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At Equifest, slinging arrows from horses is all in a day's fun

The arrows are in a quiver tied at the thigh. A rider climbs on the horse and lets go of the reins. She pulls out an arrow and puts it on the string as she guides the horse around the ring, using her body and voice to direct it.

She launches the arrow to a target as the horse canters in the opposite direction.

This is mounted archery — an increasingly popular sport in the United States.

"You feel pretty pumped," said Caroline North. "I mean come on, you’re out there shooting a bow and arrow."

Shooting a bow and arrow from a horse, that is.

A professional rider who owns a barn in Collins where she teaches riding, North attended a clinic on mounted archery last year. She is one of the founding members of Eternal Flame Mounted Archery, the first club in New York State to affiliate with Horse Archery USA.

North and other members of the Lockport-based club showed off their sport Saturday at Western New York Equifest at the Erie County Fairgrounds. The free festival, which features more than 100 vendors and various demonstrations, continues from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

"It's literally a sport you can come as you are," said Diana Olds, of Buck County, Pa., a regional representative for the national organization. "It doesn't matter what your horse looks like, it doesn't matter what tack you ride in, it doesn’t matter what bow you have. It's just come, shoot, enjoy yourself. If you want to be competitive you can."

"It uses kind of the zen part of your brain," North said. "You can’t think about it a whole lot, which is really nice to do when you’re on your horse. It gets you and the horse into a little different frame of mind than typical riding."

North said she was "kind of inspired" to try mounted archery by "Game of Thrones" and movies.

Alaina Reid, of Lockport, organized the first clinic in the area, given by Olds.

"It’s a good way to build a good bond with your horse. It doesn't matter how good or bad your are at archery," she said. "You’ve got to be able to drop your reins without touching the horse's mouth again. So you’re using the your seat, you’re using your legs, you’re using your voice."

Equifest's Sunday events include a barrel racing clinic by Amberley Snyder. Snyder was in a car accident in 2010 that left her paralyzed, but she has returned to competing and telling her inspirational story.

Equifest is sponsored by the Western Chapter of the New York State Horse Council.

"People don't realize what horses do for the economy," said Peter M. Tarnawskyj, chapter president, noting that horse owners buy everything from saddles to trailers to hay locally. "Most of that stuff is not bought on the internet, it's bought locally."

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