Thursday, September 26, 2019

What to expect at your first SCA event with your horse and how to prepare.

 We've been enjoying our time spent getting more involved with the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) in the past several months and have found this organization to be far more welcoming, relaxed, and fun than our previous experience with competitive sport track mounted archery. The SCA gives us somewhere to continue riding and shooting socially along with lots of other fun equestrian activities. Competition is fun but not required and the people in general are far more supportive with new members than any other equine organization I have been involved in. With all that being said, let's talk about what to expect at your first SCA event with your horse!

 Not all SCA events have equestrian activities so the first thing to do is make sure the one you want to go to does and then find out who the EqMiC (equestrian marshal in charge) is for the event. This will be the person in charge of checking equine health papers, directing you to the horse areas, general safety, and rule enforcement. The EqMiC can answer your questions if you have any beforehand and offer guidance as needed. There may be other equestrian marshals at the event who can help as well and other experienced horse folks who are generally happy to lend a hand if you need it. Some events are one day only and some are longer. You can always just come for one day if you live close enough but we generally camp at all of the horse events because it is fun and gives our horses new experiences to make them well rounded partners.

 Some sites will have stalls or pens available but most do not. You can keep your horses tied to your trailer, kept on a hi-line, or bring your own corral panels or portable electric fence depending on your preferences and your horses tolerance. We like using a battery operated electric fence charger for our horses at events and it has worked out quite well so far. If your horse isn't used to electric fences, be sure to acclimate them to it at home first. We use 2 inch wide white electric fence tape for high visibility and either step-in fence posts designed for electric fences, or T-posts with plastic adapters to run the tape through. This is a picture of our typical pen set up for camping events.

 Make sure to bring everything you need to keep your horses fed and cared for! Many events are at somewhat remote locations so running out to the local feed store because you forgot hay isn't always feasible. The EqMiC should have a list of local vets in case of an emergency but it certainly doesn't hurt to keep your own first aid supplies handy. Water buckets, tack, grooming supplies, fly spray, and a way to pick up your horse's manure are also things you will need to bring. Most sites request that you clean up after your horses in the camping areas so make sure you bring a manure fork and a way to haul it away. There is usually an area reserved for dumping manure and dirty hay close to the horse camping.

 Be aware that your horse may see a lot of new things for the first time so make sure to work on desensitizing at home as much as possible. Banners whipping in the breeze, people in noisy armor or long skirts, children running around, and tents are just some of the scary things they might come across. Make sure to practice riding in your garb too so you don't spook your horse with unfamiliar dangling fabric or leather straps. If you plan to decorate your tack or make a caparison for your horse, be aware that they might need a little time to get used to the sensation of flapping fabric against their legs and belly. This is Brujo (the black horse) at his first event and his first time seeing any of the mounted games. Robin, on the Haflinger, rode along with John and Brujo so he would have a buddy horse to show him that the games weren't scary.

What about clothes or disguising your modern horse tack? For the SCA, an attempt at medieval clothing is enough to get you through an event. A simple tunic and pants with a pair of sturdy boots is often your first garb but put in as much research and work as you want. We try for at least a close approximation to something a mounted archer would wear depending on what geographical area and time in history we are trying to represent, although some days it is just too hot for anything fancy or layered. We usually put a fancy saddle blanket on over our normal every day one and are working on slowly upgrading our bridles by making our own. Our saddles are still modern but can be fairly easily disguised with draped fabric covers or tying on some pieces of fur. Here is Michelle and Alpo on a hot day in a fairly simple look.

If you just don't have anything to wear, there is usually someone at each event who's job it is to help out newcomers. They will lave loaner clothing you can borrow and can usually be contacted ahead of time through the event information found online. Many events also have vendors that you can start to build up a wardrobe by shopping from if sewing your own isn't something you want to do. If you are coming to one of the events we are at, send us a message and we'll be happy to help you out too. We make all of our own clothing and gear so we always have spares we can bring.

