A growing sport has taken a foothold in Stanly County, or in the case of horse archery, left its hoof prints.
Rising Arrow Mounted Archery, headed by Aleshia Harrison and based on Angus Hills Farms just off St. Martin Road, hosted a clinic recently to teach the finer points of the sport.
The clinic was taught by Diana Olds, the founder and CEO of Chelee Warriors Mounted Archery in Levittown, located just outside of Philadelphia. Olds is also the vice president and serves on the board of directors of Horse Archery USA, a national organization promoting horseback archery.
Rising Arrow is the only club of its kind in North Carolina and just one of five clubs in the East Central Region of Horse Archery USA. Nationwide, the organization has approximately 30 clubs, with the majority in California.
Harrison participates in mounted archery with her partner, Samson, a 12-year-old Belgian quarter horse whom has also won the western pleasure championship for two years in a row. She has been doing horse archery for more than two years, but the Rising Arrow club is about a year old.
“We’re hoping that now that we’ve kind of gotten how things run we can do more of these, can bring in more people to train with from different areas, because everybody trains differently,” Harrison said.
The sport primarily has its roots in Native American culture but can also find other origins in places like Mongolia, Turkey and Korea.
As a sport, horse archery is fairly young. But Harrison said the sport has had a resurgence the past two years, especially in the United States.
“There are constantly new people who want to learn and coming in,” Harrison said. “We try to accommodate any level you are. We will teach you from the ground up.”
Literally, new participants start on the ground learning the skills to pull an arrow from its container (a quiver), aim the arrow and shoot before doing that while riding. Once aboard the horse, participants start with the horse walking before getting up to faster gaits.
The sport combines elements of equestrian sports as well as archery. Riders do not use reins to control where the horse goes because the athlete has to load, aim and shoot an arrow at the target all in a matter of seconds.
“You have to focus on letting the horse do his thing. You have to be loading, aiming and shooting, all of that at the same time. There are literally a million things going through your brain before you let that shot off,” Harrison said.
“You have to implicitly trust (the horse) because you have no reins…you have to trust he’s going to go where he is supposed to go at the speed you asked him to go.”
Harrison said doing mounted archery has helped Samson and herself in their horse showing competitions in which they compete.
At the clinic, Olds said she got into the sport because she “wanted a cultural connection” to her family’s Native American past.
She said every country in the world at some point had some form of mounted warriors who had an archery aspect to it “whether as hunters or as defenders.”
Movies were also an influence for Olds, who said films like “Troy” or John Wayne movies made her want to explore the aspects of mounted archery.
“I have this weird fantasy of wanting to run up to someone fighting and dive off my horse to break it up. That’s like a dream…that’s the kind of movies I grew up with,” Olds said.
For most mounted archers, the ability to hit the target while rider and horse are moving is empowering, Olds said.
Olds said she has taught many individuals who came in quiet and shy and who “didn’t trust themselves or their partnership with their horse” who became “warrior princesses.”
Harrison said like most challenging games or activities in life, mounted archery is “easy to learn in the beginning, but it takes a lifetime to master.”
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