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Equipment Guide: Archery

We have a lot of questions regarding what equipment is best for beginners. Beginner equipment should be easy to use and succeed on and have an economical price. A beginners arrows will be lost and broken, and although we try to avoid it, their bow will likely be dry fired and thrown while training their equine partner. There are several companies that produce quality mounted archery equipment, such as Alibow, and AF Archery. These companies are reputable and we recommend purchasing from them or their distributors (such as Nomad Warriors.) A beginner needs a bow, arrows, a quiver, an arm guard, a glove, a fingerguard/thumb tape/thumb ring, and a target. First we will start with the safety equipment. Safety is always first. An armguard is an essential piece of equipment for those starting out in archery. The arm guard protects against what is called string slap. This is where the forearm is set in the way of the string and is hit upon the release. This is due to poor form and results in a painful bruise and sometimes bleeding. The arm guard is a strap, or wrap of leather that is worn on the bow arm to protect the skin in case of string slap. String slap is very common among beginners and it is likely that a person learning to shoot will experience it. String slap can be prevented with the help of a good instructor. An arm guard can be purchased at any bow shop and many sports shops. Any store that carries bow hunting supplies will also have arm guards.

The glove may be included in your arm guard, depending on the style you purchase. The glove is worn on the bow hand to protect the skin from the fletchings as they pass by upon release of the bow. In mounted archery we use traditional bows that have no arrow rests, so the arrow sits directly on your hand. This can result in the fletchings cutting the thumb or fingers as they pass swiftly when the bow is released. A glove can be a thumb and index finger glove designed for archery, or you can purchase athletic riding gloves. Athletic riding gloves work well as they are also useful when riding and help to provide grip on the reigns and keep your hands warm during cold months. a glove can be purchased from Alibow or AF Archery. A riding glove can be purchased from any equestrian supply store and many farm stores.

A finger guard, thumb tape or thumb ring is also essential for beginners. This piece of safety equipment will match your chosen style of shooting. Whether that be the Mediterranean 3 finger draw, or the thumb draw. We do not include the Slavic draw in this guide as it is not a suitable draw for beginners. For the three finger archers, you will be using a glove that covers the end of your index, middle, and ring fingers. These gloves can be purchased at any archery store, or sports store. The three finger draw is the most common draw in the US. For thumb shooters, your task may be more difficult, depending on your chosen protection. A thumb ring is ideal for heavy draw weights as it protects the joint of the thumb. However finding the correct size can be challenging if you have a small thumb diameter. In these cases you can purchase athletic tape and wrap the tape around the thumb to provide some protection from the string. A thumb ring can be purchased at any of the above listed archery sites.

Next you will need a target. I recommend purchasing a target before your bow so you are not tempted to shoot at unsuitable targets such as carboard boxes, or tree trunks which may damage or lose your arrows. If you are purchasing a target for your own use you can find suitable all weather targets at sports stores, hunting stores and archery stores. The target should be thick and at least 24 inches wide. Although it is recommended that you purchase a 31 inch target as that is regulation competition size and will help you not to lose as many arrows starting out. Once you have your target you must consider the backstop. As you are starting out you will most certainly miss many arrows and it is important that you do not lose them. A large backstop will help to catch the arrows that fly beyond your target. You can use an arrow net, a large old carpet, or even stall matts hanging behind your target to catch arrows. Use what is accessible to you.

Your quiver will also depend on your chosen style. There are side quivers, back quivers, cross quivers, etc. For the beginner, I recommend using a Korean style side quiver. As this is a motion that is accessible to most people starting out and the Korean style provides good security for the arrows. These quivers can be purchased from either of the listed archery sites.

Now we get on to talking about arrows. The arrows you choose first and foremost but be feather fletchings. This is because of the nature of the sport of mounted archery. This sport is based around speed. The horse and rider must pass down the 90 meter track within 14 seconds and release anywhere from 3 to 9 arrows. This leaves little time for the archer to align the cock fletching on their arrow. This is why we use feather fletchings. Feather fletchings will flex as they pass by the riser, whereas plastic fletchings will not and will throw the arrow off course. This is also why many arrows for horse archery have four fletchings. The arrows you get should be the correct draw length for you. To measure your draw length, hold a fabric tape in your bow hand and stretch it out to your anchor point. Many people have a draw length of 28-31 inches. For mounted archery you will add a couple of inches onto the arrow for overdraw. You need to make sure you also have a good spine weight for the poundage of your bow. The spine weight should coincide with the weight of your bow. A spine weight of 600 will be a very flexible arrow. Most mounted archers use a bow with 25-to 35 pounds and a spine weight of 600-400. Check with the bower to see what a good spine weight for you will be.

Finally the bow! What you've all been waiting for. For beginners I recommend the Tatar bow. The Tatar bow has a good ratio of limb width that has relative accuracy and speed. The width of the limbs is related to the mass of the bow and therefor the speed of the arrow. A faster speed results in a smaller margin of error for accuracy. The Tatar bow is also relatively cheap which is good as this bow will be used to desensitize your horse. Another well known bow is the Nomad horse bow. This bow is superior to the Tatar bow, however is much more expensive and therefore not ideal for most people starting out. Choosing the draw weight for your bow is vitally important. The correct draw weight should feel comfortable to pull back. You should be able to hold the bow at full draw for several seconds without shaking, struggling or tiring. In mounted archery the maximum draw weight permitted is 50 lbs. Most archers shoot between 25-35 lbs. The draw weight you use will depend on your age and strength. For children, most children need a draw weight on 10 - 15 lbs. Remember that a child needs to be developed enough physically for this sport to be safe. As such I don't recommend children under 10 doing archery. For adults, an adult with average strength should be able to pull 25 lbs comfortable. If you have had any injuries to the shoulder, upper arm, back or rib cage, you will want to opt for probably around 20 lbs. If you are an active adult a 30 lbs bow should be just for you. Remember it is far better to be under bowed than overbowed. Pulling a draw weight that is too heavy for you can result in poor form, poor aim, and injury and pain. The best way to find your draw weight is to try out many bows. Start with a low poundage and shoot each bow for 20 minutes. If a bow is clearly too easy for you, try the next weight up. Once you find a bow that feels challenging to pull back, go back down to an easier weight. You should be able to shoot your bow comfortable for at least half an hour without tiring.

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