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Dropping the reins Mounted archery club is centered in Eagle Point

A lifetime horse woman who enjoyed archery hunting with a recurve bow, Joan Broadfoot always had to put one pastime down to take up the other.

That’s until she was exposed to mounted archery, which instantly appealed to her inner Hun.

Now every time she can, Broadfoot mounts her horse, drops the reins and gallops through an obstacle course shooting arrows like she’s pillaging a village. Sure, she’s firing at targets, but they sure feel like Vandals.

“You have to let go of the reins and take your mind off your horse so you can concentrate on shooting,” Broadfoot says. “You have to really trust your horse. It’s empowering. It’s exciting. It brings the scream out of me.”

Empowering screams have been growing exponentially across the U.S. in the past decade as the sport of mounted archery expands, and in Southern Oregon, an Eagle Point ranch is its epicenter.

With fewer than three dozen members when Joan Broadfoot joined the Rogue Mounted Archers in 2010, the sport has expanded to 18 clubs nationwide, with more than 300 mounted archers learning to drop their reins and gallop more than 20 mph while trying to hit targets.

The sport is big in Hungary and South Korea, and the Rogue club has hosted three international events at the home-built course on Roberta Beene and Darran Wardle’s rural Eagle Point ranch, ground zero for the national organization, called the Mounted Archery Association of America, or MA3.

Beene and Wardle founded the organization in 2007, but lately they have pulled back to focus more on growing the sport locally and mentoring new mounted archers, Beene says.

One way they’ve been doing that is through their “Iron Horse,” a saddle on a barrel on a trailer pulled by a quad. It allows newcomers to focus on shooting as if they were riding a horse without the nuances and horsemanship skills coming into play.

“It feels like you’re riding, but you don’t have to worry about riding a horse,” Beene says. “It’s the greatest teaching tool we have. Just get on, shoot some arrows and feel like a warrior.”

RMA members practice three days a month at the ranch. Range fees are $130 a person or $175 per family. Horse and equipment rentals are also available.

For more information about the association and all it offers, see www.roguemountedarchers.com.

In competitions, participants use traditional recurve bows. They drop reins and ride specific courses, shooting at ground and mounted targets, as well as a target mounted on a 25-foot flagpole to replicate how mounted archers hunt birds.

Shots are forward, sideways and even backward, and scores use a mix of time and accuracy.

Most of the competitors are horse people who have taken up the bow, usually after a little trepidation over dropping the reins, Beene says. Most quickly learn to give their horse commands with their legs and positioning in the saddle, and the horses typically take to it quickly, she says.

“It’s addictive,” Beene says. “It’s fun. We’re just big kids trying to play.”

Broadfoot had one foot in the horse arena and the other in the archer’s world until she heard about a mounted archery demonstration in Redmond in 2010.

She beat feet to the arena and was instantly mesmerized.

“That was it,” she says. “I was fixated on it.”

As an archery hunter, the seasons are short, and rarely did she even let loose an arrow, Broadfoot says.

“At the end of the season, I wanted more archery,” Broadfoot says. “This way, you get to shoot all the time.”

And the horse part of her personality has expanded through mounted archery, as well.

“It’s incredibly fun, and it’s something you can do with your horse that isn’t trotting around in circles,” says Broadfoot, 63. “That’s not fun.”

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

Serena Lynn shoots at a target placed 25 feet in the air to imitate bird hunting.
Darran Wardle practices mounted archery on a course he designed at his Eagle Point Ranch.