ABOUT THE CLUB
Bay Area Horse Archers is a San Francisco Bay Area club that focuses primarily on learning, playing, growing, and sharing horsemanship skills around the amazing fun sport of horse archery and other ancient equestrian warrior sports for both adult and young equestrians. Intermediate and advanced horse archers are welcome to join us for practice, training, clinics, competitions, and social gatherings. Students MUST have at least one year of regular riding experience with the ability to post at a trot and ride the canter in 2-point to join the club. We rent space at Blue Banner Ranch in Gilroy and train on Sunday mornings from 9:00am to 11:00am in summer and 10:00am-12:00pm in winter. Scroll down for more information on the club and addictive sport of horse archery.
Adam Sewell was born in England and raised in Africa. He has also lived in Germany, Spain, Ireland, the Caribbean, and in various locations around the U.S. An avid rider since age 4, Adam currently works as a fitness instructor specializing in horse archers and stunt performers and has been a personal trainer, tai chi and yoga instructor for over 20 years. He also works as a stuntman on film and tv productions and is a member of Bay Area Stunts. Adam has traveled all over the world to ride horses and has been training in horse archery since 2019 when he joined California Centaurs in Cotati, California under the guidance of Hilary Merrill. He started Bay Area Horse Archers as he was looking for a place closer to home to practice and is the founder of Adam Sewell Specialized Horse Archery Training (A.S.S.H.A.T).
Ariel Conrad was riding horses on her family's horse ranch in Idaho when she was a toddler and that has carried over to her life in the Bay Area. She currently works with an animal rescue center, training dogs for adoption. Ariel also practices horse archery and is Bay Area Horse Archers' club manager, but her real love is flying. She is a flight instructor at Squadron 2, based out of Reid Hillview Airport in San Jose. When not flying, working with rescued dogs, or traveling, she can be found diligently training our archery horses, Spectyr and Brûlée.
ABOUT OUR PHILOSOPHY
"RIDE FIRST - SHOOT SECOND!"
You'll hear those words repeated often in class.
We expect you to become more than a rider, we expect you to become a horseman or horsewoman.
We don't care how well you ride, but you must be in control of your horse at all times.
We don't care how well you shoot.
We care about the mental and physical wellbeing of your horses.
We expect you to work on advancing your knowledge of horses and to learn from them.
We expect you to put their needs first and demonstrate that in class and competitions.
We do not allow our members to use harsh bits or saddles that don't fit properly.
If you hit your horse, you're out. If your horse is uncontrollable, you'll be asked to leave the class.
We expect you to show up on time and develop your skills in a safe and controlled manner.
We expect you to learn from other teachers and constantly study the art of horsemanship.
No, we do not do children's parties!
We expect you to be kind to, and tolerant with, others in your class, and have as much fun as you can!
"RIDE FIRST - SHOOT SECOND"
ABOUT THE BASICS
Horse archery is believed to have originated on the battlefield with the Scythians or Assyrians on chariots around the 4th or 5th century BC until they decided it was easier to manoever a horse around the battlefield than a chariot. Archery from horseback has since been used all over the world in war, probably most successfully by the Mongolians who lived on their horses and rode into battle in the tens of thousands, while conquering lands as far west as Hungary. It is thought that the Mongolians' horses stayed together in battle as they live in herds and are not kept separately in stables. Herd life creates a bond between the horses so the Mongolians were able to ride and shoot without having to guide their horses with reins. A few lead riders would lead the entire charge with all the others following behind.
MODERN HORSE ARCHERY
In the mid 1980s, horse archery was started up as sport using a straight track to shoot targets on one side. Left handed archers ride in the opposite direction, shooting the same targets. Horse archery has since become popular around the world with many different styles of competition tracks. Competition tracks are usually competed on at the canter but some competitions have walk/trot categories. There are also monthly "postal" competitions, whereby competitors submit scores online for the postal of the month and the results are posted online as well. This has been a great way for clubs to keep up their competitive skills during the pandemic.
STRAIGHT TRACK -
The Raid or Korean track consists of a 90 meter track with one to five targets on one side of the track. The competitor shoots one arrow at each target and has 14 seconds to canter from start to finish with points awarded for crossing the finish line under the allowed time.
