METAMORA: Horsin’ Around….

27 Aug

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Today is an Alice-in-Wonderland kind of day. Instead of a rabbit hole we are in Lapeer County, Metamora to be exact. The area is known for its striking beauty; the landscape is one of mature trees, century old barns, elevation changes and gorgeous countryside. You can board your horses, golf at an award-winning golf course, hunt pheasant, learn to drive a carriage, ride a horse and stay at a bed and breakfast. The opening day of formal hunting is a big event, a tradition here since 1928, they still do things the old-fashioned way with the blessing of the hounds and riders wearing formal hunt attire. The Metamora Hunt Stable Tour is today, our ticket gets us an inside look at 8 stables tucked into the tranquil terrain.

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Kris is at the wheel of the Wrangler as we meander narrow, rolling, scenic dirt roads. Let me start off by saying I know next to nothing about horses, hunts or hounds; we are drawn to the tour by the sheer beauty of the area and curiosity of the lifestyle. Our first stop is the Metamora Hunt Club kennels on Barber Rd; here we buy our tickets, walk the grounds and visit with a couple of the horses. Standing at the fence they come right to us, being an animal lover I’m excited to see the horses up close, they’re magnificent. Over at the kennels a constant stream of hounds pass through the dog door from the building into the yard. They are playful, active and anxious for attention from the humans standing at the fence. A quick look at the map to get our bearings and we’re off.

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Ordinary mailboxes line the road, the canopy of trees conceal the majesty of the land and homes beyond, when we reach the next address we make our turn onto a single lane, gravel drive, even rows of Pine trees line the sides making a dramatic entrance. Structures on this 30 acre property are Tudor style, putting us in the mind of a gentlemen’s farm. The stable, built in 1981 has a timely feel to it, a group of young women in riding pants and tall boots are gathered outside talking polo. There are no horses in the stalls right now; a guide invites us into the tack room for a cold beverage and a snack. The tiny room is extremely cozy, wood-paneled walls, saddles, ribbons and trophies add to its appeal. Outside we walk the property, a series of jumps is set up in one area, horses visit with old friends in another, the house sits leisurely in the distance.

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Old Magnolia Farm on Hosner Road is next. Built in 1860, the large white house sits under a blue summer sky, a series of arches enclose front and side porches, detailed cut-outs in the wood trim and wrought iron make it fancy.  The current owners had the facade restored to its original grandeur; while they were at it, they built a stable too….. The buildings are lovely; the sight of the stable against the backdrop of pristine pastureland is breathtaking. Lanterns hang from the extravagant covered walkway, flowers burst from urns along the way. Inside, the stable is done in knotty pine with a stamped concrete floor; there are 6 stalls a wash stall, feed/washer dryer room, workout room and tack room that also serves as a lounge. We climb up to the hayloft stacked with fresh-cut hay, it smells nice, through the window we peer out over the grounds, there are 100 acres of riding trails, wooded areas and hay fields. Downstairs we stop in the lounge, cold drinks and horse-shaped, sugar cookies await us, it’s air-conditioned too! Out back horses graze, black split-rail fencing follows the slope if the land.

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Quail Hollow Farm on Oakwood is next, here they breed Oldenburgs, which originated in Germany, and Labrador Retrievers. We follow others on the tour to the stable area, an old turquoise Chevy pick-up is stored in a garage, window boxes overflow with geraniums and lobelia. The farm is home to 10 horses, 4 dogs, 3 Shetland sheep and chickens along with 3 Morgan horses. Haystacks fill one area of the stable, we are greeted by the dogs as we make our way out to the sheep, they’re people friendly and come right up to us. The horses are wearing fly masks, this protects their delicate eyes from the annoyance of flies, they can see out of them easily. I visit with the animals while Kris is hard at work taking pictures.

