22 April 2024

Cooktown's Woods claims Australian horse archery title

| Chisa Hasegawa
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Don Woods

Cooktown archer Don Woods was understandable thrilled to be crowned overall champion at the Australian horse archery championships. Photo: Supplied.

A Cooktown man has been crowned overall winner of the 2024 Australian Horse Archery Association National Championships in just his third year at the competition.

Despite getting into the sport only six years ago, Don Woods is no stranger to the championships stage, having previously been selected to compete at state, national and international levels in other sports.

Having ridden his first horse at just two years old, and an avid archer for the past 15 years, putting the two disciplines together was a no-brainer for the rider.

“I love horses and I love archery, so combining them is just fantastic,” Mr Woods said.

“There’s nothing that causes quite the same sense of euphoria for me as when I’m up there doing a good run on the back of the horse.”

After finishing third at the 2023 championships, Mr Woods said 2024 felt like his “breakthrough” year when competitors converged on the north-east Victorian village of Cheshunt earlier this month.

“I’ve been able to see some big improvements in my own skills, which is exciting,” he said.

“To actually win overall champion on top of that is, as you can imagine, a big sense of achievement.”

READ ALSO Cooktown rider repping Australia at Mongolian horse archery world championships

With the competition held in Victoria, Mr Woods said one of the challenges was riding a horse that was not his own, although it was not an unfamiliar experience, having borrowed a mount to compete at the International Horse Archery Association World Championships in Mongolia last year.

“There’s a fair bit with the horses, desensitising them to the bow and arrow, and also in the control, because you drop the reins and ride without hand control,” he told Cape York Weekly.

“Although it only took me a few hours to get the hang of it when I first started, there have of course been big improvements since then, and there’s a big difference between hitting the target and hitting it consistently and accurately.”

Mr Woods said one of the best things about the little-known sport was its open and inclusive community.

Although the championship category was judged based on three fast-paced tracks for advanced competitors, there were also novice canter, walk and trot, and junior categories.

“I have some close friends in the association now because it’s a very close community across all ages and all skill levels,” Mr Woods said.

“Canter gets a lot of excitement and it’s really fun to watch, but there’s also the trot and walk tracks, and they’re very important to us as well, because they’re where our new competitors come from.”

Don Woods had to overcome competing on a new mount to claim the 2024 national horse archery crown in mid-April. Photo: Supplied.

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