We back and train all our horses ourselves and have many years’ experience between us. We like to start with youngsters as it is so rewarding to build up a trusting relationship right from the start of a horse’s life. We use many techniques to desensitise them to the sights and sounds of horseback archery, which is not usually a problem as we believe that our horses should see and experience as much of the world as they can from an early age so that their lives become as stress free as possible.
To this end we also try to keep them as naturally as we can, so they live out all year round unrugged and unshod. We like to spend time with them as often as we can too. Not always riding or training, but just being with them, maybe giving them scratches, or a bit of massage. They seem to appreciate it.
The “old man” of the herd is Gandalf, a 23 year old Percheron cross we have had since he was eleven. He has done a bit of everything; before we got him he pulled a tourist carriage in France and since then has done TREC, dressage, Medieval fairs, fun rides, even a bit of endurance as well as many, many miles of hacking. So when we took up horseback archery, he was completely unfazed by any of it. This makes him an ideal beginner’s mount, he is happy to doze off opposite the target whilst a novice archer practises shooting!
Next is Skyfaxa, an eight year old appaloosa x cob. She is a complicated little soul, who often tends to worry and overthink things, so taking up archery was a bit more challenging for her. She is still not happy with competing at speed and tends to gallop down the track rather than cantering, so we have gone right back to basics and at the moment she is only doing archery at the walk.
And finally, there is Elentari, a five year old Comtois x Mérens who was bred up in the Pyrenees and is a very special girl. She is being backed and brought on slowly, giving her plenty of time to grow and with lots of groundwork to build up her muscles and develop suppleness and a strong core. Despite genetic eye defects linked to her coat colour, she is usually relaxed about life and recently had a couple of arrows shot from her back for the first time with a minimum of fuss.