Horse Archery, has seen a great surge of interest around the world in the last 20 years, leading to a vibrant worldwide community today. There are two main strands running through the sport today, one is the research, revival and maintaining of traditional horseback archery, the second is the development of it as a modern sport. It should be noted that these two strands often overlap and interweave with one another.
A composite recurve bow of around 50-55” is generally used (except for Japanese Yabusame, which uses an asymmetric bow over 2m in length) with wooden, aluminium or carbon fibre arrows.
The most common way horse archery is practised today in Australia is on a straight track, around 120 metres long with a series of targets to the left or right of the track, set up in either in the Australian, Korean or Hungarian style (for more details on the different track set up and rules go to our pages titled RULES). The horse is ridden at a walk, trot or canter with the reins loose on the horse’s neck – horses must be desensitised to the bow and arrows and the sound of shooting, as well as being trained to run at a steady speed without rein contact. Mastery of horse archery involves the ability to nock arrows onto the string whilst moving with the horse and keeping your eye on the target, then aiming at the target (which most do in an instinctive manner, without lining up part of the bow or arrow with the target) – subconsciously adjusting for variation in distance from the target and the speed of the horse, maintaining practised archery form (despite the target being anywhere from your front, to perpendicular to your direction of movement, to behind you) and timing the shot with the horse’s gait. It sounds like an awful lot to think about but it can all fall together perfectly, and when it does it the feeling really is addictive!
Less common styles of horseback archery are:
Qabaq, Turkish gourd shooting in origin, where a single blunt arrow is shot upwards at a target on an 8m high pole.
Mogu where one or two horses and riders gallop across an open field in pursuit of a 60cm diameter cloth-covered wicker ball being towed by a mounted opponent and shooting blunt arrows dipped in paint at the the Mogu Ball.
Photo by Choon-Sik Park
Yabusame, is an ancient style practised in Japan where riders shoot at very small breakable targets with a blunt arrow shot from a long asymmetric bow.
Hunt Track Archery is a course along a long winding cross-country course, crossing variations in terrain and sometimes jumps with a variety of targets (often called the Polish style).