At work and play

We are probably more than a bit biased but we think the team are the best examples of the versatility of the well recycled racehorse.

Though they have a job with us as professional display and teaching horses we are firm believers that happy horses have a varied life and everything we do with them has to be fun for them and us as well as educational so this is us , the team at work and play

The year that never was

The last 12 months has been so hard on everyone, and all have their stories of the problems it has caused.

It’s been 12 months since we did any paid work with the team as the virus has prevented people from coming for much of the time, all our displays last summer were cancelled

As with any business based round animals the work load and costs didn’t change a bit whether we were earning or not, luckily we had a tremendous response to our keep the team together campaign last summer and some fantastic support from various people and business that allowed us to get through to now while keeping hold of everyone, avian and equine, but it has been very dispiriting not knowing when we will be back in full flow.

We are now trying to be optimistic and hoping we only have to find our way through another couple of months before we can start teaching again , and are starting taking bookings for shows

Looking forward to normality returning

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

The season

Well the display season is well and truly over, we’ve been very pleased with what we’ve achieved so far, Caymans very much bore the brunt of this, his fantastic nature enabled him to do fast high energy displays in large arenas, but he’d quite happily do a slow demonstration in a small areas, he took everything in his stride and dint put a foot wrong all season

Caymans at Wrerington Park

The wonderful team from Godolphin came down to Wrerington park on a blistering hot day to make a video for their Lifetime care policy, it’s well worth a look, we’re quite proud of it.

The down side to our display side of things has been trying to generate the interest in it, we gave up on the racing industry after getting no reply from any of the racecourses we contacted about what we did, even the ones doing countryside days, and we’ve been unable to generate any interest in the Racehorse retraining world, despite, obviously in our opinion, being one of the best showcases for quite how versatile the thoroughbred can be in the right hands

Weaam at Liskeard Show

We will keep pushing on with the display side for another year and will review whether it is worth trying to keep a display team going then.

Our falconry from horses days on the other hand are going from strength to strength, adapting and developing as we go along.

These are ever evolving as we’re teaching something that we’re making up as it goes along as we find how much we can get out of the horse/hawk combination

Caymans Teaching

As the summer ends we get to the more exciting part of what we do , Falconry in the field

Shubaat, Masters horse with the Dartmoor Falcons

Tommy and Caymans (side saddle) watching as a flight comes over

Shubaat following a flight

The falcons have been flying superbly and we have just bought a male golden eagle specifically to hunt with from the horses

We’re still pushing the boundaries in everything we’re doing here and as the commercial side quietens down for the winter we have play time where we can work on new challenges for the horses and ourselves, things never stand still here 😁

Trust

Trust is a three way thing in our line of work, and has to be genuine and absolute, between ourselves, the horses and the hawks we work with them.

To try and show this we decided to do something that, as far as we’re aware, no one has done before,and try and work a falcon while having 3 horses out. What made this interesting is falcons are flown to a lure, a piece of padded leather that is spun or held in the air, as a form of simulated bird hunting

Now on an individual basis all the boys do this quite happily, and Philippas little Falcon is as steady as can be around the horses, so in theory it should be simple, but as anyone with horses knows if things go wrong they’ll all play to the worst behaved….

Luckily all our boys had halos on, we tossed a coin and decided Shubatt would be the best to ride, as he is much braver with the reassurance of a rider, Tommy was guaranteed just to put on his “what are they doing now”face, heave a big sigh and do what ever we asked,, and if Caymans hadn’t liked what was going on(very unlikely as he seems to enjoy everything we chuck at him) he would have made straight for the hayladge bale.

The results were amazing, the boys didn’t put a foot wron, little Barny relished the challenge

At one stage he flew between the legs of all 3 horses, but that was the easy bit, flying between two horses Stood next to each other takes a very confident little falcon .

Our good Friend Hazel Mansell Greenwood popped up to capture this on camera for us, and she also got the most amazing sequence of Barny coming between Tommy’s lowered head and his legs, a tiny gap

I think these photos show why recycled racehorses are the most versatile of horses, were very proud of these boys avian and equine, and the trust they all show to allow us to do this

The thoroughbred in falconry

I started using horses for Falconry in 2001, by mistake really, I had just set up Dartmoor Hawking, doing Falconry commercially, as a change of life after the death of my first wife, and had got back to my Parents Farm where I kept my horse at the time.

I was riding a thoroughbred mare Toffee (Takethetopoff) And found a girl who is working for me at the time was having problems with a young peregrine falcon, without really thinking I said pass it up here and there I was on a horse with a falcon, and a little thing went ping.

I contacted Dr Nick Fox (now OBE for services to falconry) who ran the Northumberland crow Falcons, the only mounted falconer in the country at the time, who gave me a lot of very good advice.

I was already flying Falcons at crows, the fastest and most exciting form of falconry, on foot this could involve a lot of walking following disappearing flights and he told me how much a horse would enhance this, and yes it did, suddenly I could get into position to engender the best flights rather than just grabbing an opportunity, we could follow the flight we’ll , these could be covering Dartmoor at 60 mph.

This brings me on to the thoroughbred, when I first started telling people about what I was doing a rather large woman who rode a rather large cob told me that ex racehorses would not be suitable for falconry, I needed something like she rode.

