A week ago I got back from the first stage of the European Grand Prix in Grunwald, Poland. The whole time I was there I kept thinking “I must update the blog”. And then I’d either fall asleep or be handed some Soplica (Polish hazelnut vodka), which I would drink until I fell asleep. So here, somewhat later than anticipated, is the first part of my review of the week.
I actually flew to Poland knowing that there was no space for me in the competition but intending to watch and support. More importantly, however, I was going for 4 days’ training under the watchful eye of Michal Choczaj of AMM Archery. This would be the first formal coaching I had received in this sport since I first took it up some 5 years ago. That time it consisted of a quick demonstration of the thumb draw and a few riding lessons.
The program for the training days was intense: a relatively civilised start time of 10am led on to 2 hours of ground archery training, followed by a half-hour break and a further 2 hours of horseback work (including Ana Sokolska’s rather gleeful insistence that we take our feet out of the stirrups and use our thigh muscles to “stand up”. For somebody who rides as rarely as I do, that gets old really quickly. Lunch was served at the beautiful house where we were staying, followed by a repeat of the morning’s program in the afternoon, often not finishing until after 8pm, at which point a collection of knackered horseback archers would collapse back in the house, eat dinner and sit back to enjoy the roaring fire and the free-flowing alcohol.
Speaking personally, I learned a huge amount in those few days. My riding in particular is much better now than it used to be (for which a fair amount of thanks must also go to Simon Harding and to Oisin Curtis, the BHAA’s Development Officer, who is also a riding and horseback archery instructor at Old Mill Stables in St Ives. I have always known that I hunch over my bow more than I like but by the end of the training week I was sitting noticeably straighter, drawing further and was generally more relaxed.
I heartily recommend AMM training courses to anybody hoping to improve their horseback archery. Closer to home, I also recommend Oisin’s lessons.
And so to the competition. Those who read this blog last year will be familiar with the Grand Prix, in which GB took silver last year. This year the competition has expanded with the addition of France, Germany and Hungary bringing the number of teams to 7 (although Finland were unable to field a side this week). To accommodate these numbers, the teams have been reduced from 4 to 3 people. Otherwise the concept remains broadly similar: 3 stages spread throughout the year; 3 events per stage (Korean, Hungarian and another chosen by the host nation) and points scored for your placing as a team within each event.
On the eve of the competition I was informed that there was a space for me after all, riding Irys, my war pony from last year. I would not be in the Grand Prix team (since we already had a full team) but I would get to ride. Given that the third event was to be a combination Grunwald Battle and Polish event, getting to ride was a big plus – it’s one of the most fun events out there.
As to how the competition went, I’ll deal with that in my next post.