At Equifest, sling­ing ar­rows from horses is all in a day’s fun

The Buffalo News - - LOCAL NEWS - By Bar­bara O’Brien

The ar­rows are in a quiver tied at the thigh. A rider climbs on the horse and lets go of the reins. She pulls out an ar­row and puts it on the string as she guides the horse around the ring, us­ing her body and voice to di­rect it.

She launches the ar­row to a tar­get as the horse can­ters in the op­po­site direc­tion.

This is mounted archery – an in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar sport in the United States.

“You feel pretty pumped,” said Caro­line North. “I mean, come on, you’re out there shoot­ing a bow and ar­row.”

Shoot­ing a bow and ar­row from a horse, that is.

A pro­fes­sional rider who owns a barn in Collins where she teaches rid­ing, North at­tended a clinic on mounted archery last year. She is one of the found­ing mem­bers of Eter­nal Flame Mounted Archery, the first club in New York State to af­fil­i­ate with Horse Archery USA.

North and other mem­bers of the Lock­port-based club showed off their sport Saturday at Western New York Equifest at the Erie County Fair­grounds. The free fes­ti­val, which fea­tures more than 100 ven­dors and var­i­ous demon­stra­tions, con­tin­ues from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. to­day.

“It’s lit­er­ally a sport you can come as you are,” said Diana Olds, of Buck County, Pa., a re­gional rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion. “It doesn’t mat­ter what your horse looks like, it doesn’t mat­ter what tack you ride in, it doesn’t mat­ter what bow you have. It’s just come, shoot, en­joy your­self. If you want to be com­pet­i­tive, you can.”

“It uses kind of the Zen part of your brain,” North said. “You can’t think about it a whole lot, which is re­ally nice to do when you’re on your horse. It gets you and the horse into a lit­tle dif­fer­ent frame of mind than typ­i­cal rid­ing.”

North said she was “kind of in­spired” to try mounted archery by “Game of Thrones” and movies.

Alaina Reid of Lock­port or­ga­nized the first clinic in the area, given by Olds.

“It’s a good way to build a good bond with your horse. It doesn’t mat­ter how good or bad you are at archery,” she said. “You’ve got to be able to drop your reins with­out touch­ing the horse’s mouth again. So you’re us­ing your seat, you’re us­ing your legs, you’re us­ing your voice.”

Equifest’s events to­day in­clude a bar­rel rac­ing clinic by Am­ber­ley Sny­der. Sny­der was in a car ac­ci­dent in 2010 that left her par­a­lyzed, but she has re­turned to com­pet­ing and telling her in­spi­ra­tional story.

Equifest is spon­sored by the Western Chap­ter of the New York State Horse Coun­cil.

“Peo­ple don’t re­al­ize what horses do for the econ­omy,” said Peter M. Tar­nawskyj, chap­ter pres­i­dent, not­ing that horse own­ers buy ev­ery­thing from sad­dles to trail­ers to hay lo­cally.

“Most of that stuff is not bought on the in­ter­net, it’s bought lo­cally.”

John Hickey/Buf­falo News

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