Thundering hooves. Rushing wind. Your body feels strong. You feel invincible as you draw back the bow. Nothing matters anymore. Stress at work. Stress at school. Home life. For a few seconds, it’s just you, your horse and that target. This is mounted archery. It’s an incredible confidence booster, stress reliever and addictively fun. The sport has been gaining popularity in the states over the last several years, and now we finally have a mounted archery club in Lewis County with Valkyrie Mounted Archery in Winlock.
Carmen Frentress, Mounted Archery Instructor
Valkyrie Mounted Archery was started this year by Carmen Frentress, who recently moved to Lewis County when her husband’s job was transferred from Clark County to here. Carmen rode horses as a little girl but, like many of us, drifted away from them as an adult. “I got back into riding when my daughter wanted a horse, and we eventually ended up with a couple of Fjords,” she explains.
Fjords, or Norwegian Fjords, are a type of draft pony from Norway. They are known for their unique look. All fjords are dun – either grey, white, brown, yellow or red – and have a mane that is split in three lengthwise with white on the outside and black in the middle. They are known for being calm and easy to handle, making them great mounted archery horses. Carmen now owns six fjords that she is training for archery.
Carmen heard about mounted archery through a friend in 2017. “I had always been interested in archery but never had an opportunity to try it,” she says. “I saw a friend on a Facebook post that she and her husband had a club meeting at their house, and they were giving lessons. I thought I’d give it a try and see if I was any good at it.”
That’s pretty much what everyone who has tried mounted archery says, but the truth is, it’s so much fun it doesn’t matter if you are good. Plenty of us don’t hit the targets on a regular basis – but that doesn’t stop us from laughing and enjoying the increased confidence and bond with our horse.
But in Carmen’s case, she ended up being good. She is currently graded at Horse Archery Level 2 and halfway to her Horse Archery Level 3 grade. There are ten levels of Horse Archer. You achieve levels by getting the required score at national ranking events. Events consist of several different courses, including a hunt course where mounted archers shoot at targets on a trail. In the United States, there is 1 HA7 archer, 1 HA6, 9 HA5, 12 HA4, 4HA3, 12 HA2 and 26 HA1. This means Carmen is one of the top 40 horse archers in the country. She is also currently 17th in the Tier 1 National Ranking List.
Getting Started in Mounted Archery
Excited already? Carmen is a friendly, open person who ensures everyone feels welcome at Valkyrie Mounted Archery. You don’t have to own a horse or have shot a bow before. Carmen offers riding lessons, ground archery and mounted archery lessons. Everyone starts on the ground to learn form and safety techniques before mounting up. Most mounted archers continue to shoot on the ground to practice form or new techniques, as well as in the saddle.
Have your own horse? Carmen is great at taking things slow when introducing your horse to mounted archery. She finds most horses take to it easier than their owners would expect, but since safety is first and foremost, Carmen moves at the horse’s pace and does not rush the process. When we took my husband’s new horse over, even though she seemed fine with it all from the beginning, we didn’t skip any steps, just in case.
You’ll start from the ground, shooting without your horse. Time is also spent desensitizing horses to the arrows – fletchings can be scary! – quiver, bow, etc. Then, with the help of an experienced archer, you will shoot from the ground with your horse nearby. When your horse is ready, it’s time to mount up and shoot from a standstill. Often, riders will also follow another rider at the walk down the track, with the front, experienced horse and rider shooting. It’s just another way to make sure your horse is okay with his new job. As your horse – and you – are comfortable, you will progress to walking, trotting and eventually cantering while shooting! When you get that first shot into the arrow at the canter – it truly is life-changing.
Valkyrie Mounted Archery club practices are on Wednesday evenings and Sunday afternoons. Carmen has rental equipment for those wanting to try it out before investing in their own bows and arrows. To contact Carmen about joining the club and lessons, visit the Valkyrie Mounted Archery Facebook page.