Training a horse for any energetic activity requires much trust and patience for both the rider and the horse. Riding a horse while shooting an arrow is different from just riding a horse. You can split the mounted archery horse training process into three phases:
- Get the horse familiar with the arrows, quiver, bows, and shooting.
- Get the horse to maintain your desired pace.
- Follow your direction.
Getting the Horse Familiar with Arrows, Quiver, Bows, and Shooting
This stage aims to make the horse familiar with the archery tools (mounted archery bow, arrows, mounted archery quiver) so it doesn’t get shocked seeing them in its environment during a climbed archery event.
While presenting the tools to your horse, you may need someone to hold the horse. Allow it to identify and smell each piece of equipment you display while keeping your distance in case your horse becomes frightened and tries to knock you down. You can remove the material you presented if your horse remains relaxed and calm.
Initially, try approaching the horse from the side. After successfully desensitizing one side, you can then move to the other side. Due to the way a horse’s brain functions, there’s no significant connection between its right and left brains. Hence, you need to train both the right and left brain of your horse separately.
Once your horse feels comfortable with every equipment, you can proceed to the following stage.
This stage aims to help your horse become numb to the shooting sound and sight of arrow and bow.
First, shoot an arrow around your horse running loosely around a small pen, a paddock, or stable.
There’ll be two likely outcomes from this step: your horse will be intrigued and move closer to see what you’re doing, or it will get frightened and run away from your end. Either way, observe your horse’s first reaction from afar before taking the next step.
If the horse shows a positive response (comes closer), you can repeat the shooting process while someone holds it closer. In case something goes wrong (your horse pulls away or panics), your assistant should leave the horse to drift apart. You can wait a while and resume desensitizing it.
Once the horse is calm, try shooting very close to it while making sure it’s comfortable with the shooting. Get closer to its side, rear, and front and pretend to shoot (draw your bow without an arrow). Also, your assistant should hold the horse while doing this and let it go if it tries to drift away. Repeat the step continuously until you prepare the horse for the next level.
Your goal at this stage is to desensitize your horse to shots from your saddle. Keep in mind that you need someone’s help to progress in training.
Mount your horse, collect the archery equipment from your assistant, and give it back to him. Repeat this action to desensitize the horse through passing the bow to you and back to your assistant. Afterward, you can rub your horse’s body with the arrow and bow (a blunt arrow).
Drop the bow to observe how the horse will react. During a real mount archery event, your arrow or bow can accidentally drop, so you need to ensure the horse doesn’t get frightened when it falls. When you’re sure that the horse is familiar with every action you’ve introduced it to, try to shoot while your assistant is holding the horse.
Apply the principle of pull and push all through the desensitization process. Dry draw – try shooting with no arrow – before using an arrow, then lower and raise your bow before shooting.
Introduce your horse to various shooting positions: 45 degrees to the rear, 45 degrees forward, and 90 degrees to the side. You can decide on the area to try first. We recommend you start with the 45 degrees forward position.
Train Your Horse for Shooting in Motion
As soon as your horse is familiar with you shooting while it’s standing still, try to make it move while you shoot. Begin from walking to trotting, to cantering, and galloping.
Getting the Horse to Maintain Your Desired Pace
Before going through the next phase of mounted archery horse training, you need to understand that riding your horse while holding an arrow and bow is entirely different from traditional horse riding.
It’ll be best if you don’t use the conventional rein aids for directing a horse during mounted archery. Instead, utilize your legs, verbal commands, and seat position to ask your horse to stop, slow down, or speed up.
In the first part of the training, you can train your horse to maintain a pace using rein aids. Release the reins as soon as the horse moves within your desired speed. Only apply pressure if your horse is changing the speed. After using reins to encourage the horse, you can replace them with your legs.
Use Your Legs
To make your horse move, squeeze your calves together to apply pressure to its sides. Release the tension after the horse moves at your desired pace.
If your horse breaks or slows, apply the pressure using your legs again. With time, your horse will be able to keep your desired pace.
Keep in mind that you’re not trying to control the horse, but to offer it some tasks. Hence, it’ll help if you don’t nag it continually but interfere only when its pace changes.
Use Seat Position
You can influence the horse’s pace using your seat position. You’ll flow with the horse when you want it to speed up or keep its tempo, and brace or stiffen your seat to stop or slow down.
Following Your Direction
The same way you control your horse’s pace using your legs, you can also direct its movement using the same legs. For instance, if you want the horse to turn right, but it drifts away to the left, you can apply pressure using only your left leg to set it to the right. Once it responds, relax the leg and allow your horse to move on its own again.