So whats with the names, the Hungarian, Korean, Aussie and Polish. What does it mean?
Well there are many European and Asian countries with fascinating histories of horse archery for over a thousand years. We’ve all heard of Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan, some very famous leaders, who had the benefit of mounted archers to help mark their place in history.
Before we get started the best place to see tracks and their rules is on the International Horseback Archery Alliance (IHAA) web site. https://www.horsebackarchery.info/coursedatabase
There you will find a lot of interesting tracks and even some that aren’t commonly used in competition, but are fun to have a crack at.
Anyway, today we have the modern day sport of Horse Archery, essentially started in Hungary by Lajos Kassai over 30 years ago. As a result the course he and his students specialise on is called, yep you guessed it, the Hungarian Track or simply, and sometimes terrifyingly called The Hun.
Kassai displaying his hold of many arrows in the bow hand, whilst doing a forward shot.
This track is basically a central tower of three targets set midway down a 90 meter run, and the aim is to get as many arrows off and onto target as possible in the distance and in the time allowed.
Now in the time I have been doing this sport there have been quite a few adaptations to this track, some have zones, no zones, a turning target , a 99 meter track ( instead of 90 m) and different times in which to complete the track and how many arrows must be loosed to score time bonuses. To be honest not only is it about the most challenging track to do, it has now become the most confusing rules wise. Hopefully that will get tidied up over the next few years as those that make the decisions start to realise its getting a bit ridiculous to keep track of all the variances in rules.
Cameron Momtaz from the USA at Aussie Bow Camp riding our D'artagnan on the Hun Track
Korea has an interesting history of Horse Archery and of all the asian countries, with the exception of Japan who has never forgotten their Horse Archery heritage , Korea has forged its way back and adapting into the modern sport as we know it today The World Horseback Archery Federation (WHAF) have now hosted 13 World Championships in South Korea. They also have a very cool target face with a tiger as the bullseye, I like it because of the red nose, its easy to focus on.
Claire Sawyer from the UK competing in the European Championships in France in 2017 on a Korean Track.
The courses known as the Korean Tracks predominately have targets facing the track, in either a one, three or five target tracks with a distance of 30 meters between targets, the exception is the 2 target or double shot track where the targets are angled at 45 degrees for a forward and back shot. This track varies in target distances a bit depending on where you compete in it.
Confused yet. Well here are some diagrams of the tracks for you
The Polish Track is basically a cross country course with rope barriers to guide your horse whilst you shoot the various types and sizes of targets set at different angles. The rules for the Polish track vary depending on where its held and by whom. Its variance is one of the attractions of doing this track, as you don’t know what you’ve got until you ‘walk the course ‘
Heres our mate Radoslaw Kozuch riding a lovely smooth Polish Track at Grunwald, Poland
This is not to be confused with the Hunt tracks that are done on forrest or fire trails and apart from blocking off an intersection or unsafe part of the track, there are no barriers. Again this is another great fun track, and for an idea of what its like, go watch the Merrida scene in Disney's movies 'Brave'.
Wonderful Claire Sawyer from the UK competing on the DHA's Hunt Track in Sweden.
Below is the 2015 World Champ, Emil Erickson from Sweden, training on the Hunt track
In Australia we call it the Brumby Run and is either one of the above or a mix of the two tracks, depending on the location, terrain and equipment available. But man these tracks are the very best fun !!
Belows photo is of South Australian, Renae Urbanski, on the Brumby Run at the 2015 Aussie Nationals riding our horse D'artagnan. This track was held in Port Dougas FNQ on a cane farm, thus the lovely long grass to use as a barrier for part of the track, that and the crocodile infested River as well !
Now onto our track, The Aussie Track. Well to be honest I didn’t know what else to call it when I wrote it. There is a triple, double and single shot tracks. The single and the double are essentially the same as the Korean versions of those tracks, but the double is set at 10 meters between targets.. It is the Triple thats different in that the first and third target are angled 45 degrees from the track and the centre one is facing the track. Essentially it came about because this how I set up the targets in an arena for intro courses, because when the arrows miss the target they are funnelled away from those waiting at the ends for their turn.
Since having our Aussie track accepted by the IHAA it has become very popular and can be used for grading in most levels and is often used for the International Postal Matches.
Due to our personal association with the Horseback Archery Federation of Japan and its wonderful competitions, we Downunder, love doing Yabusame, with its breaking targets. A simple course with 3 targets, parallel to the track, but those pesky targets are only 40 x 40 centimetres, half the size of regular targets and need to be broken by an arrow with a blunt tip. Bounce offs do not score.
Traditionally the target was made of ceramic tile that broke into many pieces, this is often still used in the religious ceremonies and events when Traditonal Yabusame is contested at temples, castles and shires witnessed by thousands of spectators.
Otherwise it is mostly thin timber used for targets
There is something very satisfying about breaking your target
Another Track that is used at many events is a Turkish one named the Qabak. This target looks like a family sized metal pizza plate stuck on top of a long pole. Its another tricky target, but very popular. At most events you just have to hit it to score, but at some, like the Worlds in Korea, the score also depends on your body position when releasing the arrow.
Below is Dan Sawyer from the UK going for maximum points with his position - Korea 2013.
So there is a very quick 101 on the most popular and most contested tracks around the world right now.
My next blog will be on the basics of the rules in this sport.