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Take Your Best Shot
Article & photography by Allison Armstrong Rehnborg
Whether she’s firing arrows from horseback on a cross-country track or teaching beginners the finer points of loading a bow, Elizabeth Tinnan loves mounted archery. Now a seasoned competitor, she still remembers how it felt to hold a bow and arrow for the first time.
“A friend brought horseback archery to the farm where I was working and introduced me,” Elizabeth said. “I fell in love with the sport and learned to shoot just so I could transition to mounted archery.”
After mastering the basics of horseback archery, Elizabeth realized she had no one to practice with. That’s when she began conducting clinics in her hometown of Cedartown, Georgia. In 2016, Elizabeth created Chattahoochee Horse Archers, a group dedicated to advancing the sport in northwest Georgia. Soon, Elizabeth was teaching clinics all over the Southeast.
“When I started teaching, I didn’t set out to make it a career,” Elizabeth explained. “I started teaching because I wanted people around me who could do mounted archery. Then people kept asking me to teach because they liked my teaching style.”
That’s when the late Ida Carlough, owner of Rising Glory Farm in Lewisburg, Tennessee, decided to get involved. Her husband, Chris Carlough, is an avid bowman and horseman, but he hadn’t considered combining his two passions until Ida discovered Elizabeth’s mounted archery clinics.
“It was December 2016. Ida was already ill and home on oxygen,” Chris remembered. “But she couldn’t sit still. She wanted to keep booking clinics and events for our farm. One night, Ida found Elizabeth online and she told me, ‘Chris, we absolutely have to get involved with this. It’s horseback archery!’”
The Carloughs booked Elizabeth for a mounted archery clinic in March 2017. But a few weeks before the clinic, Ida passed away.
“The last thing my wife gave me was this gift of marrying horses and archery together by bringing Elizabeth here to the farm,” Chris said.
It’s a gift that has kept on giving. After the success of the first clinic, Chris booked Elizabeth for more clinics and also began learning mounted archery for himself. In 2018, Chris founded Tennessee Valley Archery, LLC, which hosts mounted archery competitions and clinics.
“I want to create an environment here where people can get into this sport and build their skill level,” Chris said. “That’s why Tennessee Valley Archery got started. This year, we’re hosting the Tennessee Valley Archery Mounted Shoot-Out Series, which is a total of six competitions. We’ll have divisions for walk, trot, and canter, plus novice and open divisions.”
In order to host the competitions, Chris built an all-weather track of crushed limestone and created a cross-country course, complete with three-dimensional targets, at Rising Glory Farm.
“When I first started archery, I had to travel all the way to Texas to compete,” Elizabeth said. “My very first competition was at a full canter along with all these riders who’d been doing it for forever. Then my group, Chattahoochee, started our jackpot series, which is very inexpensive and beginner-friendly. The Shoot-Out Series is the middle ground that allows a lot more people to compete. And because Chris has the land and the facility, Rising Glory is turning into the place to be in the Southeast for horseback archery.”
The inaugural Shoot-Out occurred on February 9, 2019 at Rising Glory Farm, with a total of twelve riders competing in walk, trot, canter novice, and canter open divisions. The following day, Elizabeth Tinnan conducted a two-part mounted archery clinic. The morning session covered the basics of shooting for beginners, starting with range safety and etiquette, loading your bow, ground shooting, groundwork with the horses, and finally, shooting targets from horseback at the walk. The afternoon session, geared for more experienced archers, covered shooting from different angles from the horse’s back, as well as experimenting with different target courses and more advanced bow holds.
First-time shooter Tabitha Thompson of Dickson, Tennessee, attended the morning clinic on her buckskin American Quarter Horse, Jake.
“I like anything I can do on a horse, so mounted archery is something else to add to my toolbox,” Tabitha said. “Today was my first day to ever touch a bow. I liked how Elizabeth worked with everybody. She really wants people to get into the sport.”
Mounted archery may seem like part of the medieval past, but it’s quickly becoming a popular recreational horseback sport in the United States. Spanning all different disciplines, skill levels, and breeds, mounted archery is more accessible than ever because of groups like Chattahoochee Horse Archers and Tennessee Valley Archery, LLC.
“I want to spread the love of horseback archery,” Elizabeth said. “We want all ages and all levels of riders to feel welcome.”
For more information about Chattahoochee Horse Archers, visit chatthorsearchers.com. To learn about upcoming mounted archery clinics and competitions in middle Tennessee, check out @TN Valley Archery on Facebook.
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