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Back on Barber Road, Willow Pond Farm is stunning! The stone and wood  gambrel roof stable is painted a placid green with white trim, black split-rail fencing surrounds the greensward. A jockey statue stands by the open stable door, inside we are treated to imported English stalls and South American Foxwood, it looks like fine furniture. A horse is in his stall facing us, he takes pleasure in the breeze the large fan creates. Upstairs in the hayloft trap doors allow bundles of hay to be dropped directly into each stall, through the windows we look out over the well-manicured lawn and stately home. We visit with another horse in his stall, this one faces the outdoors, he’s perfectly groomed in chestnut-brown with a white diamond shape on his head. This gentle giant is delighted to have so much attention, I think he’s posing as Kris snaps a photo. Weeping Willows surround the family pond, they even have an Olympic sized outdoor ring on the property.

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We arrive at Bedrock Stables and park in the shade, an American flag mounted to a white Victorian home flutters in the breeze. On the other side of the driveway two large red barns await us. The homestead was established sometime in the mid to late 1800’s, the barns actually pre-date the house, originally used for farming, one is now a stable the other a Bed & Breakfast. We start in the stable, a woman points out features of the building, we’re excited to learn a Kentucky Derby contender is in one of the stalls. Next door the barn is now used as a bed and breakfast and meeting space; the interior oozes a rustic charm. The wood and beams are still original from around 1860, visitors parade through the guest bedrooms, kitchen and dining space, I carry my glass of lemonade to the silo, this is super-cool! With just a table and chairs the view looking up is something else. The open stairway leads to the second floor recreation room complete with pool table, juke box, bar and large stone fireplace surrounded by a comfy seating area. The barn is often rented out for weddings, what a lovely setting.

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Springbrook Farm consists of 200 acres, the main residence, built around 1860 still stands gracefully on the property. The old dairy barn with its gambrel roof has been converted for horses, it is believed the structure is a “Sears Kit Barn” dating back to 1929. The stalls are knotty pine, antique-looking light fixtures are mounted to the kelly green ceiling. The hayloft is completely open, trusses visible, impressive, Kris likes the old tractor and antique farm equipment. We walk the peaceful grounds, the panoramic view from here is spectacular, heavenly; meadows, fields, woodlands, highlands, downs, knolls, well, you get the idea. The rich beauty unexpected, picturesque. Following the trail we end up at a HUGE red building under construction, this will be the 30,000 sq ft indoor riding arena. The agricultural fields have all been turned into hay fields. On the walk back we visit with the horses and admire their view.

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Our last stop on the tour takes us to Fiddler’s Green on Sutton Road. This enchanting small farm includes an eye-catching Saltbox style house, a three-stall barn and a carriage barn. The yard is surrounded by attractive flower gardens and quaint seating areas. The owner greets us in the stall barn, she tells us her two horses are rescues, they certainly look content. The tack room is painted barn red with a white ceiling, ribbons hang above a dresser, there are horse statues and paintings, quite dashing. The property is landscaped wonderfully, an attractive mix of colors and textures, walking back we see carriages parked near the stone wall.

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Finished with the tour we are ready for a late lunch; Kris makes his way down pretty roads ending up at The White Horse Inn on High Street in the village of Metamora. You may have read about the Inn or seen something on the local news about this place. Founded in 1850, it operated continuously for 162 years closing in 2012. New owners came in, shored the place up and put on addition; much of the materials used in the renovation came from the owners own wooded lot in addition to recycled wood from a nearby century-old farm. Jean Louis Sauvat flew in from France to do the charcoal images of horses in the main dining room. The doors re-opened to the delight of those who have been coming here for years and those dining for the first time.

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Step inside the building and feel like you are in an up north lodge, the grand stone fireplace takes up a large wall, wide plank floors and a wood beam ceiling make the space welcoming, homey. There’s a sitting area to wait for a table or just hang out with friends and have cocktails. The bar surround is made from reclaimed wood, high top tables fill in the space between the bar and main dining room; this is the section we like to sit in. After placing our order I page through a coffee table book on Lake Superior, the dining room is filling up quickly. Our lunch arrives, the maurice salad is reminiscent of the one served by Hudson’s; iceberg lettuce, thick strips of ham, turkey, swiss cheese, pickles, hard boiled egg and of course that signature maurice dressing. The black bean quesadillas are served with salsa and sour cream. The food is good, but the ambiance is what makes this place special. 

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