They say travel is all about having new experiences. Well… having a week to fill between my Seattle and Vancouver seminars, I thought I’d take the opportunity to get back in the saddle. My friend Jen Landels (she of Pulp Literature fame, and as yet the only guest blogger on this site) runs the Academie Duello mounted combat program. Yes, they have a mounted combat program. Oh my. She has been inviting me ‘out to the barn’ every time we’ve met, and I finally took her up on it.
We began with a little archery practice, on foot, just to get familiar with the specific way of shooting from horseback.
Then the riding began. It’s been a full decade since I last rode but the basic balance was there, and the lovely, stoical Flavia didn’t mind my jouncing about on her back too much. At least, she never shook me off.
After quite a while of simply getting used to being back on a horse, Jen had me do some interesting mounted warm-ups, basically learning to reach and stretch and do things with my back and arms, without affecting my seat. Because you tell the horse what to do with your arse and feet.
Once that was established, I had a go shooting from horseback, just at a walk, and with Jen leading the horse the first couple of rounds.
It was awesome. I am now 99% Mongolian, honest.
Then the swords came out.
I should mention that these are nylon wasters. Yup, you read that right. As I’ve written before, plastic swords are for children. But also for novice mounted combatants *to avoid hurting the horse*. Because (as Jen put it) the horses didn’t ask for it.
We went through a couple of Fiore’s plays, and then I asked her to run me through the things she would normally cover in a beginner’s class. We did some simple attacks and counters, first with me staying still and her coming towards me, and then with us both moving forwards. She then left the beginners course behind, and we did some gentle freeplay.
Word to the wise: do NOT let Jen get behind you. She’ll slice you up like salami.
It was a wonderful way to spend a morning- if you ever get the chance to try it, do! Jen is a great instructor, and there is just nothing like having a horse under you.