Landscapes of western Mongolia
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September 30, 2020
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November 2, 2020
Mongolian horseback archery

Image from Mongolian Horseback Archery Association МҮМХХолбоо

Mongolian Horseback Archery

Simply put, a horse archer is armed with a bow and arrows and able to shoot while riding from horseback.  In Mongolian culture, horseback archery was used for hunting, for protecting livestock, protecting the tribe from outside enemies and for war as horseback archery created a highly-mobile warrior.  It was one of the defining characteristics of the Mongol Army – the Mongolian composite bow is a formidable tool with explosive acceleration and velocity and accompanied the Mongol Army as they conquered what became the largest contiguous land empire on earth.

Horseback archery blends speed with accuracy – using a bow requires the rider to let go of the reins with both hands which means that to shoot on the move requires superb equestrian skills.

Mongolian horseback archery

Image from Mongolian Horseback Archery Association МҮМХХолбоо taken from the 2020 Khuraldai Falconry Festival

Historically, horseback archers were eventually rendered obsolete by the maturity of firearm technology although traditional standing archery remained part of Mongolian culture and forms one of the ‘Three Manly Sports’ of Mongolia’s traditional sporting festival of Naadam. You can learn more here – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/mongolian-archery/.

Archery at Mongolia's Naadam Festival

 

But now, horseback archery is making a comeback in Mongolia through local organisations and groups such as the Mongolian Horseback Archery Association МҮМХХолбоо or the ‘Khan Mongol’ Horse Riders Association. They are getting local Mongolians fired up and passionate and wanting to learn the ancient Mongol sport of horseback archery and organsing competitions such as the Spirit Mongolia Open Horseback Archery Tournament and the Khuraldai Falconry Festival. Not only that, but Mongolians are now bringing home medals from international horseback archery competitions.

There are many different disciplines, some traditional, others quite recently introduced. Disciplines include the Korean event whereby the target is square and contains 5 scoring zones. Arrows must be carried in a quiver and cannot be held in the bow hand. There’s also qabak  whereby a target is put on the top of a tall pole and the archer passing the pole at full-speed has to turn in the saddle and shoot the target.

Horseback archery, by its nature, is a very dynamic type of shooting with instinctive aiming. In the words of Anna Sokólska part of an elite group of Polish horseback archers and instructors, ‘Horseback archers don’t use sights. They rely on a combination of muscle memory, hand-eye coordination, arrow trajectory and subconscious distance calculations to the target.’

Image from Mongolian Horseback Archery Association МҮМХХолбоо taken from the 2020 Khuraldai Falconry Festival

What we love about the Mongolian participants is that they are students and doctors and teachers and drivers … and you can join them. If you’re unsure about your horseback skill, you can join in one of our archery workshops with one of Mongolia’s master bow and arrow makers – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/mongolia-day-trips-archery-workshop. Or, if you’re comfortable on horseback then let us arrange time spent with the Khan Mongol’ Horse Riders Association. Get in touch for details.

 

Image from Mongolian Horseback Archery Association МҮМХХолбоо taken from the 2020 Khuraldai Falconry Festival

Jess @ Eternal Landscapes

Jessica Brooks
Jessica Brooks
I’m Jess Brooks. I am the founder of Eternal Landscapes Mongolia - a registered Mongolian business and social travel enterprise that focuses on providing travellers with a real 21st Century insight into Mongolia. I have been based in Mongolia since 2006 and together with my beloved Mongolian team, we focus on tourism that makes a positive difference. I'm also a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society - awarded for my work in Mongolia and a published guidebook author - having worked together with World Adventure Guides to produce a digital interactive guide to Mongolia. http://www.jessbrooks.co.uk/
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