly learn the dogs find and create hunting opportunities for them so quite rapidly decide they’re a convenient means to their ends.

To get horse and hawk happy together is a bit more complicated, a good team needs more than basic tolerance of each other,You could get this from a brain dead cob but that wouldn’t be much use for anything more than saying look at me.

We want a full working relationship, so we want an ex racehorses, bred on its natural instinct to move very fast, in evolutionary terms the best way to escape, to work with some thing fast and flappy, that smells like it wants to eat it.

To this ends new hawks are manned round the horses right from the start, and new horses have hawks introduced (within their tolerance levels) right from day one.

Different horses take different times, Tommy just did falconry from day one, but he has the best attitude of any horse, he works on the assumption anything he does is fun (except teaching when he goes to brain dead cob mode)

Bob on the other hand dragged 2 people across a full size ménage to get away the first time he saw a hawk flap, 15 metres away from him

He’s now one of our teaching team

As confidence increases either way the work becomes more involved, as soon a horse will tolerate a hawk being carried it’s rarely exercised with out one on board, so a hawk becomes a natural part of their every day life,and the same for the hawks,

As we’re working we’re constantly assessing what roll the horse will take with us.

Field falconry they all take to instantly, it’s what thoroughbreds think they were designed for, they’re fast, adaptable and absolutely love it, and they really enhance every level of pursuit and eagle falconry

Teaching and display work takes a bit more adaptation and many are not suitable to both (or either), Tommy would let anyone fly hawks from him what ever their riding abilities, but lacks the finesse to do tidy display work ( he can also get a bit carried away with the moment and think he’s back racing, and the display can become way too fast as he’s very strong)

Caymans excels at display work as he’s polite, grows to the audience and is incredibly perceptive to the hawks, but this makes him less than ideal for teaching as he’s often responding to what’s happening a long time before the rider, which can have a dramatic effect, not necessarily to the good

Then we have Shubaat, first choice for field falconry but not very brave about every day life, and eagle flying in over his head is fine but a bunch of flowers in the hedge can be end of world terrifying

Each horse finds its roll and we work to their strengths, we want everyone to be happy, we never force things, and if a horse really doesn’t like it we accept that, but we have a team of 7 that live for it

Published by Martin Whitley

Owner and general dogsbody at Dartmoor Hawking and The Recycled Racehorse Falconry Team

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