We’ve all seen movies where someone shoots an arrow from horseback. And it’s impressive to say the least. Two weekends ago, I watched the Rogue Mounted Archers at the NW Horse Expo in Oregon. It was spectacular! Before that moment, I had no idea people competed in mounted archery. But they do. In fact, it is a world-wide sport that has been gaining popularity in the United States since 2005, when the Mounted Archery Association of the Americas (MA3) was formed. It is the largest group in the United States. It’s a fast and furious sport unlike any other. And those that do it say it’s quite addicting.
“I have been riding horses all my life and I have never experienced something so empowering – the way this does, that combined with the connection you make with your horse,” Beene told iHearthorses. “There are no hands on the clock when you are shooting horse archery, time flies when you are having fun.”
Check out this short video of a Rogue Mounted Archers practice:
Looks like so much fun!
I contacted Rogue Mounted Archers and interviewed Roberta Beene, one of their trainers, to spread the word about this amazing sport that truly tests the skill of horse and rider while preserving a piece of history – the mounted archer.
How did you get involved in mounted archery?
RB: Darran [Wardle another trainer and co-founder of Rogue Mounted Archers] and I came on to the scene in 2009 when we participated a clinic with Katie Stearns and Holm Neumann. We fell in love with the sport but quickly recognized that there was a need for some organization if it were to continue to grow and joined the board. I am currently serving as the Vice President. Together with Dan and Claire Sawyer of the British Horseback Archery Association, we built the rules and the ranking system that MA3 and several other countries use today.
What happens at a competition?
RB: Various course set ups are used in mounted archery competitions. As representatives MA3, we ask that organizers present their course designs to the competitors several months ahead of time so that they may practice and prepare in advance. With the ranking system in place, we are now able to offer competitors the opportunity to shoot against others at a similar skill level. A typical U.S. national competition will have 30 horses and over 35 riders, will be held on a standard 90 meter course, include riders of every level, Junior and Senior prize are offered as well.
One of my proudest contributions to the mounted archery community is the Postal Match. The Postal Match is a competition that can held at your own range on your own horse within the allotted time frame. We set up a predetermined course style and other clubs do the same. We all time and score the event then send in and tally the results. Our largest Postal Competition included over 13 countries and 63 competitors. These competitions are treated as seriously as any national competition would be. It is a great way to compete without the expense of travel while limiting the variables (horses seem to get rattled when hauled over long distances) and internationally we would not be able to compete with each other on a regular basis. Postal Matches are a great way to draw the mounted archery community together.
How long does it usually take, on average, for someone who already knows how to ride to be able to hit a target?
RB: In my experience, it is much more difficult to learn to ride at a gallop than it is to learn to shoot archery. It takes a few minutes to learn the techniques to blind nock and shoot, but, it takes years to master. The good news is that the sport is so much fun at every level, you hardly notice the time pass. Usually, a weekend clinic is all it takes to get started. The process takes as long as it takes to teach the archer to handle the bow and arrows safely and to prepare horse to accept the experience of both self-carriage (releasing the reins while still under control) and desensitization of the sights and sounds of archery.
What’s the hardest part about mounted archery?
RB: Time…there is never enough. It’s like when we were kids and it came time to go home for dinner. The doom you would feel is the same disappointing feeling that a horse archer gets when it’s a sunny day and we have to work instead of practice, it’s heartbreaking. There are few things in life that offer such empowerment and instant gratification. With mounted archery, you get exactly what you put into it.
What kind of horse is best suited for this sport?
RB: Mounted archery is best intended for a horse that needs a job and has a willing disposition. All breeds are welcome in the sport. I happen to compete with Missouri Fox Trotters because that is a breed that I love. But, honestly, any horse that can canter or run will do. In Australia, I rode a Percheron. I have ridden Mustangs, Quarter Horses, Thoroughbreds and Arabs, even Mangalrga Marchadors and all of them took to the sport with grace and understanding.
Let’s talk about Spot. How did the idea for him come up? Is he used mainly for beginners?
RB: Spot was the brainchild of Darran Wardle, co-founder of the Rogue Mounted Archers. He built the first “iron horse”, a quad trailer with a barrel with a saddle on it to be pulled with a standard four wheeler, in 2011. He came up with the design out of the need to prepare archers to safely shoot and reload quickly without adding undue pressure to a horse that is learning the sport as well (and he never tires out as long as you keep gas in him). All levels of shooter use spot to improve their timing and accuracy. Honestly, sometimes it’s fun to go out and shoot without having to clean and tack up a horse.
I understand you travel all over the world for competitions. How many competitions are there a year?
RB: The sport has grown significantly in the last couple of years. This year, in the United States alone, The Mounted Archery Association of the Americas has four national and international competitions around the country. Internationally, there are countless competitions the top competitions to attend are in Hungary, Poland, Jordan, Germany, Sweden, Australia, Japan and Korea.
What should someone do if they are interested in learning how to do mounted archery?
RB: I highly recommend MA3 for groups interested in getting involved with mounted archery. With six Affiliated Clubs (click on the link for specifics MA3 Affiliated Clubs) around the country and several others building membership, MA3 is the largest and oldest mounted archery organization in the US. (Private Note: There are others who are holding horse archery competitions in the US, however they do not follow the MA3 rules and guidelines. For safety and insurance reasons I cannot recommend them).
If you are interested in learning more, Beene welcomes you to contact her directly at www.mountedarchery.org or 541-826-8232. Clinics and private instruction is also available from any of the MA3 Affiliated Clubs around the country (MA3 Affiliated Clubs).