Eyes of Erin

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The journey commences

It was around this time of year where one thing was on my mind. Summer was ending, and with it the firm ground, dry skies and horse archery season. That year was the first that horse archery was known to me, and I knew almost nothing about the archery part of that equation.

The first time I shot a bow was at a horse archery clinic, I did some research in my area and found a one day introduction. The clinic had Hungarian horse bows, without the arrow shelf of the conventional modern recurve. They were gorgeous, coated in leather and embossed with elaborate designs. I expected to not be very good at hitting the targets and I was definitely correct on that. I also had some surprising realizations very quickly of what I needed to work on in order to get better at the sport. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t the horseback riding. Having ridden as much as I could for as long as I can remember, I was balanced and found no issues in carrying around the bow and dropping the reins to shoot.

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The first day with a bow

What I did have a giant problem with was knocking on to the string. At the time I had to look down at my hands to see what I was doing while trotting on a horse. As any riding instructor will tell you, looking up is imperative while riding. It sends your balance to a much more consistent place, and it helps your mind and body anticipate the action and direction of the horse. The importance of looking up is increased ten fold during horse archery. This meant I needed to learn how to knock my arrows without looking down, ever.

Shooting from the ground at the most recent competition at Volcano Ridge

I left the clinic knowing that for the next six months at least, I didn’t need to be shooting a bow off of a horse to get better at mounted archery. I needed to find an archery school where I could take weekly lessons and simply get good at the shooting side of things.

Taking what I had learned from my initial experience, I went to Youtube and was shocked at how fast and accurate some of the top horse archers really are. Their movement from quiver to knocking to draw and release was the exact same every single time they shot and they were shooting a TON of arrows.

This style of archery isn’t your typical high school PE class. It isn’t Olympic Recurve and it definitely isn’t anything close to compound shooting. When I set out to take archery lessons from somewhere in Vancouver, I had zero idea of the different types of archery; all I knew is that I wanted to shoot from horseback.

Thankfully, I live in the same city as Lykopis Archery and I finally was accepted to their Intro to Archery class (after quite a while searching and trying other places). They’re the only Traditional Archery school in my area, and the only school who knew what I wanted to learn before I did.

Archery became for me something of a salvation through that winter. I deal with clinical depression, anxiety and a heavy dose of seasonal depression. The only thing I did other than work was ride horses. In the winter even that can become laborious, picking manure from ice, wearing a fleece to ride and becoming sweaty and then promptly damp and cold directly after the ride… I digress. Archery was something I’d been missing for a very long time. Once I had the gear and enough direction from my ongoing lessons, I could pick up my gear and go shoot at an open range in the evening whenever I wanted.

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Most recent competition at Volcano Ridge

In a more subtle way, archery also aided my horsemanship skills. To retain focus during a chatty class of archery students in order to work on your own development is the beginning of a journey into meditation, peace in solitude, or zen. This journey is thousands and thousands of years old, and I’m infatuated with it. Whether it be shooting, reading, or writing about archery, something about this sport has brought another sparkle to my life, something not dependent on the seasons.

Archery is humbling, it tests you and your patience. Everything about what is learned on the ground in archery can be applied to horse archery. It was a quick lesson to know that every arrow shot from the ground makes one a better horse archer. So I set goals, spent some money on proper gear, invested time in the sport and then my life changed.

Erin Jardine