 So, you know what to wear and a bit about what to bring, now what about what goes on? For a typical weekend event, you will probably arrive on a Friday. Check in at "gate" where you will sign waivers and pay your site fee. You may show your Coggins papers here or may be directed to the EqMiC who will make sure they are up to date. Once checked in at gate, you will be directed on where to set up with your horses. Get your horses settled and your camp set up. Typically if there are already other equestrians there, someone will check and see if you need help and show you where to get water for your horses. Many of the equestrians in our local groups like to socialize together after getting set up o you might make some new friends pretty quickly.

 The next morning will be a rush of feeding your horses, getting dressed, and then either tacking up right away or you might go to morning court depending on the schedule. Court in the morning is usually general announcements about the day and sometimes horses are invited to stand near the back to add ambiance. This is a good opportunity to either lead or ride your horse around so they can get a good look at all the new things. Know your horse and what they can handle and don't be afraid to take them back to your camp area if there is just too much going on for them to settle. We want everyone to be safe and knowing when to back down in a stressful situation with your horse is always more important than riding around in your fancy garb.

 You'll need to show proof of authorization to ride before mounting up. if you are not already authorized, speak with the EqMiC and they can work with you on getting your basic rider's authorization. You will be required to ride with them until they feel comfortable letting you go on your own. Authorizations for different things are required as well. Mounted games, mounted archery, mounted combat, and jousting are different things you might see at an event and have their own authorization requirements. To read up on these and the rules for equestrian activities, go here:  You don't have to compete in any of the activities so there is no pressure to do so. It is fine to just come out and get your horse used to everything and meet some new friends if you don't feel up to competing yet.

 Different kingdoms may have different rules so it is always good to check if you are not sure. Currently, Ansteorra (Texas and Oklahoma) just use the society rules. If you are active on facebook, you can usually find groups on there for your area. There is a group for Ansteorran Equestrians that can be found at and one for SCA Equestrian at  You can ask questions in these groups and find lots of information as well as event announcements. If there is a local group holding practices close to you, you can find out about that there as well. We aren't hosting official SCA practices yet but plan to in the spring of 2020 after we have built some of the games and gotten set up with marshal and insurance requirements. Once that is taken care of, anyone with a horse is welcome to join us for practices and no membership fees are required.

There will be lots of other activities and sometimes classes going on throughout the day. After all of the various competitions are done and the day is starting to end, there will be feast and evening court. You can choose to bring your own food or buy feast, where you will be served food prepared by volunteers. Make sure to bring your own "feast gear" which is generally a cup, plate, bowl, and silverware. You can get quite fancy with this depending on your budget and preferences. Court in the evening is usually where the various winners are announced and awards are given out. Horses usually don't go to evening court. You don't have to go to court or feast and many of us prefer to stay near our horses to keep an eye on them but it can be interesting to attend.

Sunday is usually just packing up and breaking down to leave. Be sure to pick up any trash at your campsite and clean up after your horses. Most events require you to pack your trash out with you so be sure to pack trash bags for this. The EqMiC is required to stay on site until the last horse leaves so be mindful of this and pay attention to what time the site closes. If you need help, just ask a fellow equestrian. We all try to help each other out as needed.
For more information about the SCA and how to get started, check out and look for the Newcomer's Portal. I hope this has provided some helpful information and you get to enjoy your first event soon! Keep up with us at where we post what events we will be at and when we are teaching mounted archery. 

Monday, June 17, 2019

Important update!

As of June 2019, The Texas Khanate has chosen to part ways with the Mounted Archery Association of the Americas. It's been fun, but its time to take our club in a different direction.

We're still currently the only active mounted archery group in the Houston, Texas area but we are now able to do more than just shoot at our practices and events.  As always, horses of any breed and riders of any style are welcome!

Monday, May 20, 2019

Open House at The Texas Khanate!

