Horseback Falconry in Southern England | Atlas Obscura Tries | Atlas Obscura
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Horseback Falconry in Southern England | Atlas Obscura Tries | Atlas Obscura

October 19, 2019


– Flying hawks while sitting on a horse is just not something I
ever imagined I would do, but I definitely feel like
I could be some kind of, like, medieval badass
princess, just, like, galloping through the hills
with a hawk on my arm. I’m very much a horse girl. I grew up in a barn, pretty much, so it’s kind of my element. – Martin.
– Hi, Kerry. – Nice to meet you, love.
– Nice to meet you. Falconry from horseback was a sport that was popular across medieval Europe, but today it’s incredibly rare unless you’re in Central Asia. I kind of stumbled upon Dartmoor Hawking and thought it would just
be an incredible opportunity to learn how to fly a hawk or a falcon while sitting on a horse. It’s just not something
many people get to do. – Where I come from, doing
falconry from a horse is very much from a
hunting-with-them background. And I’m from Dartmoor,
we’ve got big, open spaces and the horse really
enhances your falconry. 1,560 grams, she’s about spot-on. If the birds are too fat they’re
going to have no motivation to fly to you. So we’re relying on the
hunting instinct now. I need stresses. Not starvation, but you’ve got to have an appetite. Eyesight is what she lives through. So take away the eyesight,
nothing’s happening. Actually, there, a really
tight grip, because if you let her go at this
moment in time she will die. – It’s when the birds have the hood on, like Martin said, if they
fly away then they could die, because they effectively can’t see. So my biggest fear is that I’m going to accidentally let a bird
loose while it has its hood on and like, kill one of these birds. – Okay, just keep your hand
still. Hold on, hold on! You see, and then they
come back up. Well done. – Yeah! – Now, I probably should’ve warned you, before I put him there, if he wanted to he could put those talons
through your glove. – Oh, lovely. – He’s not going to, he’s not
going to, just so you’re aware of the capabilities of
what you’re dealing with. If you’re not a stable perch, he’s not going to want
anything to do with you. – That makes sense. – Because you’re breaking your side of the relationship,
which is a safe place to be. – He seems like someone who is in it because he loves what he’s doing. It’s very much not for show, which is something I was looking for. And just hearing him talk about the horses and talk about the birds, it’s kind of like he’s
talking about an old friend. – Man up. She’s a bit wet. She’s not Miss Biggie Brave.
And yet she will quite happily, at hunting time, she will take down deer, roe deer, which is about a 50-pound deer. – She can kill one?
– Yeah. – A little lower down. Put her lower down. – It just feels really cool, and just weirdly natural. I’m a huge animal person
so I think that’s why. I went into this knowing that I wanted to get close to the birds, and I’m fine with the dogs running around, and like, meeting the horses. Oh, no. I know; you can’t
itch on me, I’m sorry. The horses Martin uses for
falconry are all thoroughbreds. So these are horses that are
bred and designed for speed. And so not only is he using thoroughbreds, but he uses retired ex-racehorses. So these are horses that have been trained to go fast, trained to win races, but then once their racing career is over, he works to re-home them and train them how to be falconry horses. – Okay, open your hand. All right, are you feeling brave? – Yeah. And I think it was really cool that the eagle has never
flown from a horse before, so I was the first person to ever introduce him to a new thing, so it’s kind of like we were
getting to learn together, which I never expected. It’s kind of the thing you
see in a nature documentary, not in real life, a bird that’s just flown from like, around you. So it was just absolutely beautiful to see him just soaring
toward the horizon, even though he wasn’t
supposed to go that way. – That wasn’t supposed to happen, but wow! – It was amazing. I mean, I would love to do this again, it’s just, I’m kind of far from home and I don’t think my horse would be okay with a hawk landing on his head. But it’s not something you do every day.

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  1. Look at the size of ALL THE BIRDS. Personally, we'd love to see more of that owl. What bird would you have liked to see more of?

  2. Love this! My co-writer and I just finished a novel with a falconer as the main character. I didn't know this type of falconry was still practiced.

  3. My only qualm with Atlas Obscura is that the segments are too short. I just โค๏ธ love โค๏ธ this channel. Many thanks to Ask A Mortician for introducing me to your channel. I catch myself binge watching all the time. ๐ŸŒ

  4. Another video on the birds away from the barn being flown on the moor, especially the owl would be wonderful. What was each raptor species used to hunt? Medieval ladies hunted with hawks, how much did they contribute to the larder or was it primarily sport?

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