Novice Mounted Archer Gallops into Winner's Circle
Eighteen-year-old Allen resident, Sierra Stammen is a mounted archer. As a mounted archer she rides a horse without using reins while shooting arrows at targets. Sierra began taking horseback riding lessons when she was five-years-old. In 2016, her horse, Nike, injured himself and as part of his rehabilitation Sierra rode him bareback. She wanted to find a sport where she could ride Nike bareback while he was in rehab. For quite a while, Sierra had tried to convince her parents that she wanted to try archery. She thought it would be great if a sport existed where she could ride her horse while doing archery. Her mother, Christy Stammen, looked for a sport that combined these skills and found mounted archery. In 2017, Sierra attended her first mounted archery clinic and along with five other like-minded people, formed Red River Horse Archers, Van Alstyne, TX, a chapter of Mounted Archery Association of the Americas – MA3.
In March of this year, Sierra competed in the STAR (South Texas Archery Riders) Competition in South Texas in the novice division. This competition was the largest horseback archery competition held in America. This was the first competition she had ever participated in. She placed 1st in the Mamluk, 2nd in the Polish, 4th in the Korean, and earned 4th place novice overall, missing 3rd by one point.
Sierra said her favorite event in mounted archery is the Polish. She said, “It’s a lot of fun. Everything is combined into one run.” She explained that this run is very unique in that it takes place while going through the woods. The competitor gets to walk through the track once before the competition to locate the targets which can be any type of target at any height level. She said, “You are riding your horse on a saddle but not using the reins because you have to use your hands to shoot. You guide your horse with your legs and body cues.” She said she trains bareback, but in competition you are required to use a saddle.
In the Mamluk competition, mounted archers traverse a 90 meter track. They enter the track with an arrow loaded. They have 14 seconds to hit a front shot, ground shot, off side shot and back shot. Their goal is to finish the course in less than 14 seconds, if not, a penalty will incur. She said, “The trick is to not get every target, just get a few. My horse is very fast, so I just take the shots I know I can get.”
Nike travels on average 24mph during the Korean. Sierra said that Nike is one of the faster runners. During the Korean, the goal is to get the most points with the fastest time. They have three different 90 meter races; 1 shot, 2 shots and 3 shots. Sierra said, “You must instinctively load without looking. You need to feel the arrow and know how it’s going to load.” She said the first few weeks as a mounted archer she practiced blind notching (loading) every night.
Nike is a 10-year-old Paso Fino mix. Sierra describes him as a feisty horse that loves to run, loves being the center of attention and loves doing his job.
Sierra’s parents, Thad and Christy Stammen, explain how Sierra has changed since beginning this sport, they said, “…We have seen Sierra become even more independent (she drives her horse in the trailer by herself to get to the archery range) and even more effective at time management (she had a lot going on already when she added mounted archery to her list but she was determined to do it). We have also seen an increase in her confidence overall. She seems to be even more comfortable around adults, as she went through the initial clinic as the only youth, trains with adults, and was surrounded by adults at the competition. She has gotten the opportunity to meet people from around the country (and world as there were Canadians and a man from South Africa at the Texas competition) and then has kept connected with them through this sport, and that is pretty amazing.” They are very proud of her and glad she found a way to compete at a high level.
Sierra is a senior at Lovejoy High School. In the fall, she will attend college at West Texas A&M University and will major in equine industry and business management. After college, she plans on competing more and going up in her rankings with a goal of competing in the World Championship and becoming an instructor.
Photos by Terri Cage.