A flight of fancy, on horseback

By: 
Johnathan Hettinger —
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Enterprise photos by Nate Howard

Morgan Jossi, of Bozeman, releases an arrow on a target during a horseback archery session outside of Livingston, Oct. 27.

At left, Daniella Crawford, of Livingston, and Trish Wild, above, take aim at targets mounted on round hay bales outside of Livingston, Oct. 27.

Horses are naturally spooked by people firing bows and arrows off the top of them, so it’s important to let them get used to arrows before you start shooting. That starts with rubbing arrows on their neck and mane and nose, then turns into shooting arrows off them gently at first — though you shouldn’t shoot blanks — and then more persistently.

Midnight, the horse, is a fairly relaxed fellow and, after a couple months, he is very comfortable with arrows being shot off of him, so he’s a good horse to start horse archery on — even if you’re not entirely sure you want to start horse archery or even get on a horse.

But anyone can do horse archery, even if they don’t have a horse or know how to ride one, even if they aren’t archery experts, even if they fall into both categories.

Trish Wild, of Livingston, and Morgan Jossi, of Bozeman, the Montana Horse Archery Club’s resident experts, had never done horse archery until this summer. Already, they’re getting kill shots on the deer target on the hay bale in a field north of Livingston on a perfect fall Saturday afternoon.

Sure, both of them had ridden horses for a long time, but no matter, anyone can do it.

Now, I’m no novice when it comes to archery. We had a two-week physical education section during both my junior and senior years of high school. I hit the bale of hay every time while shooting at it from about 20 yards away.

And I’m no novice at riding a horse. I’ve ridden a horse at least three times in my life, including once earlier this summer for an entire morning. I only need a little bit of help being told how to get on the horse.

But put the two together? Woo-eee. I’m a novice at that.

But Wild insists. Montana Horse Archery Club newcomers Daniella Crawford, of Livingston, and Sheri Scurr, of Great Falls, hadn’t shot until minutes before I did.

I need a reminder on how to step on but am able to do so without assistance. Wild hands me the recurve bow and five arrows. I don’t get the special quiver that she has on her back.

First, I shoot off the horse without it moving. I hit the bale each time, even approaching the deer’s head once. I am handed the five arrows again. Four of five hit the bale.

Now, Wild says, it’s time to move.

I don’t really feel that comfortable telling a horse where to go. As a beautiful, natural creature, I kind of let the horse decide where we’re going. I will occasionally tell a horse to slow down, but that’s about all I feel comfortable telling them what to do.

Well, Midnight doesn’t really want to move, I dig my heels in, and he starts walking backward. Let go of the reins, I’m told. There we go, he moves forward. Now, we walk around the group of bales. All right, the bale is coming. It’s coming fast. Midnight is walking past.

I let one go, then another, then another.

Bam — right in the antlers. Not quite a kill shot, but I’ll take it, with a hay bale background, it didn’t bounce off at least.

If you see any antlerless deer walking around, tell ’em I’m sorry.

Now, I’m no hunting expert, but I’m on my way there — at least when it comes to horse archery, if progress by my teachers is any indication.

———Anyone is welcome to join the Montana Horse Archery Club and attend its monthly meetings. No horse is needed. For those interested in learning more, contact Trish Wild at (970) 219-9154.

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