Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Dressage with a difference

After all the negative publicity surrounding the European Championships in Aachen recently, it was nice to go somewhere at the weekend and see a nice harmonious dressage competition.

Concordia Equestrians is a new group set up to promote the horse's wellbeing above competitive needs. So at this dressage competition, only snaffle bridles are permitted. No tight nosebands are allowed, and no spurs. And bitless bridles are allowed :-)

It was a lovely afternoon, despite a terrible forecast the weather behaved and the sun came out. There was a real mix of competitors, from little ones on ponies to Lucinda McAlpine on home-bred Spanish/TB crosses......

Every competitor had a tack check before starting to ensure that everything fit properly and nothing was overtightened.

 There was a very relaxed atmosphere, no pressure, plenty of time for horses to get used to their surroundings, which included some inquisitive cattle!
We met some nice new people and we really wished we could have brought our horses along......but they are planning on starting up some online classes so hopefully we will be able to take part that way soon

Hoping there will be many more of these :-)

Friday, 21 August 2015

Horse archery course part 2

This week we finally got the chance to do the second half of our horse archery course at the Centre of Horseback Combat in Hemel Hempstead. We did the first half way back in March but this is the first time we've been able to get back there to finish it!

We spent the first part of the morning shooting on foot again whilst the rest of the group got to grips with it, as they were all beginners. Ali and I managed to shoot a fair few of the bits of rubber in the arena behind the targets ;-)

But finally it was time to go and find some horses. Ali rode Carnival, a very clean grey. All the horses were very clean, not at all what we're used to.....She managed to get going in canter pretty quickly and even get some arrows in targets :-)

Then it was my turn. I rode Oscar, who is like Gandalf, only cleaner and more grumpy.......I was pleased that I got the hang of nocking and shooting and managed to get 3 arrows off on some of my runs (not the one Ali videoed though) but sadly only one of the arrows ever connected with a target. Ah well, someone's got to come last at the Championship next month ;-)

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Archery training for the old, the clumsy and the hopeless.....

Today I watched this video online, made by Frédéric Luneau, one of the best horseback archers in France. The subtitle for those of you who don't speak French is "Training programme for the old, the clumsy and the hopeless" ;-)

Except that Fred is none of these and makes it all look easy. I could probably manage to throw axes at bits of wood, but I can't juggle, and as for the yoga and leaping on to the horse from the ground - no chance!

But riding without a bridle has to be worth a try. So today for the fist time, we did just that. Gandalf was very easy to steer with just a neckstrap, maybe because he's so used to being ridden on a long rein without a "contact". As we were in the little pen, we were restricted to walking, but I intend to try this at a faster pace when I get the chance......even shot an arrow or two :-)

Ali had a go with Sky too, who was predictably a bit unsure to begin with but proved quite receptive after a while.

Some video here......

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

How to train your medieval warhorse......

I have just rediscovered a book I bought years ago called The Medieval Warhorse by Ann Hyland. Makes interesting reading if you're interested in history generally, but given our latest hobby, some bits were of great interest....

I really liked this picture of a Mamluk horseman, an illustration from a Mamluk manuscript on horsemanship written in the fourteenth century.

Looks like a spotty horse to me :-) The illustrations in the manuscript are beautiful. There's a link to the colour version of this one here.

In The Medieval Warhorse the techniques from various sources are explained. From the above manuscript and other muslim writings, the book's author learns there were "instructions for schooling in the nawerd (a Persian word meaning circle) explaining how to do it in a figure-of-eight pattern which would have entailed a lead change as the rein was changed......this manoeuvrability.....would have been vital for an archer who had to make many changes of direction. A well-trained, balanced horse will switch his leads as he changes direction. If he does not, he ride becomes jerky which would have disrupted the aim. To aim well......a horse needed a low level topline with his head down."  Not just for dressage tests then......

Another item of interest is what they would do with the reins:

"The reins were shortened by means of a the spare length a folded strap was attached and a very thin thong tied to this, once the rider was mounted, was secured to a ring on the ring finger of the right hand to prevent the reins from leaving his hand while shooting."

I like this picture in the book too, from the 13th century Battle of Bouvines. This was the one where we finally lost hold of Brittany and Normandy, after another disastrous campaign by King John and his allies. You wouldn't associate mounted archers with medieval knights.....

...but then on a recent trip to see the Bayeux Tapestry again, I did notice this bit for the first time:
Then of course there is plenty in the book about the Mongols:

"The Mongol horse was trained so that his rider could shoot a bow in each and every direction while travelling at a flat-out gallop. Training started with the horse at a standstill getting him accustomed to the bow accompanied by much noise; next, movement with the equipment - different angles for shooting, moving the drawn bow around the horse, withdrawing arrows from the quiver etc. "

Might as well get started then.......