I think many riders would secretly enjoy trying to shoot at a target from horseback. It is no small challenge to aim true while steering a cantering horse with one’s legs. These days, archery is a bona fide equestrian sport, with modern mounted archers preferring the efficient composite recurve bow as it is compact enough to use accurately while on horseback.
The International Horse Archery Association (IHAA) was formed in 2013 with the aim of standardising rules for scoring for mounted archery competitions in Britain, Australia and the USA. It also provides an easily accessible international database and list of events so that riders can try this new discipline. Competitions are graded according to the experience of the riders. Novices, for example, ride patterns at a walk and jog, while the open riders shoot at targets while at an extended canter.
Three principal styles
South Africa has joined the IHAA and uses several international patterns. At present these are:
The Hungarian style
This uses circular targets set 2m above the ground. They are 90cm in diameter with a 30cm diameter ‘bull’s eye’. The court, or run, is divided into three 30m sections. The rider has to shoot at least one arrow into each target as he or she passes at a canter. The total time allowed per run is 18 seconds.
The Korean style
This involves several disciplines and is fairly complex. In South Africa, the pattern uses 34cm² square targets and arrows must be kept in a quiver or belt, not held in the hand. The lane is 160m long with a turn to the left. Five targets are set up 30m apart and the maximum time for the run, at a canter, is 35 seconds.
The Turkish style
This employs two targets, one on the ground and one hung on a 7m pole. Blunt arrows are used and there is a time limit.
Mounted archery is a worthy addition to the range of horse sports in South Africa. It has the advantage of using sensible, well-trained horses, where looks and size are not important.
Good for other disciplines
Riders in other disciplines wanting to school their horses to be quiet and manageable, or learn to use their legs rather than their hands to steer the horse, could take on mounted archery as a challenge. The Pretoria Mounted Archery Club is to be congratulated on taking the lead and organising the very first open show in this exciting new discipline.