Last week saw us back on the road to the Domaine de Gauchoux near Limoges in France, for the second edition of the training camp for young archers where we had such fun last year.
This year, CMA was represented by Aliénor again, as well as her sister Éowyn, and Alex Austin, who was hoping to gain her Club Coach qualification by the end of the week. After a long drive down through France on Thursday, we awoke on Friday morning to gorgeous sunshine.
The morning’s session was unmounted, with the kids rotating between different activities and coaches. We we joined by the brilliant Emil Eriksson again, as well as French and British coaches .
In the afternoon, the ponies arrived and again in groups they worked on skills for the Hungarian track. Ali was very happy to be riding Nadjie again…..
Saturday kicked off with a warm up session with Fred Luneau, involving lots of running, jumping and shouting. Then it was off to the sand school for practise on the Mamluk track and the qabaq.
Unfortunately the Qabaq training was cut short when we had to dismantle the pole as one of the arrows got stuck in the top!
On Sunday, all this training was put to the test when everyone took part in the current IHAA postal match (Hungarian and Mamluk)
Then on Monday we got to see how the French competitions work, with the students competing at the Club 1 Korean and Hungarian events and Éowyn got to compete in the Club 3 event, 3 runs at the walk and a final one at a faster pace. She wanted this to be a mere trot, but the pony had other ideas!
Ali and Alex shot well enough to get Student 4 scores in the Korean and Éowyn came second in her competition, so all pleased with that.
Tuesday saw us on the hunt track with 3D targets, which not all the horses were too keen on. Even Éowyn got in on the action….
Then in the afternoon, all that was left was for Alex to do the final bit of testing on her Club Coach logbook, which she passed.
As well as all the archery action, we had the usual excellent catering and accommodation in yurts, and some pleasant evenings chatting and drinking. The kids all got on really well, and Éowyn struck up a friendship with Isabel, a Swedish archer who can give the adults a run for their money (despite only being a year or two older than Éowyn). So now our youngest member has a role model to emulate!
So a fabulous week, we all learnt a lot and made some new friends. Here’s to the next one 🙂 Finally, some video to give you more of a flavour of the event:
I’m Nicola and I’ve not been doing this very long! I took up target archery in May, and Horseback Archery in July 2016. After lots of practice sessions with the Cotteswold Mounted Archers I went with some of our other members to the Nationals, in September. After passing my Club Horseback Archer qualification, as a disabled rider I was eligible to compete in the walk classes – which to my surprise I went on to win! This gave me a taste for more, and my goal for 2017 is to compete in canter classes against able-bodied riders. I’m studying for my Intermediate Horseback Archer qualification and plan to become a club coach next.
On September 17th and 18th the BHAA National Championships were held at Old Mill Stables in Cornwall for the second year running. So most of the members of Cotteswold Mounted Archers made the long trip down there, although due to financial and work constraints, we didn’t take our horses this time. Our newest member, Nicola, was already there when we arrived, having gone down a couple of days earlier to ensure she’d have time to do her assessment for Club Archer before the competition began. She easily passed her assessment, despite having only taken up the sport a couple of months ago.
Day one started with horse tryouts, followed by the first group of competitors doing the Hungarian competition, using a brand new target all the way from Poland. After lunch we then had the new Walk Course competition, for the younger archers and Nicola, who won the class. Eowyn came fourth, but still won the “who can get the most golds” competition she had going with Nicola, with I believe a bar of chocolate at stake……..
The day then finished with a second group of archers doing the Hungarian competition. Ali, sticking to the Tolkien-themed horse names, rode a cob called Bilbo and Alex got Tia, a very marish mare, complete with sparkly browband.
After a pleasant evening in the pub for dinner and chat, we were up early again on Sunday morning for day two. In the morning was the Korean competition, two runs of single shot, two of double and finally two of triple shot. Then in the afternoon was the Aussie Triple competition for the student grade archers, followed by the Mamluk for the HA grade competitors. The local BBC news cameraman had even arrived for this last stage, to film a few runs and interview a couple of the riders. We did have to stop a run at one point when he decided to stroll up to one of the targets to position his camera next to it!!
Al and Éowyn were fitted out with our new GoPro helmet cam, some footage from that (with a lot of talking from Éowyn) as well as the rest of the competition is here:
Then all that remained was to announce the winners. Overall winner and new British Champion was Simon Harding, followed by Oisín Curtis of Old Mill Stables in second and one of his students, 15 year old Amy O’Connor in third.
CMA came away with a first and fourth in the walk class (Nicola and Éowyn) and third and sixth in the Australian Triple (Alex and Aliénor).
