Towards the end of last year I made a decision I was going to try Mounted Archery. What the HELL was I thinking?!?! Don’t get me wrong, I think the sport looks amazing and I’m looking forward to trying it, but seriously, me? The one who still competes in the walk – trot division at the fun show? Me, the one who has a panic attack before throwing my foot into the stirrup EVERY time? Now I think it’s smart for me to attempt something where I have to let go of my reins and trust me connection with my horse, trust my ability to balance without falling (yes, I know balance has nothing to do with holding the reins but in my mind it does!), trust myself to do this at any speed faster than a walk? I cannot believe I’m thinking this is a good idea.
I love my horse, Luke. He is an wonderful boy.
I adopted him November 2011 from an amazing horse rescue, Crosswinds Equine Rescue, Inc, and have loved him from the moment he arrived in Kansas City. I took lessons, I worked with him, I try to get him the best feed, I do what every good horse owner should do, except deal with the mental block that keeps me from becoming a better rider. Luke has never done anything to make me feel like he isn’t there for me. Just the opposite really….when I’m in the saddle, he’s different. He’s slower, he’s steady, he seems to sense I want calm, and for the most part, gives it to me. When a stronger rider is on him, he goes into a more spirited version of himself and responds accordingly.
I made a decision last year. I decided I was going to STOP saying “I’m a bad rider” and figure out a way to change it. The first thing is to figure out what I would enjoy doing with Luke. I have learned I don’t truly enjoy trail rides with my friends but I do enjoy the controlled environment of arena work. Now this may be a “what comes first, the chicken or the egg” situation, meaning I might not like trail riding because I’m not confident in the saddle, but if I get better in the saddle, I might enjoy trail riding. Time will tell. The second thing is, I have to pick something or some things to do which will result in me wanting to be in saddle more. I had taken a tracing lesson last year with Brandy Von Holten and truly admire her as a person as well as an equestrian. I saw where she was going to be doing a ground zero archery clinic this spring and my curiosity was piqued. I liked archery as a child, hadn’t done it as an adult, but thought it sounded interesting. A decision was made. I was going to try mounted archery!
I started where every decision seems to lead; the internet. I searched everything I could find on archery, mounted archery, equipment, techniques, etc. I didn’t want to put a lot of money into it in case it wasn’t something I enjoyed and, let’s face it, budget always has to be a factor.
I found a bow for a reasonable price and asked my mom for it for Christmas. Since I’m her favorite daughter (ha ha, now I’ll know which sisters read my blog. I know I’m not her favorite, she loves us all equally….blah blah blah 😂) she, of course, said yes. The bow took a LOT longer to arrive than expected, I won’t go into details but it was ordered the beginning of December for a Christmas delivery and I didn’t get it until February. Once I had it, I needed to find arrows and other items just to get started. I read where real feathers for the fletchings are better but they are also more expensive. I didn’t even know if I was going to be able to shoot this thing! Oh yeah, let’s talk about this bow for a second. Mounted Archery requires you to use a traditional bow, similar to the Mongolian style….with no shelf! It’s bad enough you have to shoot at a target while you are moving, on a horse, but you have to do it with a complicated bow! Again, what am I thinking?
After a long search, I decide to order some arrows off of Amazon. I always make sure to use smile.amazon so a portion of my purchase goes to a rescue of my choice. I have Crosswinds Equine Rescue as my rescue I support. I figure they are too far from me to give of my actual time, so it’s only fitting I give back to them this way. I chose the arrows I did because they were reasonably priced, bright colors, and would be good for basic ground practice in the beginning.
I watched a few YouTube videos to help me understand exactly how to shoot this crazy bow with no shelf. I appreciated BackyardBowyer for his simple approach to teaching how to hold the bow and shoot it. I watched a few of his videos and decided I was going to try the off the thumb method because it made the most sense for grabbing and positioning the arrow while moving. I ordered a leather thumb ring when I ordered the arrows and waited patiently for the to arrive.
My plan was to practice from the ground first before even attempting to add Luke into the equation. Let’s face it, dropping an arrow on my horse would not be a good thing. I found an archery target at Wal-Mart marked down to $8.50 and went to pick it up. I now had everything I needed to attempt to shoot. A friend of mine is also trying this and said we could go out to her dads to try but I was excited so I set the target up on top of my outdoor trash can, walked back about 10 feet (I figured I’d start simple since I live in the city, didn’t want to risk my neighbors) and drew back my first arrow. THUNK! It totally missed my target and bounced off my privacy fence. Oops. Arrow # 2. Repeat of 1. Arrow #3….another repeat. This isn’t looking good for me. Arrow #5 HIT!!! Yes! I could do this! Arrow #6….repeat if 1-4. In total, I hit the target twice. Not a complete fail but not good either. I decided for the sake of my arrows, my privacy fence, and my neighbors safety, I would stop practicing in my back yard until I’m better and find a more suitable place to practice.
I’m nervous beyond belief of this endeavor but also very excited. My archery clinic is in April so I have some time to practice before then.
I’m hoping this is the year I go from “I’m not a great rider” to “I’m looking forward to riding” I’ll still do the fun shows in Oak Grove, MO each month like I have every year. I’ll stay in the walk – trot division this year and I’m ok with it. I may even consider doing some obstacle competitions this year. I just want to enjoy time with my horse ON my horse. I want to focus on moving forward and not letting fear or nervousness keep me from doing something I believe I will truly enjoy.
Have you tried Mounted Archery? Have you ever been nervous mounting? What are some things you enjoy doing with your horse? I’d love to hear your stories. Feel free to share in the comments.
Wish me luck on this new adventure. I’ll keep you posted!