Tag Archives: Metamora Hunt

Metamora: Horse Country

20 Oct

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We’re back in Metamora for the 2017 Stable Tour; it’s our third consecutive year attending. We don’t own horses, don’t know the difference between Western and English or Dressage, the only kind of horse I can identify is a Clydesdale, thanks to the Budweiser commercials that mesmerized me as a child. There’s something so beautiful, tranquil, majestic about the horses and the stables, the rolling hills, the generosity of the people who open their private property to strangers. It’s an absolutely wonderful way to spend the afternoon, seeing a different way of life, experiencing something we otherwise wouldn’t. Metamora Hunt Country spans the area bordered by M-24 to the west, Hosner Rd to the east, Sutton Rd to the north and Oakwood Rd to the south. A drive on any of the roads in this area will treat you to scenic natural beauty.

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We begin our tour at the Cotton Top Alpaca Farm; Alpacas strut about outdoors showing off for visitors. They seem friendly, even posing for pictures; I like that each one has a different haircut. In front of the barn is an antique plow; the barn itself is finished in shades of brown with a splash of red, the building is a unique design for alpacas, the stalls and tack room surround a main open area. Inside we find more of the furry creatures hanging out, the dividers between stalls are low, they can easily chat with their neighbor.  At the front of the property is the lovely, 2-story, orange brick residence, from here they have a great view of their land. Continuing on, our next stop is Walkabout Farm, established in 1988 its focus is pleasure driving. This is quite a place! The gate between the stone columns is open, a fountain sprays water high into the air from a pond off to the right, lush green grass spreads out before us as far as we can see. The closest building is a taupe 1-story structure, inside hundreds of ribbons decorate the wood-paneled walls, an antique sled and several carriages are on display, I like the open ceiling with all of the wood trusses exposed and rope chandelier.

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The stable is next, also in taupe with crisp white trim, the interior has a brick paver floor and attractive wood walls and ceiling; it’s such a nice day all the horses are outdoors. The tack room is cozy; all wood with saddles mounted on the wall. Walking the property I see photos of chickens on large canvases, why do they look so famaliar?  Then it comes to me, last Fall Kris and I were at the Wasserman Gallery in Detroit for the Cosmopolitan Chicken Project, that’s where we saw them. And here they are, black, white, brown, tan, roaming about in their enclosure, their coop matches the rest of the buildings. The white one is funny, she’s taking a dirt bath and stirring up quite a cloud of dust. Weeping willows are still, visitors walk the grounds, horses graze seemingly unaware of our presence, I like the one with the white lower legs, looks like he’s wearing socks. 

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As we drive toward the next stable Kris notices an event taking place; young girls wear black riding boots and helmets. We stop to take a peek. Numbers are fixed to the backs of the competitors, the young ladies look elegant atop their horses, one of the horses has braids. We watch in fascination as one horse after another leaps over fences, the rider almost parallel to the horse. Just another day in horse country.

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We come upon the next stable on the tour, stone horse heads grace a rock wall, split rail fencing lines the long, long gravel driveway. Free Rein Farm encompasses 80 gorgeous acres of land; two German Warmblood horses and Jalisco, an Andalusian stallion from Spain call the place home. The horses seem to be enjoying all the attention from the visitors, they eagerly lower their heads making it easier for me to pet them. The private dressage barn is empty at the moment, 3 rows of light fixtures illuminate the interior. The owners are the people who bought the White Horse Inn, renovated it and re-opened it in 2014. They’re busy with their next project, renovating the building across from White Horse and opening the Metamora General Store. Looking forward to checking it out when it opens.

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As we drive through the area on pretty dirt roads we pass another event-in-progress. A grassy parking lot is full, a long line of cars are parked along the road, participants walk their horses to the event. We turn into the driveway at New Barn Farm. Completed in 2017, the owners built the building for their daughters wedding, it’s now a wedding venue with ornamental gardens and a walking trail to the Flint River. The wood and stone building is quite fetching in dark brown and a splash of red, windows in the cupola are open as are the sliding doors. The inside is dazzling; knotty pine with a corrugated metal ceiling, teeny-tiny white lights cascade from ceiling beams, a curtain of lights flanks the doors. White tulle is draped around the balcony and doors, the lone chandelier is simple and graceful.

