By Lauren Woodard
Is there anyone who doesn’t say WOW when the subject of mounted archery is broached? The vision of galloping on a horse, reins flapping (if you even have them) mane flying as you draw an arrow from your quiver, set it to the bow, draw it back and let it fly to the target. Whoosh – thunk as it hits it’s mark. Is the dream too far away? Do you think it’s more difficult than you’re capable of? It’s not!
Safety is of course a main concern, but don’t let it stop you from learning how to do this safely. Don’t let fear or overwhelm trick you into avoiding instead of learning and applying training appropriately to do this marvelous sport. Just think, if you change your perspective and decide to go for it, what would that mean for you and your horse as it applies to your skills and knowledge level? Massive! Now the fact that it is do-able, doesn’t mean there isn’t work to do.
We all know people who do things badly and don’t care. You’re not one of those. You know, one of “those” who treat their horse like a tool and don’t care as long as they get what they want however that turns out. Or worse, get mad and blame their lack of skills on the horse. The blueprint does not tell you how to do less work; it tells you how to do better work. The goal isn’t to make your horse do everything you say, but to build something valuable to your horse so that your horse is a huge value to you in your mounted archery endeavor. You’re not creating a robot for you to enjoy; you’re crafting a legacy.
An assumption of skills without effort is a recipe for disaster, and we’re not about to give you that recipe.
But there are some things that you can consider as to how you want to get into this exciting game with your horse. While new venues are popping up all over the country, it can still be a bit tricky to attend one. You can check the MA3 website for upcoming events and clinics. There is some limited information on equipment as well as recommendations for trainers and educational videos.
Scoring in competitions is based on how many targets you hit and where you hit them. On a 90-meter track you’re run time is between 7 and 14 seconds. You don’t get any bonus for going faster, but you do get points deducted for going too slow.
It used to be that you had to be at a canter/lope or gallop for the runs to count, but in order to make it a bit easier for folks to participate; many competitions and groups are adding walk/trot opportunities. It’s pretty interesting to mark your 90 meters and canter your horse and have the run checked by a stopwatch. The size of your horse makes a big difference and you may be shocked at what speeds look like.
There are also various options for how many targets and what type may be on each course. You may just have one target on that 90 meter run, you may have 2, 3 or you may have 5. You may even get to shoot at a Qabac that’s 7-9 meters at the top of a pole and shoot vertically. And for the advanced, a ball type target pulled by a running horse ahead of you. All these choices depend on your skill level. The targets are around 7 meters off the track, but since your horse is moving, the shooting distance changes instant by instant.
The great news is that these competitions aren’t judged by a person. It’s you and your horse against your skills and time. You hit the targets within the time frame or you don’t. It’s all you, baby.
Now, I’m going to give you some of my personal advice; you won’t find this info anywhere else. Not everyone wants to go out and buy expensive equipment for something they don’t know if they really want to pursue or not, or at what rate and level.
So, the great news is that you can set yourself up quite nicely for about $250.
Ali-Bow (out of China) has a nice little 25# bow (yes, you can get all the other weights, too), the Tatar Bow. If you order the string from them too, ask that the string is 12 strands or it won’t fit your arrow nocks well. You can get one with a string for around $75. (See all Tatar bows from Ali-Bow, $75 – $150: https://www.alibowshop.com/product-page/tatar-bow)
I’m not sure why so many people recommend a 35# bow up to 50#. It is heavy to pull and wears you out faster so you’re not inclined to shoot as much. And it hurts your thumb. There seems to be some sort of peer pressure/ego thing to bow weight, but I never buy into that stuff Just get the 25# and enjoy yourself.
You can get Misayar 12 Pcs 30 Inch Carbon Arrow Fletched 3 Inch Vane with Field Points for Recurve Compound Bow Targeting or Hunting (Pack of 12) for about $28. These arrows won’t be the ones you’ll use as you gain experience, but they’re good for learning and you won’t care as much if you break a few with errant shots. You’ll want some duct tape to wrap your thumbs for protection, or you can get shooting gloves from Ravenswood Leather.
I love the Elkton 15” cube targets, they are expensive at $127 but well worth it. That being said, two bales of straw make a great starting target as well.
Study exactly what your body is doing versus what it should be doing. Theory is the horse can’t do much if it has to compensate for your imperfections. With study and practice you’ll discover a magical, mystical encounter with your horse and your horsemanship and the synergy of these interactions, which will give you a whole lot of fun.
Lauren Woodard has been teaching and training for over 40 years and is the author of two books that are pure magic for horsemanship – “Curbside Service” and “Balky, Balky, I Ain’t Goin’”. Find out how to be strategic in your best next steps to Exceptional Horsemanship for Mounted Archery by grabbing her “Wouldn’t It Be Great If ” Quiz to check your perspective and propel your horsemanship on her site: exceptionalhorsemanship.com