Shooting Fire at Equifest of Kansas
By Brandy Von Holten
Equifest of Kansas is a three-day expo put on yearly by the Kansas Horse Council. It is a big deal for the equine industry in Kansas and Missouri. Equifest is vital to our trail riding facility. We only close three times per year; Christmas, deer hunting season, and Equifest of Kansas.
2019 was a special year at Equifest of Kansas because our mounted archery chapter, Country Tough Mounted Archers, was invited to do a demonstration. When this agreement was made, we did not know the extent of the horrific winter we were about to endure in order to practice for the demo. Several practices were completed during below zero temperatures and around snow and icy conditions.
Running a booth and performing a mounted archery demonstration at the same expo proved to be almost comical. Talk about having a lot of irons in the fire. Less than an hour before the demo the archers were able to come together and get our horses and mules ready. My husband was on his leopard appaloosa who is “newish” to our herd. We had no idea how she would do around concentrated chaos. We now know she can handle way more than we imagined. The warm up arena might as well of had fireworks and circus performers for the odd combination of other demos warming up. There were wagons being pulled by ponies and draft horses, Tennessee Walking horses suited up in a ridiculous amount of show silver, people warming up their jumping horses, a ranch rodeo competitor doing rollbacks all while our mule, JoJo, has decided to let out consistent braying which scared almost every horse pulling a wagon. Not only did our horse act like this was just another day but so did our mule, until we went from the warm up arena to the main arena. JoJo lost his ever-loving mind over an unopened bag of shavings in the aisle. As we were walking into the arena I am trying to relax as my mule is about to blow. As soon as the gate opened and we stepped foot into the arena with the stands packed and standing room only, it was as if JoJo knew it was game time and dropped the nonsense.
The demo consisted of five archers and six assistants.
Archers: David and Brandy Von Holten, Kathy Kuykendall, Marcy Bilynsky, and Mallory Thierfelder.
Assistants: Kyle Thierfelder, Bill and Sharon Reed, Pris Calhoun, Wendy Hess, and Vicke Burnett
The demo showcased the natural progression of mounted archery, which begins with shooting from the ground. Each archer was then assigned a specific drill from the ground. To make things interesting, specific songs were choreographed to different parts of the demo. While Kathy was showing us how to do “squat shot” the song “Baby’s Got Her Blue Jeans On” was playing.
We then moved to shooting beside our equine, shooting from stationary equine, shooting from walking equine, and then the excitement! Kathy and Brandy demonstrated cantering and shooting at the same time. As if hitting a target is not hard enough, now you are cantering without reins. In order to keep the spectators safe, the demo was designed going the short way across the arena, which made cantering even more difficult because you had to have an immediate canter departure and only a short time to get into rhythm in order to get your shot off. After a few times through, it was time for the grand finale, shooting an arrow that was on fire at a full canter from muleback.
Two arrows were made for this specialty shot. Just for the sake of being fun, the two arrows were named Scorch and Mayhem. In order to not burn the bowstring or the hand of the archer, the arrows had to be longer than a normal arrow. By the time the fabric was added and soaked with lighter fluid, the arrow proved to be somewhat of a challenge. The first arrow was dropped, and the second arrow went into the dirt under the target. Both Scorch and Mayhem were able to be salvaged and shot again. The third shot, I was determined to not let the extra weight deter a hit and over compensated with the arrow going over the target. This left one arrow. Hit!!!! The crowd was supportive and knew how much this meant to me. You see, I write children’s books. JoJo is the main character of the book scheduled to release in October of 2019. It has the moral lesson about not being judged about your outward appearance and not letting people define who you are or what you can achieve. The fire shot was the ending of his book. The fact that we didn’t give up even when things did not go as planned is going to be a great life lesson for children, especially since it was true.