Horse archery is getting up a gallop as interest in its warrior-like appeal helps to rein in the decline in pony club memberships.
South Australian Bianca Stawiarski, a horse archery competitor and trainer, said part of the reason the sport was gaining momentum was its warrior-like appeal to young men.
“Boys are now seeing that there is another option as an equestrian discipline to not just do show-jumping cross country and dressage,” Ms Stawiarski said.
“Now boys are seeing that there’s something a little bit more warrior-like that they can put together.”
Ms Stawiarski said there was a degree of flexibility in the sport.
“We shoot to the front, we shoot to the side, we shoot to the back, we shoot straight up in the air and down on the ground. We shoot across the horse as well.”
Ms Stawiarski has travelled the world competing and is now teaching the sport to young people at pony clubs in South Australia.
“Overseas they’re just starting to incorporate cross-country.
“Now that looks like a really exciting thing, you know jumps and water jumps and shooting. It looks like a lot of fun,” Ms Stawiarski said.
Another string to the bow to increase pony clubs numbers
Ann Olsen, a vice president of Pony Club South Australia said the sport was a perfect solution to address dwindling club numbers by attracting boys back from competing sports such as cricket and footy.
“At the moment our male membership of boys in pony clubs is still relatively low in comparison to girls.
“Years ago it wasn’t so much that, but now we’re competing with footy and cricket more, there’s more peer pressure for boys.
“We’re trying to branch out into things like horse archery just to see if we can attract the boys back because it’s high speed and you don’t need to be quite so refined.
“It’s one of those things we’re looking at not just to attract more boys but more girls if we can too,” Ms Olsen said.
“Some clubs have lost their grounds so that makes it quite difficult as well,” Ms Olsen said.
Not without risk or training
There is significant training and insurance involved in preparing young people for the sport.
The sport takes a lot of skill with riders having to let go of their reins to shoot.
Bianca Stawiarski said practice and competitions were very controlled environments.
“Horse archery is highly structured and a controlled environment, even though it doesn’t sound like it would be, but it has to be to meet insurance requirements,” Ms Stawiarski said.
“We teach people to shoot on the ground on the ground first.
“The important thing is that they don’t injure their horse or themselves or any spectators,” she said.
“We have strict requirements that spectators aren’t on the side of the shooting area and also have to make sure the horse is comfortable with the sound of the bow and the arrow.
“Then they shoot from horseback, with assistance, and only move to the next level once both they and the horse are ready,” Ms Stawiarski said.
And the sport stays true to its roots.
“We still do the same skills that were used in ancient warfare,” Ms Stawiarski said.