Last weekend saw us on the road to Cornwall again for the latest match in the BHAA International series. A team from Holland came over for a three-way tournament with a GB team and a GB under 18 team. Alex was on the GB senior team, and as of last Thursday, so was Ali (at the grand old age of 15), as one of the other adults had to drop out.
So, cramming the car full of camping gear, archery gear and the obligatory case of cider from our sponsor (and cheese from Alex’s sponsor), we headed down the M5 to Old Mill Stables, near St Ives, or nearly as far as you can go south west without the car getting wet. One day we really should get to go to a comp that’s not a stupidly long drive away. Although it was a lot further for the Dutch!
We got to the stables before dark, threw the tent up and went to the pub. No sign of anyone else, so we had a quick pint and retired to bed. The next morning we were up early, largely due to the cockerels at the stables who apparently believe that morning starts at 4 am when it’s still dark……
As usual, there was a fair amount of standing around chatting to be done before some horses emerged down at the archery field and the process of matching mounts to archers began. Ali started off on Dolly, who is a mare very much with a mind of her own, and having never had a left-handed archer on board before, decided she didn’t really want to go down the run that way round. So we went to plan B which was an equally feisty mare called Tia who seemed to be permanently in season. Alex rode a nice little pony called Charlie who was of course remarkably straightforward compared to the mares……
After lunch (Cornish pasties) we did the Hungarian competition. This being something we don’t get to practise much, the scores weren’t great. By the end of the day, the under 18 team was in the lead, followed by the Dutch and finally our (mostly) over 18 team.
The Dutch all rode really well and of course Dolly was as good as gold for one of their team……
After the competition was over for the day, we retired to the caravan site next door, where the accommodation for the rest of the teams was a lot more civilised than ours, and drank cider and ate cheese. Then in the evening it was time for a trip to the pub for dinner.
Sunday morning kicked off with the Korean competition, our girls did a bit better with this one, but by lunchtime (more pasties) the U18s were still in the lead. That afternoon was the Mamluk competition, this is a more interesting take on the Korean track, with such things as a target on the “wrong” side of the track and one flat on the floor, called a jarmaki. This is a lot of fun, but very challenging. The girls gave it a good go though.
The Queen of the Mamluk course turned out to be Charlotte from the Dutch team who scored amazingly well (if you hit all 4 targets you get extra bonus points) and snatched victory for the visitors away from Team Teen.
So it was a great weekend, we met some lovely new archers and came away with a bronze medal and some sunburn. Here’s to the next one 🙂
So here’s a question I get asked fairly often: how do horseback archery competitions work?
Well……it’s a bit complicated.
There are a fair few different types of competition, depending on which parts of the world you take the tradition from. Let’s start with the first type we were introduced to, the Korean competition.
Hailing from, well, Korea, this competition is usually run on a straight track over 90 or 150 metres. All the targets are near ground level between 5 and 7 metres from the track. The traditional Korean targets are things of beauty, multi-coloured and with a painted animal at the centre which looks to me like a tiger but I am reliably informed is in fact a boar…they’re not stripes, but tusks, apparently……
The rules vary a bit depending on which type of run you are doing, but generally you have to start with your arrows in a quiver and you can’t draw one until you’ve passed the start line. Most Korean competitions start with a single target halfway down the track. Then they can change to two (angled) targets, or 3 or 5. Usually if five targets are used, the run is 150m long and you are allowed to start with one arrow nocked. There are also speed points available, but not unless you have actually hit a minimum number of targets.
There are various versions of this competition explained on the IHAA website, but as their diagrams are rather dull, I’ve found some prettier ones from this site (which also has a lot of interesting photographs you might want to look through)
Next up, the Hungarian competition. I’m sure you can figure out where this one comes from……
Here’s a picture of the course.
Main difference from the Korean is the height of the targets, and that they tend to be circular. You have 3 faces to shoot at (unless you’ve got a fancy mechanical target that turns as you run along the track like our friends in France) so this involves some forwards and back shots, making it a bit more technical. Again there are speed points, more information on the Hungarian competition here
Then there’s the Turkish style competition, also known as Qabaq. This involves shooting at a target overhead, using a blunt arrow or flu-flu. Flu-flu arrows look very pretty as well as having a silly name, since they are designed to make a somewhat gentler return to the ground than your average arrow……
As you can see from the pic, this can also involve shooting at a target flat on the floor too. Often you have to pick an arrow up from an arrow stand before you shoot it. And there might be another knock down target to aim for after the overhead one. I have never tried this, but there is a certain technique to learn with regards to rider position when aiming overhead, as can be seen in this illustration…..
