We’e just got back from a fun few days in France, down at the Domaine de Gauchoux near Limoges. This is a big equestrian centre owned by our friend Alan and he has lots of archery tracks set up and plenty of horses to use.
We stayed in yurts on site which are surprisingly warm and comfortable, especially as mine wasn’t one of the ones that lost its waterproof top during the storm we had one night, and were a mere short stagger back from the communal dining (and drinking) room.
The first morning saw us start in the indoor school with drills and skills on the ground. After that we were up in the big sand school with Alan and Oisin (the coach at Old Mill Stables in Cornwall) putting the kids through their paces. This included shooting on the “wrong” side which is every bit as hard as it sounds……
Then after lunch it was time for more warm up activities….
….then horses were retrieved and taken down to the main archery track for a lesson with Emil, a lovely chap and excellent horse archer from Sweden who just happens to be the current world champion. He was showing the kids how to be more effective when it comes to forward and back shots. This involved showing us his foot (and more importantly how much of it should be in the stirrup…..)
…and doing a lot of squirming around on a horse’s back
Next it was time for the kids to put all this into practise And eventually they even got their bows back!
So after an informative and fun first day, it was back to the ranch for lots of nice food and some cider from our sponsor….
Day two, and in the morning we went to visit the castle at Confolens and then on to a field archery course. This proved to be a lot of fun although several of the targets were right by the river so a few arrows went for a swim.
Then in the afternoon everyone did the IHAA postal match. All 24 of them. Which meant that the last group was virtually shooting in the dark but never mind, it was a beautiful afternoon.
Meanwhile, I got to play with one of Alan’s horses who hadn’t been introduced to archery yet. Lovely boy, very sensitive so took him a while to feel OK with what was going on, but we made some progress…….
After that I spent some time getting two small boys to stop arguing long enough to practise their archery. Then one of the French lads turned up and wanted showing some new stuff so it turned into a bit of a bilingual session.
Once the last of the postal match competitors had finished their runs (in the dark) we all went back to another nice hot meal and some Soplica 🙂
Sunday morning meant a circus skills workshop for the kids and messing about in the indoor school shooting for the adults. Spent a fair amount of time learning about different ways to hold arrows in the hand when shooting and different techniques for drawing them from a quiver too. Always good to exchange ideas with other horseback archers……
Then after lunch it was time for the Hungarian competition so everyone could put their squirming around in the saddle techniques into practise.
Our genial host Alan doesn’t look too pleased with things in this photo though!
Again, I spent some time in the afternoon with the “learner” horse. We took him up to the sand school where the two small boys had momentarily stopped arguing long enough to do some shooting practise on a small pony. Big horse soon got the idea that the pointy sticks weren’t going to do him any harm. Small pony already knew this……
After the competition was finished (before dark this time, clocks had changed overnight) there was time to go up to the hunt track for a quick whizz round. Think everyone enjoyed that 🙂
On Monday morning it was fairly horrible, weather-wise, so we repaired to the indoor school for some more target practise. Some of the targets were moving which made it more fun. Somehow, Ali managed to break one of Oisin’s arrows when she hit it as they were both aiming for the same target!
By lunchtime, people were starting to leave, so we took the obligatory team coaches photo
After lunch, we sat in the warm by the log burner and Dan (BHAA president and current British champion) showed us loads of useful stuff, like how to fletch arrows and care for the bow properly, and match arrows to bows.
Then we had one final meal together before an early night and early start for home the next day.
It was a fantastic few days with some great people and we’ve all learned loads. Really hoping it happens again next year…….