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While the original farmstead was established in 1860, Stonebridge Farm and Retreat was purchased in 2014. Owners Tim and Heather hope to add a hunting lodge, guest houses and an English and Western Pleasure training facility to the 73 acre property. We walk out to the pavilion, antique-looking rockers sit empty, we look out across the landscape, the view is remarkable; land rises and falls gently, black fencing divides the grass into different shapes and sizes. 

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The indoor riding arena looks freshly graded, inside the building we find ourselves back in the 1930’s, transported to Joey’s Stables, the iconic landmark restaurant that stood on W Jefferson in the Delray neighborhood from 1933-1989. The bar has been completely reassembled, Tiffany lamps glow from above, antique bar stools sit vacant. Just look at the bar, it’s magnificent; ornate carvings, acanthus leaves, the mirror and working sidelights, a work of art. I like the vintage Bar Guide, choose your drink and the recipe is displayed in the little window. What’ll you have? A Gibson, Grasshopper, Stinger, Bees Knees, Rob Roy, French 75 or Kris’s favorite, an Old Fashioned. The room is grand, stunning, fantastic, from the copper mugs to the pewter horses to the wagon wheel chandelier. You can sit in the booth and look out over the arena or climb the cupola staircase for a panoramic view of the farm.

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Our last stop on the tour is an 84 acre farm that was once a breeding farm and training facility for race horses. Today Watch Hill Farm is home to Icelandic horses. The owners are active in the Metamora Carriage Driving Club. Inside the octagon shaped building are a couple of restored carriages, knotty pine walls and a fireplace make it inviting. The stables have wood walls and ceilings and concrete floors. The indoor arena is impressive, I’m fond of the exposed wooden trusses; I don’t know what the fluffy-looking stuff is all over the ground but I’d love to take off my shoes and run through it… Outside we find more attractive horses relishing the afternoon sun, down by the water some cows sit leisurely while others munch the green grass. It’s nice being out here, having a little breathing space, taking time out to relax and unwind. Beauty often inspires peacefulness.

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The Lake Inn on Hunt Rd in Lapeer has been family owned and operated for 70+ years, this is our first visit. The inside has a bit of an ‘up north’ feel; the main attraction is the unobstructed view of Lake Nepessing. Our corner booth offers us a perfect view of the lake, a waitress greets us immediately with menus and water. After we place our order she quickly returns with my Spartan Stout beer. I’m a big fan of stouts and this is one I haven’t tried. It’s made by Ellison Brewery + Spirits out of East Lansing, it’s absolutely wonderful! I only have half left when our steak sandwich arrives. Shaved ribeye with sauteed onions, bell peppers, mushrooms and Swiss cheese stuffed into a hoagie roll, served with thick steak fries; it’s a tasty and satisfying meal. In the summertime tables on the large deck and tiki bar are at a premium, this late in the year there may only be a couple deck-worthy days left. Inside or out it’s a nice place with good food and a great view.

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Metamora: Horsepower !

25 Aug

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Seldom will we write of an event in back to back years but it’s a perfect day, the sights are fresh and we owe it to this hidden gem to give you another look… We’re about 50 miles north of Detroit,  Metamora Hunt Country spans Lapeer and Oakland counties through rolling hills, narrow dirt roads twist and turn through the woods; the south branch of the Flint River meanders past scenic pastures, historic farms and magnificent stables, elegant, statuesque horses roam the land. We are attending the Metamora Hunt Stable Tour. Metamora Hunt was organized in 1928 after the Grosse Pointe Hunt Club and Bloomfield Open Hunt were being pushed out by development of the surrounding land. Mounted fox-hunting has been active in the Detroit area since 1911; it’s full of tradition from the attire to the hounds to the hunt itself. Today we will visit the Hunt Kennels and 7 stables, I have the tickets, let’s go!

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Woodwind Farm is a 300 acre parcel that was once part of the 1,000 acre dairy farm owned by the Booth  family (Detroit News, Cranbrook). Blue-grey buildings have crisp white trim, the barn was built in 1879 and originally held cows, today horses call it home. The interior is divided into stalls, dark wood covers the walls and ceiling, the floor is brick. We make our way to the loft, beams are thick and carefully fitted together, the smell of fresh-cut hay permeates the air, we gaze out at the surrounding country, I’m surprised how green everything is after our heat wave. Outside, horses go about the business of grazing, paying no attention to the sudden influx of humans.

