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Equestrian Martial Arts


Susan Love takes aim, mounted on her horse, JJ.

Susan Love takes aim, mounted on her horse, JJ.

It’s ninth century, B.C., and warring tribes are trying to figure out the best attack to cripple their opponents. An all-out barrage will risk far too many lives than one side can afford, but retreating is simply out of the question. Eurasian nomads began to send out archers on horseback and thus created one of the most effective hit-and-run tactics seen on the early battlefield. Look to the east in Japan, the Yabusame (mounted archer) is as revered as the samurai. Fast-forward several hundred years, and to the west, and the introduction of horse-riding to Native American archers enhances both the hunt and the battle. Today, mounted archery is getting back on its horse and regaining the popularity it once had for so many centuries.

The unique blend of equestrian sport and martial arts makes mounted archery an interesting and exciting event to watch. For many, the only horseback archery they’ve ever seen has been in movies or video games. This is no longer the case thanks to people like Susan Love, an exceptional, self-trained horseback archer who is performing at this year’s Iowa Horse Fair. She has been involved with mounted archery for roughly a year and is basically self-taught, Love says. Her trick for learning the craft has been to read and absorb as much information as she can and practice regularly with her equine partner, JJ.

“I have been involved with horses for about 20 years but have been obsessed [with mounted archery] since day one,” Love said. “I am a very enthusiastic mounted archer and would love to see the sport grow not just in Iowa, but across the U.S. and beyond.”

Talking about building popularity is one thing; to actually convince others to join the sport is another thing entirely. Fortunately, experience in retail management and marketing are among Love’s skill set.

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“Selling something I’m passionate about is almost second nature,” said Love, who will bring her passion for riding and archery to the 29th Annual Iowa Horse Fair in the hopes of finding a few others to share her enthusiasm.

An archer confident in his or her skills might assume this new challenge is as easy as simply climbing upon a steed with a bow and arrows. But Love says it’s far easier for a rider to learn to shoot than an archer to learn to ride. For Love, dressage training (a.k.a. “horse ballet”) has been the most helpful.

“It isn’t about being a great archer,” said Love. “It’s about mastering horsemanship, communication and trust with the horse. Since both hands are required to maneuver a bow and arrows, this ‘reins-free’ riding requires horse and rider to be extremely in tune with one another.” CV

The Iowa Horse Fair takes place April 5-7 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Susan Love’s demonstration takes place on April 6 from 4-4:15 p.m. at the East Arena and is in conjuncture with the Iowa Cowboy Mounted Shooters (featuring firearms) taking place 4:15-5 p.m., which will continue into Sunday. Cost for the Fair depends on the day, though weekend passes are available. Adults are $15, youth are $7.

Iowa Horse Fair schedule

Friday, April 5, 12 -7 p.m. Adult $6; Youth (6-12) $3

Saturday, April 6, 8:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. Adult $8; Youth $4; Children 5 and under are free

Sunday, April 7, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Adult $8; Youth $4; Children 5 and under are free

Rodeo (Friday and Saturday), 7:30-9:30 p.m. Adult $10/day ; Youth $5/day

If Rodeo ticket is purchased after 4 p.m., purchaser may be stamped to enter Trade Show that day.


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