The Tower or Hungarian track consists of a 90 or 110 meter track with a tower of three targets halfway down the track. The competitor can shoot as many arrows at all three targets as possible with points awarded for crossing the finish line under 18 seconds.
The Skirmish track has one target on the start line, one front, one side, and one back shot and an offside shot at the end of the track with a 14 second time limit to canter the 90 meter track.
The Qabaq track has one or more dinner plate size targets on the top of seven meter poles alongside the track with a 14 second time limit. This is particularly challenging as the competitor has to shoot almost directly overhead while riding under the targets.
CROSS COUNTRY TRACK -
The Hunt or Polish track consists of a cross country style track with targets at various distances on both sides. The length of the track varies as do the targets, some of which might be three dimensional animal shaped realistic targets. More advanced clubs are now adding in ambidextrous shooting, jumps and obstacles to develop more horsemanship skills within the community.
MODERN TRACK -
The Modern track combines horsemanship, dressage and ranch riding skills such as jumping, water obstacles, dismounting and remounting, opening and closing gates, stringing the bow while riding and more.
These are the most popular tracks but there are many others and new competitions crop up all the time. Here is a link to a great resource for this information: https://www.mountedarchery.org/courses-score-sheets
WHO CAN PARTICIPATE?
Anybody who has a horse and can ride well enough can participate. Good horsemanship is the most challenging aspect of this sport. As with everything, you take it step by step, learning the basics of shooting on the ground, then apply those principles to sitting on your horse, first at a walk, then at a trot, then at a canter and eventually at a gallop. The old adage "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast" applies here too. Riding slowly and shooting accurately beats riding fast and shooting inaccurately every time. Kids can do this too, as long as they can ride well.
WHAT DO YOU NEED?
A horse, a bow, arrows, a quiver and a sense of humor.
HOW DO YOU TRAIN YOUR HORSE?
Controlling your horse:
Train your horse to keep a slow controlled steady canter down the track. First comes accuracy, then comes speed or as the saying goes: "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast."
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
Bows: Beginner bows can be bought online for as little as $50. After a short while, you will increase ability and strength and can move up to a more expensive bow. These range from $150 to "sky is the limit" for a custom bow.
Arrows: basic arrows from your local archery store should cost around $6-$10 with fletches, nocks and points.
Quiver: We make and sell custom quivers for around $250. You'll find photos on the Apparel page on this site.
Thumb ring: $25-sky is the limit! Most horse archers shoot thumb draw. If your bow has a heavier draw, you might use a thumb ring. These are available online but you will need to take specific thumb measurements for your ring to fit properly. Most people just tape their thumbs initially but a thumb ring really allows for a nice smooth release although it is more challenging to use when speed shooting.
WHAT TACK CAN YOU USE?
You can use most tack but certain tack is not allowed in competitions.
Saddles: Western saddles do not work particularly well as shooting at a canter should be done from a standing or two-point position as it is hard to shoot accurately when sitting at a canter. Standing is harder to do on a western saddle due to the stirrups being set more forward. Endurance saddles are popular as are dressage saddles.
Bridles: Short loop reins or reins that are loosely tied to the saddle with a strap or small bungee cord work best. Many people are now switching to bitless bridles and this is also a popular option for horse archers. If you have to snatch up the reins quickly, a bit can really damage a horse's mouth. Going bridle-less or liberty is not yet allowed in competitions but we definitely encourage it in training in the right circumstances.
WHAT BOW SHOULD YOU USE?
Bows for horse archery are known by a few different names like composite bows, horse bows, traditional bows, or Asiatic bows. These are different from regular recurve bows, which, like compound bows are not allowed in horse archery competitions. Asiatic bows do not have a shelf and can be made from wood, fiberglass, and various other materials laminated to make a very powerful bow. These bows tend to be shorter than recurve bows to enable the archer to move the bow from one side of the horse to the other more easily. Unfortunately, most archery shops are unfamiliar with these types of bows so online or local bow company representatives tend to be the only way to buy them. Look for links on the resources page of this site for bow manufacturers and retailers.