Metamora: Pony Up…

3 Oct

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There are certain events that fill the squares on my calendar from year to year; one of my favorites is the Metamora Hunt Stable Tour. Held annually in August, it’s such a wonderful tour I find I have to write a post about every time we attend. You don’t have to know anything about foxhunting, horses or riding to thoroughly enjoy the tour. You’ll simply spend the day driving on lazy dirt lanes over rolling countryside from one gorgeous stable to the next. You’re sure to encounter spectacular views, beautiful horses, friendly people and if you’re lucky, some really good snacks. C’mon along with us as we travel some of the 36 square miles in Metamora Hunt Country.

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The tour begins at The Hunt Kennels on Barber Road. Proceeds from the event help the club maintain more than 100 miles of bridel paths on private land in Metamora Hunt Country. We grab our maps, I visit with the hounds and we’re off. Our first stop is an extraordinary farm; here’s how the description begins in the tour booklet: “The owners have been creating their estate on 160 acres of prime Metamora Hunt country and have done much of the work themselves.” As pretty as it is from the road you can’t really appreciate all of the detail in the buildings until you’re up close. All of the buildings are a mix of stone and wood with great angles, a little stained glass and even an observation tower on the house. The house and barn complex overlook a pond on one side and a large open space behind. Once the house was finished they built the woodworking shop, it’s a busy place right now with the construction of the barn complex, I really like the live edge on the wood siding. We wander freely through the buildings, once inside I feel so small. Docents are on hand to answer any of our questions. As we leave we pause in front taking in the scene, Kris snaps a couple of photos and we roll on.

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Flying D Farm is next on our agenda. The property was one of the first in Metamora Hunt. Fred Alger built the barn in the 1920’s as a weekend getaway for he and his Grosse Pointe friends to go foxhunting. From the 1960’s through the 90’s it was turned into a Thoroughbred breeding facility. Today the barn and 55 acres are what remain from the past. Kris maneuvers the Jeep down the freshly-mowed path through a field until the red barn comes into view, it looks freshly painted with crisp white trim; as he makes the turn to park I swear I catch a glimpse of an airplane peeking out the large center door. Approaching the barn we get a clear view of the hand-built yellow airplane belonging to the owner. Inside this is one of the nicest barns I’ve ever seen; quaint, rustic, charming. Fresh flowers welcome today’s visitors, a cheerful woman approaches us offering mimosa’s, a buffet of cookies and banana bread is laid out on a counter. What a nice surprise. The driveway to exit the property leads us past the home, beautifully landscaped and made of stone, it looks like it belongs in the countryside of France.

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A short drive later we arrive at Horseshoe acres, a 22 acre working horse farm. Founded 28 years ago it’s home to driving horses, a trail horse, 4 dogs and 2 cats. The horses are having lunch but after a little convincing they make their way to where I’m standing at the fence. Of course they’re hoping for a treat but they settle for some petting then get back to eating hay. We wander in and out of the horse barn and indoor arena, they have an old carousel horse on display, I like the horse weather vane up on the roof too. The property also has woodland trails for carriage driving.

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Gaitway Farm has a completely different look with a paved asphalt driveway, black fencing dividing the 10-acre parcel, white stable, and lots of pink and purple flowers in pots and trailing from window boxes. A horse and donkey are the first to greet us, they seem perplexed buy the amount of humans coming and going past their gate. The current residents have been owners, breeders and exhibitors of American Saddlebred Horses for over 25 years and have owned several World Champions. Currently the farm is home to a few retired equines. Looking across the property I take in the beautiful scenery and gently rolling hills. The house matches the stable, large pots of bright pink flowers decorate the porch.

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Matador Farm was built in 2016 to be the Hunter/Jumper division of Rattlewood Farm. Situated on 260 acres the location offers a board and training business, sales program and riding school. The stable has 21 stalls, the wood is pretty enough to be used as paneling in a home, metal bars and trim are black; no two properties are alike. We visit with horses as we walk from one end of the building to the other. Just outside horses graze lazily in the sun, the breeze rustles their tail and mane, in the large outdoor arena props used for jumping sit idle. A thick tree-line is seen in the distance.

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Our last stop on the tour is Noble Hills Farm. The farm is a working Quarter Horse breeding farm named after the owners grandfather. Their hand-picked broodmares are bred to some of the best stallions in the industry. The prospects they produced have won several World Championships and compete all over the world. The building is outfitted in several shades of gray, sliding doors allow us entry into the stable. The unique interior has everyone talking; the open ceiling shows off the contrast of the metal roof and wood beams. There are no horses inside at the moment so we make our way outdoors. Horses of all colors and sizes nibble on the tender greens growing beneath their feet. Standing in the hot summer sun we watch as horses take turns going from person to person, as curious about us as we are about them. Watching them eat reminds me that it’s time for lunch.

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We arrive at Pine House Kitchen and Bar  in Dryden, originally The Chuck Wagon, a western-atmosphere-style restaurant that opened in the early 1960’s; the exterior has changed little. Through the rows and rows of televisions you can still feel the rustic mid-century vibe from days gone by. Original wagon wheel light fixtures and western decor still adorn the venue. New owners stepped in after the passing of second owner, Lenny Miller, renovated the place and opened the bar and restaurant to the delight of locals who sorely missed the dining establishment. We arrive between the lunch and dinner rush, except for one other table we have the place to ourselves. Seated near the fireplace we quickly scan the menu and make our selection.  Fortunately our food arrives quickly, I’m super hungry. The Buffalo Chicken sandwich is buffalo chicken tenders topped with lettuce, tomato and bleu cheese crumbles served on ciabatta. The chicken is tender and juicy with just enough heat, it’s delicious. Alongside the sandwich is a pile of sweet potato fries, crispy outside and soft inside they’re cooked just right. As we finish our meal the restaurant begins to fill up, looks like we timed it perfectly. 

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