On May 25th we will be holding an informal open house and introduction to mounted archery. No horses will be provided but you are welcome to bring your own as long as proof of current negative Coggins can be shown.

The event is free and is a way for us to show prospective members what we do and give some hands on basic instruction on shooting a bow and introducing a new horse to archery. We will have bows for people to try. All ages are welcome and no experience is necessary. Bring plenty to drink, bug spray, and sunscreen as this is an outdoor only event. We have a few chairs available but it is a good idea to bring your own as well.

This is not an official Mounted Archery Association of the Americas or Society for Creative Anachronism event so no membership is required to either is required. Please leave pets at home and be aware of Texas' equine/farm liability laws.

Visit the Facebook page at for details and we hope to see you there!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Bells on my horses

"Why do you always have a bell on your stirrup?"

 I get this question fairly often when riding with new people. Nearly every saddle I own has a small bell tied to the right stirrup and its a habit I have kept since I was a teenager.

 My favorite riding instructor, Pam, always had a tiny brass bell on one stirrup. She told me about how it was a bit of superstition to keep the fairies away so they didn't spook your horse. The stirrup bell is pretty much the same idea as a gremlin or guardian bell for motorcyclists and offers a bit of superstitious protection to the rider. I enjoyed her stories so it is a habit I adopted from her.

 While fairies and goblins aren't a problem, the bell does serve a useful purpose. It helps warn other riders or wildlife out on a trail that we are nearby. Should I get dumped and my horse take off in the woods somewhere, the bell sound might make it easier to track them down. I also find it handy to keep track of other riders who might be on our horses with us. If we are out riding in a group and a student is lagging behind on a lazy horse, I can hear them behind me without having to turn around and loose focus on my own mount.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Show me your papers! Coggins Tests and Health Certificates when traveling with horses.

 So you have registered to compete at your first big mounted archery event and paid all your fees. Your horse is trained and you've been practicing so your shots are accurate and your speed loading is coming along well. Exciting, isn't it? With all that work you have put in though, have you remembered to get your Coggins and Health Certificate done in time and given your horse a booster vaccination for equine flu?

 If you are new to horses, you may not know what these things are or why they are required. A Coggins test checks for the presence of antibodies for Equine Infectious Anemia or "swamp fever", which is a disease with no vaccination and no cure. In Texas, you are required to have the test done yearly if your horse is kept with other horses in a boarding facility, attending a horse show, trail ride, training clinic or other equine gathering, or to sell. There are other reasons to do it as well, but these are the most common. for more about the Coggins test and why its necessary, read here:

The organizers for any local horse show or mounted archery competition should always ask to see your Coggins test before allowing the horse to be on the property. Its a fairly standard requirement and I have started keeping a binder with all of our horses' health records and Coggins paperwork together so I can just take the whole thing with me when we load up and hit the road.

Larger events and competitions should be requiring health certificates as well for any horse coming from out of state. This is a legal requirement to cross state lines into Texas with a horse and is also a way to try to minimize the possibility of an EIA infected  or otherwise sick horse coming in contact with and infecting healthy horses. At our first time riding in an international mounted archery competition, all horses were required to have a health certificate done within 30 days of the event, even if they were coming from somewhere in Texas, where the event was held. There were several horses that came from out of state, and the organizers did a great job of making sure everyone knew the paperwork requirements well in advance.

If a large event with horses coming from out of state is not asking for health certificates, I would be hesitant to attend. All that hard work put in to get ready to compete just isn't worth risking the health of my horse. It also shows that the event organizers might not be experienced enough to run a safe event for horses since these are common requirements. For more on health certificates in Texas, see here:

As an extra precaution, I like to give our competition horses a booster shot for equine flu and rhino virus at least 4 weeks before travel. Giving the vaccine annually doesn't provide long term protection and horses that travel often should be boostered every six months by most recommendations.

