Local horse enthusiasts have embarked on a new sport and are well on their way to making a name for themselves in the horse archery world after competing June 4-6 at the Tennessee Valley Archery Versatility Open. Held in Lewisburg, Tenn., The event was part of the International Horseback Archery Alliance World Grand Prix and was the first competition for several youth and Erin Erickson from Rockin ‘E Ranch near the community of Warren Plains.
“The sport has a growing youth population,” said Erickson, who runs the nonprofit Rockin ‘Riders of Rockin’ E Ranch Youth Equestrian Program. “This is very fun.”
She said the local horse archery team is the largest of its kind in the region and the sport’s popularity is exploding.
Members of the Rockin ‘Riders are used to speed events, but archery on horseback is something new. They were introduced to the sport by clinician Elizabeth Tinnan after Annabelle Sharp and Charlotte Livengood, both of Warrenton, attended a clinic in Wake Forest.
They borrowed Tinnan’s equipment, learned what to buy, bought six bows and arrows, and Erickson hosted a beginners clinic at his ranch in March with 16 attendees, including 12 young people.
Thinking they would be a good fit, Erickson said, Tinnan introduced the group to Rob Adams of Ashland, Va. He was coaching his daughter, Arwen, a rising star in the mounted archery world, and novice archers joined their club, Heart from an archery on horseback.
“Since then we’ve been training almost every weekend,” Erickson said.
Adams said her daughter, who was on her school’s archery team, came home one day and asked her if she could shoot an arch from a horse.
“I don’t think that’s a thing,” he recalls saying.
He did some research, and of course that was one thing.
Now, after just a few years, she is one of the only juniors ranked nationally at 13.
Arwen’s mother, Angie Adams, said her daughter was bitten by the archery bug in a clinic. Personally, she enjoys the sport because of the camaraderie and support archers receive. She enjoys seeing a group of people support and encourage her daughter.
Making the Top 30 this month took a lot of practice, said Arwen Adams, who has always loved horses.
“They are part of my life,” she says.
What she values about mounted archery is the support of her competitors, who are also her friends.
“We all want to fight, and we still support each other just as much,” said Arwen. “There is no conflict.”
“It’s really uplifting,” Angie added.
Arwen said she trains every day if she can, and twice a day near competitions.
Here at home, the horse archers who competed in Tennessee have only been in the sport for a few months and found themselves tested in the rain, having to do back and long shots, hitting front and side targets and ground targets. , all while sitting with their hands free on a galloping horse.
Norlina’s Caleb Willis, who has been riding for 10 years, just started horse archery in April. He placed third in the skirmish in the Grimm Junior Mule Division.
“You have to have fun and not think about where you stand,” he said, “and ignore the pressure.”
The most experienced young rider, with 16 years of experience, said the competition was fun and that she considered it another day of training.
“I had to soften myself up so my horse didn’t feel my tension,” she said.
On Kahlua, Sharp competed in the Novice Division and placed second in the Skirmish and third in the Tower event.
Livengood, a rider for 7-8 years, competed over Dory in the junior division and found the event stressful. She placed third on the Hunt course.
Jessie Ann VanName, who has been riding for less than three years, got a ranking score on Poot in the junior division, and Erickson on Clay in the novice division. She placed first in skirmish and third in chase.
The Oakville Hunt Club helped sponsor the trip and Erickson is seeking sponsors for upcoming competitions in Virginia in July, Tennessee in October, and Florida in November. To donate, contact Erin Erickson at 252-287-6594 or click the Donate Online button at rockineriders.com.
Rockin ‘E Ranch will be hosting another horse archery clinic with Elizabeth Tinnan the first weekend in October. For more information contact Erickson or visit the Rockin ‘E Ranch Horse Training & Boarding Facebook page.