So wrong, you need a fast horse, quick on its feet, Dartmoor has some very unforgiving riding for a clumsy horse, bogs , rock clitter, very uneven terrain. While following a flight you want to be looking up, not placing your horses feet. Brains and a steady temperament are essential, the whole package is hard to get in a horse, and this is where the ex racers come in so well.

Thoroughbreds often get a bad press, flighty, scatty, highly strung etc. A lot of this comes from them falling into the wrong hands due to cheap prices and people not understanding what they’re working with. Retrained properly most excellent when given a new job, I’m working with a team of 4, one ex chaser, and 3 flat horses (one with one eye who won in group,2 and raced in group 1) all of whom have taken to Falconry really well.

The horse is mainly a carrying platform, used to transport myself and a hooded falcon, or eagle, till our quarry is in site, hood comes off, falcon goes and then the horse has to keep me in touch, until the flight ends when it has to stand quietly while I deal with the hawk on its kill or retrieve it after a missed flight, then carry myself , hawk and what was caught back (in the case of eagle hawking this can be something quite large).

Our horses live next to our hawks and if we’re exercising we normally stick a hawk on board as a standard thing, we have to have complete control with one hand at all times and this makes everything second nature.

As part of their education all our thoroughbreds go hunting as it’s a slower, gentler way to teach them to keep their feet with lots going on, and how to behave in a crowded and exciting environment

The Dartmoor falcons meet on Fridays and a bye day from mid August to the end of January, visitors are more than welcome, but we do have a field limit of 12 as to many riders can spoil the hawking.

All our horses are also used to give main arena displays of falconry , which is a fantastic platform to show how versatile the Recycled Racehorse can be

Some real Falconry

Our displays look amazing, (though we say so ourselves 😁), our teaching days are an amazing experience for the participants, but we never stray far from our roots.

I originally started flying Falcons from horses as a means to enhance my Falconry, or more specifically flights at crows using fast Falcons on the moors.

The horse gave spotting hight, the ability to cover lathe areas of ground, and most importantly the ability to follow watch and stay in contact with a flight that could be covering the more, in a strong downwind flight at maybe 60mph.

What could be better for this than the thoroughbred? Fast, quick on its feet,after acclimatisation a fantastic ability to read the uneven ground of Dartmoor and keep their feet while I’m concentrating on what is happening above.

The first thoroughbred who started it all off was the lovely Toffee (Takethetopoff) back in 2001

It’s very hard to explain how a days mounted Falconry works but the GoPro put together a lovely video of Caymans first day flying Falcons in the field, it was not the best days Falconry and conditions were far from ideal, but this was some of our better riding….

On a good day and the right country the flights take some keeping with and crossing Dartmoor at speed with a purpose has to be one of the most exhilarating riding experiences possible (even if the pony is ginger 😁)

It never ceases to amaze how quickly they adapt to something so different, from the pristine turf of a racecourse to the rocks and bogs of Dartmoor.

They learn very rapidly that the sound of bells ahead means action and will listen for them the way a good hunter listens for hounds, but it’s not all speed and rush, it’s patience as we track down and pick up wayward Falcons or pick one up from a kill

Something Tommy excels at

But Tommy is a veteran, Caymans also realised this when we arrive at the end of an unsuccessful flight a long way ahead of everyone else ( funny that!, I’d not be bighearted enough to claim he’s the fastest horse on Dartmoor but….😁) and had to be abandoned while I Called in a slightly puffed Dawn

The more I see of these horses the more they amaze me, without a doubt Recycled Racehorses are the most versatile horses out there

At the end of the year

With all the glamour of the summer display season over the hard work for next year has already began

The progress of Caymans and Shubaat has been excellent, as shown in the videos from Godolphin Rehoming

Caymans

Shubaat

Tommy and Weaam are excelling themselves

Tommy is doing the bulk of our client work as he is so incredibly good natured, and so forgiving when things go wrong, an eagle upside down around his shoulders is taken without batting an eye.

Weaam is winding up to be the main display pony for next season, with the others taking various supporting rolls too him, his complete steadiness to new environments has been amazing, having been dropped very much in the deep end this summer

This year has been fascinating, working with 4 of the best horses I’ve come across, and working with their strengths to bring out their best for Falconry whilst making sure they have as much fun and variation in their life as we’ll

The coming of winter has seen all four out in the hunting field, it’s the best place to educate a horse on keeping its feet, how to keep their heads with lots going on, and how to behave in an all round well mannered way, something they’re all excelling at

We’re plotting ahead for next year and already have a couple of big shows booked in for the display team and in January we’ll be starting work on our new routines, display work being very different to ponies and hawks than the field Falconry they’ve been practicing all winter

We’re really excited, we have the perfect team of ponies now, all an absolute joy to work with, and I’m left feeling so privileged every day, to be able to work with such fantastic horses, someone told me that they thought Thoroughbreds were my mid life crisis, which I’m happy to go with

A huge thank you to everyone who’s helped us with horses, Kim Hayward,(it’s all her fault we’re doing what we’re doing) for Myladtommy, Annette Nally for Weaam, JoBrisland from Godolphin for sending Shubaat and Caymans, Yeomans Haylage for the pony fuel , Clare’s Smith and Mcdonald for keeping the ponies together and the team at Dunscombe forge farriers for putting up with cold coffee and poor lighting

Happy new year to all our followers from the team, Equine, Avian, Canine and myself and Philippa

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

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