Landscapes of western Mongolia
Our Virtual Tour Of Western Mongolia
September 30, 2020
Responsible Photography in Mongolia
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, the ‘Khan Mongol’ Horse Riders Association, and the Namnaa horse archery academy. They are getting local Mongolians fired up and passionate and wanting to learn the ancient Mongol sport of horseback archery. They are also 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 with some being traditional and 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 interested in horseback archery, we can book a professional lesson with the Namnaa horse archery academy. Or, if you have more of an interest in the bows and how they are made, 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. 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, the founder of Eternal Landscapes Mongolia and the voice behind EL's blog posts. For more than a decade, since 2006, I've been based in Mongolia, working closely with my beloved Mongolian team to advocate for a tourism approach that brings about positive change.. What sets our blog apart is our deep understanding of Mongolia—our home. Unlike content from influencers or creators, our posts prioritise authenticity and firsthand knowledge as guiding principles.
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