After 22 hours’ travel and two near misses with flight connections, Claire and I have arrived at the Cascades Mounted Archery Center near Bend, Oregon. Our hosts, Holm and Susan Neumann, are the archetype of a phenomenon that you come across a lot in this sport: I consider them old and dear friends, despite having only met them 11 months ago and spent a grand total of maybe 2 weeks on the same continent as them. The hospitality here is everything I had expected. It’s like everybody here is one big family. But in a good way…
We’ve been out for a couple of trail rides on the beautiful horses, which are the easiest horses I’ve ever ridden. They are wonderfully responsive but also very forgiving. I can’t wait to shoot off them.
Today was the first day of bow camp proper. The ethos here is very much on learning and exchanging ideas. We started with a welcome address from Holm and then a lecture from Trey about the history and future of the sport, mixing fascinating insights into the development of archery from prehistoric time through to the suggestion, with which I wholeheartedly agree, that the sport is currently in a period of flux and experiment, with new rules being tried and every aspect of the sport being changed in many different ways. The changes we make now will become the precedents and the rules of the future. There are a few of us here with a keen interest in the rules and the direction of the sport and we are having some very productive discussions about the way that we would like to see the sport develop.
The rest of the morning was taken up with talks on horsemanship, from different saddle positions to reading a horse’s walk and using it to make predictions about how it will run. I learned more in two hours than I have learned in the past year.
After lunch the focus moved to bows. Trey took people through some of the mechanics of how a bow works and then he and I demonstrated bareshaft and paper tuning, with discussion of the changes that you can make to the bow and/or the arrow and the effect those changes will have on the dynamic spine. After the demonstration everybody had the opportunity to experiment with their arrow and bow tuning, addressing a common failing among horseback archers: ignoring the setup of their equipment, which we do at our peril. A few simple changes can improve the performance massively. We train and practise or archery and our riding but for some reason too many of us don’t take the time to optimise the equipment.
Two games have become popular. One is thrown targets. One person throws a disc through the air and three archers with blunts will attempt to shoot it. The other event that is popular consists of two frames, each supporting four hanging targets that are free to swing. One archer stands facing each frame and they race to see who can put an arrow in each of the four targets. The race aspect simulates the pressure of competition. Archers who could quite easily hit each target in turn without trouble suddenly find that it’s really quite difficult when you can hear the other guy hitting them faster than you are! As the sun goes goes down, of course, it gets harder still…
Anyway, this evening’s fish tacos and my two mugs of bourbon are telling me it’s time to stop typing and join the party, so I shall leave it there and post again later in the week. Apparently tomorrow we’re shooting from a trailer being pulled by a quad bike!