You might want to practise that a time or two with your horse first to get him used to it……
Another competition I’ve never tried but would love to is the Polish track, sometimes called a hunt track. Having watched a couple of competitions involving this, it basically looks like a cross country course with targets instead of jumps. So would be a good test of horsemanship. Targets are randomly spaced out along the track, not necessarily all on the same side or the same distance away. Sometimes 3D targets are used. Hard to find a handy little diagram of this, but here’s a photo of my friend Claire looking cool on the DHA Hunt Track in Sweden.
More information about this Swedish competition, along with some video so you can really see what it’s all about here (the site from which the above photo is stolen).
Those are the main styles of competition you’re likely to encounter. There are more. The Jordanian involves holding a bow and a sabre, which sounds pretty dangerous to me, and as well as not cutting off any fingers, stabbing your horse or dropping any weapons you need to shoot an arrow at a target on one side then pick up a smaller target from the ground with your sabre on the other.
Then there’s the Masahee, a bit like the Korean but with targets up on stands you knock over shooting a blunt arrow, that get progressively smaller with each run. The Mamluk course is one of the more challenging, with targets at various distances, flat on the ground and on the offside. Other variations on a Korean course have been developed by different countries, such as the Texas Triple or the Australian Triple. The Japanese have their Yabusame competitions using asymmetrical bows. I do not pretend to understand how these work. A subject for another blog post, perhaps…..
And finally there’s something called the Mogu competition. This involves one rider towing a large white ball behind his horse at a gallop with other riders behind trying to hit it with ink-covered blunted arrows. This sounds like enormous fun, but of course I’ve never tried it. I have however heard it described by someone who has as the most terrifying few minutes of his life…..
Just desensitizing the horse to having this large white thing bumping along behind him sounds like a challenge in itself, although judging by the speed of the horses in some of the videos I’ve seen, perhaps they didn’t bother!
To really give you an idea of how all this works, in the video below you can see footage from the 11th Horseback Archery World Championships in Korea last year. First is the Korean single shot discipline, then the double shot, then serial shot. Next is the Masahee and you can see just how small the targets get. After that the Qabaq and then finally the Mogu . Oh, and lots of flamboyant costumes, dancing and some truly awesome hats……
My name is Éowyn. I got into horseback archery partly from my dad because he does ground archery and then my mum found out about horseback archery, let me try it and I liked it. I practised it a lot.
A few times on bareback and then in a field where we built a run and at some point I rode on one of our French friend’s western horses.
In 2015 I went to the BHAA championships for the weekend and there was a children’s competition. There were only 3 children but I won on my sister’s horse, Sky, and I won a shiny trophy and a rosette. It was fancy dress.
I like to practice on my mum’s horse Gandalf. He’s 22 but we can still ride him. He’s a lovely calm horse and the most sensible of the three, Elentari, Sky and Gandalf. Although I think they are all lovely. I’m a bit scared of cantering in general but okay with trotting whilst shooting but in the future I’m going to shoot whilst cantering in a competition… maybe.
People ask us a lot why we do what we do, once they’ve asked the inevitable question “is that really a thing?!” So what’s the answer?
Three years ago, I didn’t know mounted archery was a thing either. I’ve been riding for most of my life and have owned horses for many years, but outside of the odd documentary about Genghis Khan, horseback archery hadn’t really registered on my radar.
It was during a trip to the club where we used to ride in France once day that we first heard mention of getting on a horse with a bow in hand. Of course we immediately wanted a go, so were given a bow each and shown how to shoot it at a target on the ground. So far so good…….
Then came getting on the horse. And ambling along past the target at a walk. This is fun, we thought! Let’s go faster…….OK so once the speed increased, any hope of hitting a target went out of the window, but we didn’t care, we were enjoying ourselves. And that’s why we do it, it’s fun, pure and simple.
Of course there are many other reasons to like this sport. As you have to let go of the reins, you need to be able to use your seat effectively. Riding without reins is so good for improving riding position and the rider’s confidence. It’s also one of the most difficult things for many people to do, but giving them a bow to worry about instead is a good distraction!
We also like what we see of most of the horses. In a world full of dressage horses on tight reins and showjumpers wearing all sorts of bits of metal on their heads, it’s nice to see a sport that allows a horse to use its head freely. A lot of people, especially abroad, ride with just a headcollar, or sometimes only a neckstrap…..
Then there’s the opportunity to travel. Last year we went to the European Grand Prix in France and the French National Championships. BHAA members regularly compete in Sweden, Poland, Germany and have even been to the World Championships in Korea. And our own National Championships happen to be in a very nice spot in Cornwall……
So we can highly recommend horseback archery. Suitable for all ages, our youngest member is 8. If you would like to give it a try, please get in touch 🙂