Monday, January 31, 2011

Horse Archery...find the mark and let fly..

     Many of you might not have been exposed to this particular martial art. It is a discipline which creates great challenge and self control. If you ride you combine the skills of hunt seat equitation with classical dressage. Sitting back in the saddle you fire off rounds both left and right while your horse is at a full gallop. You steer the horse with your legs. This requires that you have a good seat, a fairly trained horse, because after a few runs in a strait line the horse will have a pretty good idea of what to do.
     Its a good idea to have the reins tied to one hand. I use a Portuguese bull fighting saddle, which is also good for jousting and lance, both sticking and throwing (what would Shakespeare say, I guess he just carried.). I just throw the reins over the pommel which on the Portuguese saddle forms a protective ridge so that an opponents lance doesn't test the family jewels and can easily keep the reins in place.
      Once you've completed your run sit back in the saddle to let the horse know you're going to slow down, gently pull on the reins and reward that graceful halt with some weight off the saddle sitting into the stirrups and you are ready to turn around and make another run. I like my horses to slow to a walk and make a neat turn about and then break into a new cantor which progresses into a full gallop before I've landed my next arrow. I like to Place three targets in a row, twenty or thirty yards apart on both sides of the horse about 35 to 50 yards away from the run. Space the targets so that you have time to shoot left after loosing your right flying arrow. Its about four or five lengths per shot to nock and let the arrow fly.
     There are plenty of photos out there. I unfortunately have none of myself. Most of the photos are of asian ( Mongol, Chinese, Japanese, and none of Euro except for Huns who back in the day may have been Asian or may not.), but I can assure you that horse archery was well practiced by the European military.
      I use thumb rings, I cannot shoot Grecian style. I use one on each thumb. I had a pair of sterling silver rings made from a thumb ring that was found aboard a sunken English ship from the late renaissance/early modern period, which of course is enough to rumple many a historians view of the English archer. In the essay section which will soon be available I cover the history and practice of Horse Archery in more depth. Even a Roman gravestone shows the inhabitant upon his horse using a thumb ring. So thumb rings were common throughout European combat archers, and the Grecian style which is a far weaker style was more of a Victorian presumption of how archery was practiced, than a common use.
     This does not detract from the fact that there are many excellent archers who use the Grecian style. It is my opinion that the thumb ring style gives more power to the shot and is better when on the horse than the Grecian style. There are plenty of photos out there. I unfortunately have none of myself. Most of the photos are of Asian (Mongol, Chinese, Japanese, and none of Euro except for Huns who may have been more Asian than Euro) and almost none of Euro mounted archers.
     You will see mostly people using the Grecian style of thumb index finger grabbing of the string. The thumb ring style which adds a great deal of poundage to the pull is done by wrapping the thumb around the string and holding it in place with the index finger on the thumb nail.
     Another fine point to consider is that I don't really spend any time on trying to aim. I just nock the arrow and look to the center of the target and then let fly. Just think of where the arrow needs to go, as a matter of fact, its far better to just stare into the center of the target and not think at all. Find the mark and let fly.....

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