Mounted falconry or hawking is quite possibly one of the most [email protected]$$ disciplines in existence. In some parts of the world, such as Mongolia, it’s not so much a fun leisure sport as a legitimate way to acquire food for the family — but in other places, including Europe, hawking has traditionally been a pastime of the wealthy.
All over the world, individuals are keeping this sport alive through hawking or falconry clubs, and in a few places the traditions live on through tourism: Dartmoor Hawking in Dartmoor National Park is perhaps the best-known of such destinations. Established on the grounds of the 40-acre Bovey Castle estate and with access to 15,000 additional acres of open ground in the national park, Dartmoor Hawking teaches guests about the art of falconry and offers the opportunity to take these skills to the saddle.
(There’s also an intriguing link marked Weddings/Engagements — just picturing a golden eagle delivering an engagement ring makes me grin.)
My experience with large birds while in the saddle is mostly limited to wild turkeys exploding out of cover right under the nose of my mounts, some of whom have not taken too kindly to that kind of fluttering be-feathered surprise. Proving, however, that horses can learn to tolerate pretty much anything, including a bird with an eight-foot wingspan flapping away right over their heads, the horses at Dartmoor Hawking look pretty chill with this. If anything, they even seem to strut a little bit, as though they know that they’re the ballers of the horse world.
The latest horse to join Dartmoor Hawking’s ranks? An off-track Thoroughbred, reminding us once again that there’s really no limitations to what this breed can do.
Shubaat is an 11-year-old gelding by Monsun with wins to his name on both the flat and over timber. He’s a graduate of the Godolphin rehoming and retraining program: as one of the largest breeding/racing operations in the world, Godolphin holds itself responsible to the horses in its string and supports its horses through retraining and rehoming with regional partners in Europe, Japan, Australia and the United States.
While “horseback hawking” may not be a common career for any horse, let alone an OTTB, Shubaat is actually the second horse from Godolphin to find his home at Dartmoor Hawking — a gelding named Caymans also came through the Godolphin rehoming program and has been hawking for quite some time!
Shubaat, best of luck in your totally awesome second career. Go OTTBs, and go riding!