The 11 girls of Girl Scout Troop 6556 were transported back in time as they learned the ancient art of horse archery on Sunday, surrounded by the lush green hills of Gilchrist Farm.
The weekend marked the second time Gilchrist Farm has held its monthly horse archery lessons, which consist of multiple two-hour sessions held Friday through Sunday. Monica Gilchrist, owner of Gilchrist Farm, came up with the idea after meeting instructor James Zoppe.
“I was introduced to James when we hosted him here for a joust for my son’s scout celebration, and we were in awe of how he was able to preserve these truly ancient arts, so we continued to look for ways to work together, ”said GIlchrist. . “We have an archery program here and an equestrian program, so we decided the natural step would be to put the two together and have him teach this class.”
She said that since the first course in March, interest in the program has grown, with individuals of all ages and groups keen to enroll.
The course is suitable for beginners and begins by teaching participants how to shoot an arrow on the ground, then moves on to shooting arrows while walking and finally shooting at targets from a moving horse. Although many participants had initial reservations about the safety of mounted archery, Zoppe said he shares these concerns, but the activity is much safer and more enjoyable than people realize. think.
“It’s not a contact sport like jousting, so it’s not as intimidating,” Zoppe said. “Monica has trained the horses not to be afraid of the sound of the bow and we always have people diligently monitoring safety breaches. Children need to know what they are missing. If they’re around screens all the time, they don’t even know how much fun it is to shoot an arrow and work with horses. This kind of activity promotes bonding and conversations between friends and family.
Suzie Vicuna, one of the Girl Scout troop leaders, said she initially wanted to get the girls to learn to ride horses, but felt that archery on horseback presented an even more exciting opportunity. She and the other mothers present also had the chance to try the class.
“It’s a great experience and something out of the ordinary, and neither of these girls really did archery or horseback riding, so it was really exciting,” she said. . “I liked that too and it made me feel very powerful. It’s a very comfortable experience that I got to see building their confidence and I’m going to recommend all the girls I know to try it out.
Eleven-year-old Toni Alderete said she was nervous to try out archery on horseback but would like to continue learning.
“At first I was nervous about horses being rude or hitting someone with an arrow, but now that I’ve done it it’s actually easier than I thought.” , said Alderete.
Zoppe and Gilchrist were both excited about the reception of the program and wish to continue to develop the program. Gilchrist wanted to make it part of his summer camp programs and maybe run classes for more than one weekend per month and Zoppe was considering competitions when his students became more qualified.
“Archery is immediately rewarding when you hit that target, and driving is a challenge for people while not being out of the realm of possibility,” Zoppe said. “A lot of these kids have to get out of their comfort zone… when you bring them in here and give them the encouragement they deserve, they really get better. Our barometer of success is in smiles.
To learn more about Gilchrist Farm and the Horse Archery program, visit gilchristfarm.com.