If I know its going to be an event where horses from other states are attending, I will ask the organizers of the event which states they expect them to be coming from. This way, I can check to see if the core vaccines recommended in their states are the same or different than what we give our horses here in the Gulf Coast area of Texas. For instance, we don't see Potomac Horse Fever here very often, so it is not one of our regular vaccinations. If I knew a horse was coming in from an area where that was more prevalent, I would vaccinate ours well ahead of the competition to lessen the impact of possibly being exposed to it.

We also keep our horses from drinking water from shared troughs or getting too close to strange horses at events to help protect from communicable diseases. Maybe all of my precautions are overkill, but I will happily take a few extra steps to do what I can to protect the health of my horses. If it means skipping an event because the organizers can't or won't provide enough information, so be it. I'd rather miss out on competing than miss my horse that has become such a beloved teammate.

For some extra interest, you can check this website or follow their facebook page to track where equine disease outbreaks are occurring.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Bella Strega - Jewel of The Texas Khanate

 About 20 years ago (the exact date of her birth has been lost through time and changes of ownership) a pretty little bay filly with a small white star was born from the pairing on an Arabian and a Saddlebred. She was dubbed "Miss A." for her terrible attitude and even as a two year old, had a reputation for trying to murder the vet or farrier when they had to do any type of routine work on her. When I met her as a foul tempered three or four year old, she belonged to a woman who was boarding her and an off the track thoroughbred named Tonka who I later bought and rode for a while. He and I never managed to form much of a bond and he went on to become the eventing mount of a teenage boy. When I bought Tonka, Miss A was sold to a couple who really had no business owning horses and were not prepared for an angry, and untrained mare. They had visions of show ring glory for their fancy bred National Show Horse mare but no money for proper training. Miss A spent much of her time in a 10' by 20' stall where she lunged at anyone walking past and would bite if you didn't get out of the way fast enough. To say she was mean, was an understatement.

 Around 2001, when she was about four years old, she was started under saddle by a friend of her owners. Ground work seemed to progress well but a falling out between the woman starting her and the owners stalled her training for a bit so I was asked to step in and finish her. I was in my early twenties at the time and was hesitant to take the job because I knew the owners weren't great with actually paying on time. I agreed to work with her in trade for a sidesaddle and cash. I got the saddle but never saw any money from the deal. Angry Miss A turned out to be surprisingly easy to work with as long as the owners were not present. She never offered to buck when I started riding her and had a very willing attitude under saddle. I could do just about anything to her, including handle her feet but she still had to be sedated for the vet or farrier to work on her. I wish I had photos from back then but there are none that I am aware of.

 When the owners could not pay, I quit training her. She was green broke at the time. I believe the woman rode her less than a dozen times and only at the walk. I would see them take her out of her stall on occasion to turn her out with their other horse, or watch the husband "work" with her on her manners (this involved mostly screaming at her and trying to hit her while she tried to stomp him into the ground). I was pleased every time she managed to kick him successfully. At some point during this time, Miss A foundered. Her owner's dreams of show ring glory seemed unlikely now, so she was mostly ignored in her stall. The pain in her feet made her attitude worse, but it slowed her down a bit when it came to attacking horses or people walking past her stall.

