- How can I get started?
To do horseback archery, you first must be able to ride and shoot separately.
Our members are passionate about this sport, and happy to share our knowledge, but we do it as a hobby and are not equipped to offer lessons at this time. Spectators are generally welcome at our practices (please let us know you're coming), but in order to participate you must:
- Be able to ride safely at walk, trot, and canter without reins. Nothing fancy, just stay on and in control. There are many barns in the area, location matters more than style when you're starting out, although you will find you need to able to maintain stability in two point position, most commonly taught in the context of jumping, for the best accuracy. Getting as much time in the saddle as you can is key. Bay Area Equestrian Network may be a helpful resource if you are searching for an instructor.
- Be able to safely shoot your bow. We strongly encourage you to check out the YouTube tutorials and other resources at The Way of Archery. This is the style of traditional Chinese archery that all our current members practice. The techniques and gear of modern archery are optimized for shooting from a standstill, and take it for granted that the archer has all the time in the world to make the shot.
- Bring a horse. Unfortunatley, we simply do not have any loaner horses.
- Be a member of the Mounted Archery Association of the Americas (MA3). This is required for our insurance.
- If the practice is at our usual location at the Santa Clara County Horsemen's Association, you will need to pay a day use fee if you are not a member of the association. (This money goes to Horsemen's, not SVMA)
Fun fact: historically a "horse archer" was a rider who shot from horseback, while a "mounted archer" was a soldier who rode to battle, but dismounted to shoot. One of the reasons we used "mounted archer" in our club name was in recognition of the reality of practicing this sport in the Bay Area in the 21st century. We spend the vast majority of our time honing our archery and riding skills separately.
- What equipment do I need?
A bow. Specifically, you'll want a traditional asiatic recurve bow, a.k.a composite bow, a.k.a "horse bow". Modern features such as sights, arrow-rests, pulleys, and pistol grips get in the way at the speeds of a horse archer. Plus a shorter bow (or an asymmetrical one like the Japanese yumi) tends to be easier to manage in the saddle. We shoot many arrows at relatively short distances, so high poundage bows are unnecessarily fatiguing even at the highest levels of the sport.
To give you some specifics, here's what some of our current members use (all in the range of 30-40#):
- Arrows. We recommend carbon for durability and consistency. Do not get plastic vanes as fletching; feathers will perform better with a bow that lacks an arrow rest and will be gentler on your knuckles. The exact specifications of the arrow will depend on the poundage of your bow and your draw length.
- A quiver. A quiver suitable for horse archery holds arrows securely near your hip or leg and allows you to pull and nock quickly while at the same time preventing the arrows from smacking your horse in the rear every stride.
- A thumb ring. While not strictly necessary, your thumb will thank you.
- You will also, of course, need a horse. Unfortunately, we don't have any lesson or loaner horses. If you don't already own a horse, you'll need to find one to lease/rent/borrow that you can trailer to practice. The list of tack and other gear potentially related to this horse is practically infinite, so we'll just say that when it comes to the "horseback" part of horseback archery, just get started with whatever you already have. Note: it is a very, very, very bad idea to buy a horse if you have no previous experience with horses. Please don't do this!
- I live too far away. Where else can I do this?
- Blue Lake Horse Archery (Northern California - Blue Lake, CA)
- California Centaurs (Petaluma, CA)
- Desert Shadows Horse Archery (Southern California - 29 Palms, CA)
- Dragon Riders Mounted Archery (Windsor, CA)
- Buffalo Grass Horse Archers (Petaluma, CA)
- Sagittarii Horse Archers (Southern California - Lakeside, CA)
- StarGazer Horse Archers (Southern California - Lucerne Valley, CA)
- The World Kukgung Federation (Southern California - Valley Center, CA)
If you can't find any dedicated horse archery groups in your area, another organization to look up is the Society for Creative Anachronism. We are not an SCA group or affiliated in way, but their members are friendly and practice various medieval equestrian arts, including horse archery.
- I have more questions.