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We drive from stable to stable on natural beauty roads, long driveways lead to homes we cannot see, cows and horses wander patches of land divided by split-rail fences. Next to a pretty white house is our next stop, a big, old white barn. The wood-lined interior is divided into stalls, what makes this one unique is the floor made from tree stumps and concrete. Old farm equipment is resting after years of hard work. The owner introduces us to her horses, one is over 30 years old. Cheridon Farm takes up 275 acres of hillside and meadow. A herd of Scottish Highlander Cattle are clustered together to the left, the guy with the big horns and bangs seems to be checking us out, on the other side the Red Angus don’t seem to notice us. The cattle barn is void of cattle but we do spy a bird’s nest tucked into the rafters, it seems it’s lunch time and mama bird has a trio of hungry babies waiting.

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A few roads over we enter a 300 acre equestrian estate called Perfect Sky Ranch. Wow. We park near a charming, large wood building with a metal roof, the lawn a deep shade of green, Hydrangea in full bloom. Walking around the property we find ourselves on the patio outside the stable; a waterfall flows into a pond, surrounding planters are stuffed with colorful annuals, butterflies flock to the (aptly named) butterfly bush, the family home is in the distance.

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We follow fellow tourists to the recently built indoor arena, wow again. The building is huge, cedar lines the walls, the ceiling white, the footing is a special HT fiber that helps keep down dust, keeping the under layers moist; it’s the softest surface I’ve ever walked on, I’m thinking this is what it would feel like to walk on a cloud…..In addition to Warmbloods and quarter horses, a cool, red, 1956 Ford resto-mod pick-up truck also lives here. The stable and tack room are quite attractive, as you would expect, horses have an open window in their stall so they can see what’s going on outside. I see one peeking out and take it as in invitation to pet him, he enjoys the attention, I am enamored by his beauty.

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The next farm, White Fences is different from the rest as it is a carriage driving facility. There’s a weekend house, carriage house and a barn with a dazzling tack room. Carriages are parked on a gravel lot, some are open, others covered, they bear ribbons, gloves. We take a closer look at the antique wooden carriage in the center, a smattering of decorative paint remains, I can only imagine how stunning it must have been.

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Jim, the owner invites Kris and I to go for a ride on the surrounding trails in his golf cart, and we’re off. Jim put in all of the landscape and trails you see, the land is absolutely gorgeous; blue spruce, ponds, stone walls. We drive over steep hills, take sharp corners, pass hazards; the trail twists and turns through deep woods and open meadows, picturesque, glorious. Before we leave we visit with the boys, such handsome ponies!

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Next we are on a 600 acre piece of land that used to be the settlement of Whigville. A gravel road takes us through the property, the view is heavenly. Black fences divide land into sections, there’s an outdoor arena and a 12-stall stable, freshly groomed horses wear coats secured with velcro. It’s such a tranquil setting.

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Rattlewood Farms has both an indoor and outdoor arena, they train for both dressage and hunter/jumper disciplines. Fences hug the contours of the land, we stop at the first building, inside the electro-groom waits quietly for its next task, horses are being brought back to their stalls. Outside, a young lady is practicing in the ring, her horse wears braids, how fetching. We drive further on stopping at other buildings, horses graze, we pass a group of black cows doing the same. That reminds us, time to eat!

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The only place to eat after such a divine tour is the White Horse Inn on High Street. The Inn was founded in 1850 and operated continuously for 162 years. Closed in 2012 for a complete renovation it re-opened in 2014, the new owners have done an amazing job. Our favorite place to sit is a little high-top table in the bar area, it has a great view of the fireplace and cozy sitting area which is trimmed out in red, white and blue for the summer. Today we are having the best Wedge salad ever: crisp iceberg, Maytag blue cheese, house dressing and candied bacon, excellent. The BBQ pulled pork sandwich is slow-roasted pork, bourbon BBQ sauce, pickled onions, jalapeno, on an onion roll, delicious. The steak fries are pretty darn good too! We eat slowly, taking in our surroundings, this is the kind of place you like to linger. We have truly enjoyed our time in the country. See ya next year!

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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.