Lessons Learned at a Bridleless Riding and Mounted Archery Clinic

Ride horse without hands on the reins and hit target with arrow. Yep, that about sums up a Bridleless Riding and Mounted Archery clinic . . . or does it? Are there bigger, yet perhaps more subtle lessons learned as well? How does a group of people get from either no archery experience, but have riding experience in a variety of disciplines or no/limited riding experience, but have archery experience to mounted archery? On top of that, how do most get to the same level at about the same time? It takes a systematic approach of general lessons coupled with some bigger, more foundational, lessons. Let’s start with the general, expected lessons learned.


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General, and Somewhat Expected Lessons Learned at a Bridleless Riding and Mounted Archery Clinic

Lessons Learned at a Bridleless Riding and Mounted Archery Clinic  | SLO Horse News
  1. Many horses are happy and relaxed while being ridden bridleless.
  2. We learned what “nocking an arrow” is while practicing it throughout the weekend in an effort to perform it “blind”. 
  3. Experiencing various types of bows to get a feel for what equipment would work best for us.
  4. Casting arrows at targets is possible from many different angles, even facing backwards.
  5. The best method of introducing arrows and bows to our horses – both stationary and in motion – is gently and systematically allowing for acceptance.
  6. Most of us experienced the first thrill of landing an arrow into a target from horseback.
  7. Some riders cantered and shot at the end of the Repeat Offenders clinic.
Lessons Learned at a Bridleless Riding and Mounted Archery Clinic  | SLO Horse News

Yet, There Were Bigger, More Subtle, Lessons Learned at the Bridleless Riding and Mounted Archery Clinic

Trust is a Two-way Street

Trust means, the assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something, says Merriam-Webster dictionary. Riding a horse bridleless requires the rider to rely on the character, ability and strength and proper response of the horse. Yet, the pair is a team. The horse must also rely on the rider to give the proper, more subtle cues while staying in balance. This trust keeps the team safe and going in the right direction. Riding a horse bridleless requires trust which is a two-way street.

Less is More

To bridle, a verb, means to restrain, check, or control with or as if with a bridle. How many times have we witnessed this action used on a horse void of any feeling, or sensitivity to how much bridling is actually needed? Removing the tool of the bridle from the rider’s hands, compels the rider to employ other means. The rider will now have to use the influence his or her body, with the aid of a progress string, rather than using the hands on the reins, to steer, stop and swerve the horse. Horses appreciate this freedom and demonstrate their happiness with more relaxed, springy and happy gaits. Riding a horse bridleless demonstrates that less is more. Heather Lomax, our Bridleless Riding clinician had all the bridles off the horses before the lunch break.

Developing a Good Habit is Easier than Turning a Bad/Uneducated Habit Around

Lessons Learned at a Bridleless Riding and Mounted Archery Clinic  | SLO Horse News

Coming into this Bridleless Riding and Mounted Archery clinic, I had some experience and a little instruction with standing archery. To get “ready” I was practicing shooting arrows using a plastic “toy” bow and some plastic-fletched arrows. In doing so, I developed bad/uneducated habits regarding loading an arrow for mounted archery. At the clinic, Elizabeth taught a systematic approach to properly nocking (loading) an arrow. Her system develops the often-utilized action of “blind” nocking in mounted archery.

Without even thinking, my nocking action would start out the “old” way I had practiced. This cumbersome method was not helping me develop a sleek blind nocking action very quickly. In mounted archery, time is of the essence. One can’t wait for everything to line up perfectly. Taking too much time results in shots missed.

So, I had to really focus on un-doing my uneducated loading habit before I could refine blind nocking. After the clinic I didn’t shoot my plastic bow any more. Soon, I had a real Mongolian Tatar bow with feather-fletched arrows to practice with. The first goal was to get my blind nocking technique refined. I waited until I was comfortable with my new archery equipment before re-introducing the activity to “my” horse Carrera.

A Systematic Approach to Learning Something New Develops Good Habits

Lessons Learned at a Bridleless Riding and Mounted Archery Clinic  | SLO Horse News

Every aspect of mounted archery was broken down, by Elizabeth Tinnan our clinician, into a system that built on itself. How else could she take a group of people, each with his or her own level of experience with archery and riding separately, and bring us all to the point of shooting our first arrow off a horse? This systematic approach lays the foundation for developing good habits. Habits to make us more efficient, accurate and most importantly, safe to be around. After all, a loaded bow is truly a weapon.

The Importance of Safety Magnifies when Horseback Riding and Bows and Arrows are Combined

Horseback riding is dangerous. A loaded bow is a weapon. Now put both of those activities together. The need for safety has now been magnified. Elizabeth is very mindful of safety. I would even say, Pony Club safety level mindful of the importance of keeping all participants, riders and observers out of the line of fire. In addition, she kept us keenly aware of where our arrows were pointing, our spacing in relation to other participants and not straying behind the targets. Arrows don’t always go straight. An arrow glancing off a target can literally go anywhere.

Posiedon’s Horse Archers

Throughout the clinic days this thread of bigger lessons was weaving itself through the participants, binding us together and turning us into a brand-new band of horse archers. The camaraderie experience builds on these bigger lessons. Thus, enabling us to proceed as a new band of horse archers, Posideon’s Horse Archers, which is affiliated with Horse Archery USA.

Release Your Inner Warrior Clinic is Coming Back to the Central Coast

Come learn how to release your inner warrior. You can experience the Bridleless Riding and Mounted Archery clinic. All breeds of horses are welcome. All disciplines welcome. Work at your own pace. All equipment is provided. A suitable horse can be provided for rent. Space is limited. All clinics will be held at Varian Arabians in Arroyo Grande. For the best experience get the full weekend package.

  • Bridleless and Mounted Archery Clinics – Full weekend package is $450
  • Bridleless Riding – Friday, September 11, 2020 – $175* Get comfortable riding hands-free with Heather Lomax’s Introduction to Bridleless Riding clinic.
  • Mounted Archery Clinic – Any two days package for *$325
  • Basic Introduction – Saturday, September 12, 2020 – $175* Basic introduction to Mounted Archery led by Elizabeth Gonzalez Tinnan.
  • Repeat Offenders – Sunday, September 13, 2020 – $175* Build on your foundation through the Repeat Offenders with Elizabeth Tinnan.
  • Auditors are welcome on all three days. $20/day for the Bridleless Riding clinic and $25/day for both Mounted Archery clinics. Auditor payment will be taken at the clinic.

As a follow up to the Arroyo Grande horse archery clinics, all participants in the mounted archery clinic will be eligible to become members of the local Posiden’s Horse Archers mounted archery club, through becoming a member of HAUSA. In an effort to provide on-going feedback, the club meets monthly. The purpose is for horse archery students to continue the fun of playing together with horses, bows and arrows!


Photo Credit: Lynda Roeller Photography (except ad and logo)


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Former Pony Clubber, Eventer and Dressage rider who balanced training and showing with getting a college degree (from Cal Poly SLO), becoming a wife and raising a family. Presently she is enjoying riding a Rocky Mounted Gaited horse and exploring Mounted Archery. Her new baby is Whisper, a Connemara filly.

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