Horseback archerist Pettra Engeländer has arrived in Iceland two days ago, together with her partner Martin Rutishäuser. They will stay for three weeks, preparing schooling horses for their clinics in Natural Horseback Archery, in addition to personal coaching after the clinic, on request.
Pettra Engeländer is looking back on a long career in horseback archery. The former dancer had been dwelling with nomads in Mongolia, and later, related to a practical research project, with a group of horses in a mongolian tent. She has been an internationally successful horseback archer, who withdrew from active sports while studying asian martial arts with masters. Today the deep mental connection and energy flow between horse and rider, enabling the rider to shoot an arrow, is of more importance to her. She is teaching the art of horseback archery in her academy “Independant European Horseback Archery School” (IHEAS) all over Europe and now for the first time also in Iceland.
As Pettra could not come with her own experienced archery horses in order to demonstrate techniques, she decided to prepare two native horses for the clinic. Just like her horses at home they will serve as schooling horses and experienced „assistants“ for the student’s horses. „Horses fell safe in a group“, Pettra explains. „With these two just being calm and easy, the other ones will be fine with the challenges coming up.“
She has developed her own teaching system for horseback archery, called Horse Aikido, a special horsemanship with the focus not on being dominant. Horse Aikido is influenced by the martial art Aikido, that does not speak about an adversary who has to be stopped or fought (like it would be in Kick-Boxing), but is rather a reflection of movements. The Aikido fighter reflects the movements of his counterpart and changes their direction or form by means of his own movements. Aikido is called a martial art, but in perfection rather looks like a dance.
“Any of my martial arts masters was able to perform horseback archery, even if he was no rider,” she recalls. The principles are the same, and the horses understand, as they use a similar kind of communication in their play.
Aikido related to a horse means that the rider has to learn to turn the horse’s movements, its energy and its will to move into another direction – by using his own body, and not by pulling the reins, as he will hold a bow in his hands. If for example the horse runs too fast, the rider will turn it into a circle or a serpentine in order to gain its attention. He thereby starts a communication by body language, instead of interfering with dominance, he uses the horse’s will of moving forward in a creative way instead of stopping it.
In the end he will be able to give his horse an idea of direction and speed by using body language, while shooting an arrow. „In Horse Aikido the horse learns to distinguish the energy and signals, set free by the shooting, from the rider’s cues,“ Pettra explains. „They are able to distinguish a sword from a bow. You will get into a deep connection with your horse, you will create a bond of one-ness, a state of ‘together we will fight them’.“ But it will only work, if the mental connection is strong enough for the horse to substitute the rider’s legs and to strictly focus on him.
Both horse archers demonstrate in an impressive way what is meant, when other riders enter the riding hall at the ‘Sörli’ riding club and start their tölt training. None of the mares is bothered, both stayed with their riders, although their was no rein.
„Horse Aikido can change anything for both, horse and rider,“ Pettra says. „If you continue consequently, you will one day be able to ride without saddle and bridle through the fields, in any gait and speed, because you are one with your horse.“
Day 2 of the mares’ archery education proved evidence, when the two trainers confronted them with bow and arrow. The bonds between trainer and horse had grown so strong after only one day, that neither the energy impulse nor the sound of releasing the arrow were a major problem for the horse.
The first clinics in horseback archery in Iceland will take place on the coming weekends, 10.-12 april and 17.-19. april, in Eldhestar’s riding hall in Hveragerði. Additionally there will be a day clinic for Horse Aikido (no archery then) on offer on 16th of april.