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, one is the research, revival, and practice of traditional horseback archery as a martial art, 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 to 55 inches 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 in Australia is on a straight track, with multiple targets set up along the side. The type of track will dictate the length of track, and the type, size, number, and positioning of targets. Each track has its own set of rules, the three most common styles being the Australian tracks, the Raid tracks (based on a Korean style) and the Tower tracks (based on a Hungarian style) ranging in length from 50 to 150 metres. For beginners, there is also the Arena30 track (30m long) that can easily fit inside an arena, and is only run at the walk or the trot.
The horse is ridden at a walk, trot or canter with the reins sitting on the horse’s neck. 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 whist subconsciously adjusting for variation in distance from the target and the speed of the horse, 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.
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).