A few years later, my family moved our horses away from the boarding stable when my mom finally fulfilled her dream of owning property to keep them on. In 2008 Miss A showed back up in my life unexpectedly. Her owners were several months behind on their boarding fees and asked to move their three horses out to our property. I was against the idea since I knew they would not pay but my mom felt sorry for them and allowed them to bring the horses out. The three horses (a gelding, Miss A, and an old appaloosa mare) were thin, lacking in vet or farrier care, and the old mare was crippled from an injury. Miss A was sound but her feet were in bad shape. They arrived on May 21, 2008. The check for their board bounced as soon as it was deposited and the woman who owned them promptly died unexpectedly the next day. We paid to have them updated on everything and after several months of non payment, the three horses became ours through a stableman's lien. I started training Miss A to drive with the plan of selling her to recoup some of the expenses from rehabbing all three horses.
Living in a pasture with other horses did a lot for her attitude. She became much easier to work with on the ground and remembered a lot of her early training with me. I had always had a soft spot for the mean witch mare and renamed her Bella Strega. I joked with my mom one day that she had never given me a pony for Christmas and came out to find Strega with a big red bow on her head as my Christmas present that year. So much for selling her, she was mine forever. I rode her a lot for a few years and then my mom died in 2010 from cancer. I rode less and less after that due to a bad marriage and having to be the only provider for my family. For several years, Strega and the rest of the herd were just pasture pets. every now and then I would find enough time to throw a halter on and take her for a little bareback jaunt around the pasture but that was about it. I was working full time at my day job and also putting in several hours a week sewing for the custom clothing business I had with my ex husband. Strega was used in a photoshoot with a gown I had made in 2011. Even though she had not been ridden much then, she behaved beautifully with a model who had never been on a horse and a strange flappy dress brushing up against her sides.

She was starting to get swaybacked due to genetics and lack of exercise. Certain lines of Saddlebred horses are prone to this and its gotten much worse over time. Her life as a pasture ornament continued for a few more years and her attitude continued to soften. She was never the horse that would come looking for affection but she would tolerate it when forced on her.
Strega was brought out of retirement in August of 2017. I had kicked my ex husband out and picked up a few new hobbies, one of which was archery. I had found an old cheap fiberglass Scythian style bow that belonged to my mom and started learning to shoot it with a couple of friends of mine who were heavily into traditional archery. John and Rob had both done some riding when they were younger, and after watching a mounted archery demonstration one day, we decided that we needed to learn to ride and shoot.  Strega seemed like a good match for John so I paired them up. After a few rides, we decided to see how she would react to the bow. She was surprisingly calm about the new weird things we were doing and took to it immediately.
This was the first day a bow was shot off of her in September 2017. We started her off just standing and then progressed to shooting at the walk. Soon after, she was happily cantering alongside the driveway where we had a target made from a feed sack stuffed with old clothes. We were hooked on this new adventure and started The Texas Khanate soon after. We put together a 90 meter lane, cobbled together more targets, and started riding and shooting as often as possible. I started training Alpo while John and Strega built a genuine bond. In March of 2018, they competed in the South Texas Archery Riders International Competition and took first in the Polish course.
Photos by Georges Schemagin 2018

 This was Strega's first time being asked to ride anywhere aside from home and she performed beautifully. She is about 19 or 20 now, swaybacked, still cranky and once foundered but has finally found her calling as an archery horse. As long as she is sound and happy, she will continue on her adventure but no one else gets to ride her since she and John have formed such a great team. Some day she will go back to her life of leisure as a pretty pasture ornament but she will always be the jewel of the Khanate.
These photos were taken on May 13, 2018 to show the custom clothing and leather armor made by Ananda Keator of

John's velvet bow case was made by Rob of The Flying Hun Archery and Leather. Strega's bridle was custom made for her by John. He rides her bitless with an Australian saddle with a built up keyhole pad and is shooting a fiberglass Turkish bow by Alibow with bamboo arrows.

Monday, May 7, 2018

New practice date scheduled! Information can be found on the Facebook page here:

If Facebook isn't your thing, we are holding a practice on June 24 at Little Moon Farm in Needville, Texas. Start is at 10 am and goes until 2 in the afternoon or longer if there is enough interest. We do not have loaner horses but we do have loaner archery equipment and will help you get started.

If you are bringing in horses, please make sure to have a current negative coggins on hand. Riders of all skill levels and all ages welcome. No archery experience necessary. Minors must wear a helmet and anyone riding at practice must be a current member of the Mounted Archery Association of the Americas. We will be doing ground archery as well.