(For those of you who don't know what a Hunt is (like me, before last Sunday), it's a club of horse enthusiasts and hound enthusiasts that go on real or simulated fox hunts. The hounds pick up the pre-placed scent of a fox and they chase after it in the woods. The people on horseback chase after the hounds to find the fox. I guess it originated in England way back when they wanted to kill foxes, but now it's just for fun.)
The day began, as all horse days do, with a wake-up call at 5:30. This let us get to the barn by 6:45. We loaded up the three horses and off we went to Mimosa Farm in Belwood, Ontario.
Tara and King (the horse) entered in the pairs hunter pace (where you and one or two friends ride around a course with 20-30 jumps and try to go from start to finish in the proper amount of time). She went with our good friends Dave and Cindy (riding Lyra and Emma respectively) She also was in the singles cross country course (where you go around the same course, by yourself and the quickest person wins). She was exhausted by the end of they day. I guess riding a horse as fast as you can for 20 minutes will do that to you...
For the lunch time entertainment they had a Birds of Prey and Falconry presentation. The presenter brought 5 large birds with him; a baby barn owl, a adult barn owl, a great horned owl, a turkey vulture, a red-tailed hawk and a falcon. The presentation was simply amazing. The bird man walked through the ground and the birds would fly from his arm to a couple of perches and back.
First he brought out the baby barn own. It looked more like a vulture than anything. When you see an owl, you might think they are as large as they look - they aren't, they just have a lot of feathers.
Then he brought out barn owl. It was only about 10" tall (I thought they grew bigger). It was beautiful; it looked white from a distance, but when you go up close, you noticed a lot of brown in it's feathers. The bird man said they were good birds to have in your barn because they eat a lot of rodents. If I ever get a barn, I'll see about getting one of these birds.
After the barn owl, he brought out a turkey vulture. I have always wanted to see a turkey vulture (ever since Monty Brigham recounted stories about them on canoe trips when I was a wee lad). The bird large and ugly looking but in a majestic sort of way. Turkey vultures are one of the only large birds that can walk reasonably well, we found out
Next came the great horned owl. It wasn't full grown yet, but it was already 2 feet tall. Out of all the birds, it was the most menacing. It had amazing yellow eyes.
Last came the falcon (a Peregine, I believe). This bird would fly around and land on all sorts of things; the tent behind us, a tree, the perches that were set up. These falcons hunt on groups which is unusual for birds. Near the end of his presentation, the bird man let volunteers in the audience put on the glove and hold up food. Tara was one of the lucky volunteers he picked! The falcon came down, perched on her arm and ate the food like he did it every day.
At the end of the day, we were all exhausted. Tara, Cindy and Dave were as happy as horse riders get, even though they didn't win any prizes. But the aim for two thirds of the people at the cup wasn't to win, it was to play with their horses.
More about our time at the cottage later this week...