Most mounted archery is done on straight track, with the exception of open field courses. The standard track is 90 meters long, although if you have the space for it I reccomend installing 150 meters. If you are short on space you can install a 60 meter track for practice.
Now, why would you want to install a mounted archery track? Mounted Archery is the fastest growing equestrian sport. Whether you are a facility owner, a club, or a mounted archer, a track is a useful thing to have available. For facilities, a track can be rented out for use by local clubs, clinics and for National Ranking competitions. For individuals and clubs, a track is where you practice, hold gradings, postal matches and can host your own competitions!
In this post we will be focusing on straight tracks as Hunt tracks are much more complex and deserve their own post!
The first step to building a track is making sure you have the space. You will need 140 meters, or 500 feet of flat space in a straight line that's not disrupted by trees, buildings, streams, fences etc. One side should face away from buildings, roads, side walks etc and should have at least 150 of space behind it. If you can position your track at the bottom of a hillside that's ideal as it creates a great backdrop for arrows.
The next step is to make sure you have the funds. An archery track can be done cheaply without proper footing, but it will not be as safe or desirable and will be unusable based on weather.
You need to account for:
Landscape equipment rental
Foundation material like 3/4 gravel
Footing like sand
Plastic barrier posts
Depending on whether you are connected to a club or want permement features you may also need to account for:
Tower target stand
The next step is to plot put your track.
What you will need:
Rolling measureing stick or 500 ft measuring tape
500+ feet of string.
As said before, the ideal spot should be well away from foot traffic, roads and buildings and the best tracks are set against hillsides. You can also create an artificial berm with landmoving equipment.
Before we measure you need to decide whether your run outs will curve or be straight. The run out of your track is the first 25 meters that the horse uses to pick up speed. Theres are a couple rules about this but dont worry we will break them down. Let's say you have a 90 meter track. This 90 meters is what is actually timed and where the archer shoots. The horse is running very fast on the track sometimes 25 mph so they need space to speed up and especially slow down. Both sides of the track, the start and the finish are exactly the same. The first 20 meters of your track can be curved. This helps if you don't have quite enough space and if you like to get your horse on the correct lead for the canter. The last 5 meters of the run in is straight with the track. That way you can focus on getting ready to shoot and not getting your balance on a curve. When you finish riding the 90 meters, the first 5 meters of the run OUT is straight and the last 20 meters can curve. If you're confused about this, don't worry there's a diagram picture attached you can reference!
If you do want a curved track you just need to make sure the curve isn't too tight for horses and riders. If you imagine the run in and outs are the outside edge of part of a circle, that circle should an inside radius of at least 10 meters. Well talk more about measuring that out later.
With your measuring tape, mark out the beginning on your track. Now measure 6 1/2 feet to the side and mark this with a stake. (Trust me. Youll thank me later.)
Now take your measuring take and measure from stake 1 straight out 90 meters (295.276 feet.) If you want to make a longer track you will measure out further. 110 meters (360.892) or 150 (492.126) (Remember every track must have an extra 25 meters (82.021 feet) on both ends, but we will measure that later.
When you reach the end of your track mark that as well with a stake. Now you should have three corners of your track staked. Measure 6 1/2 feet out from stake 3. Now you should have 4 corners of your track marked out. You can make your track wider or thinner, but 6 1/2 is what many archers prefer.
Now you will take your string and tie it to stake 4. Leave at least 16 feet extra to use later. Walk your string down and tie it to stake 2. Leave 16 feet extra.
Take another string and tie it to stake 1. Leave 16 feet extra. Walk down and tie the other end to stake 3. Leave 16 feet extra Now you should have a long lane you can walk down the center of. Take your other stakes and plant them along the strings spaced out evenly. Now you should have your 90 meter track marked out with Stakes and string.
Now it's time to put it your run ins and run outs. We will start with the run out since your already down there. Take your measuring tape and measure straight out from stake #3, 5 meters (16.4 feet.) Mark this with a stake. (Stake C) Now take the extra string on the track and tie it to stake C. Go back to stake 4 and repeat on this side. Now take your measuring tape and ensure that the two outrun stakes are 6 1/2 feet apart. Now go to the other end of the track and repeat this step.
Now you should have the 5 straight meters of your outrun and run in marked out. If you are doing a straight run foe your 20 meters you need only to repeat the previous step with a longer tape measured distance. However, if you want a curved outrun, check the next step.
Curving your outrun.
For this step you will need:
At least 33 feet of string
A measuring tape
Take your string and measure out 10 meters (32.808 feet). Give one end to your friend and have them hold it at the inside outrun stake. Remember that the run in and out should curve TOWARDS the targets. Now walk your end of the string out to 10 meters at a right angle to the track and stop. Have your friend walk a circle around you holding the string tightly and place a stake in the ground every 5 steps. Once they get 1/4 to 1/2 way around the circle they can stop.
You should now have a curve to the run out/in of your track. The curve can go up to 180° around the circle, but 45° or 90° is more ideal. Take your tape measure and measure how much distance your curve covers and subtract it from the total 20 meters. Now take your measureing tape and measure out as far as you need to make the total. Make it with a stake. When you reach the end, take a measuring stick and measure out 8-10 feet sideways and mark it with a stake. This is your entrance. The entrance to the track should be wider than the track itself. It should be like a funnel for the horse.
Now take your stakes and mark the outside of your run out. This doesn't have to be exact but should funnel evenly in about 15 to 20 feet.
Now take this step and repeat it on the other side.
You should now have fully staked out your track! Congratulations the hard part is over!!
Now it the time to excavate. Depending on your soil and equipment you might be able to do this yourself, or you can hire someone to do it. I reccomend you excavate at least 8 inches down and use a transit to make sure the whole track is level. You want to excavate the whole track including the outrun and run in so the footing doesn't change abruptly for the horses. Once the earth is moved you need to put in your foundation.
Building a track is like building an arena, but longer and very skinny. If you want your track to last long and be stable you need to put in a foundation. The type and depth of foundation will depend on your soil and weather. You will never be pouring concrete or asphalt for a foundation. If you have very rainy weather, or flooding in the track area, I reccomend a 3 layer foundation. The first layer at least 2 inches of round river rock. The second layer 2-4 inches of 1/1/2 quarry gravel and a top layer of 1-2 inches of 1/4 crushed gravel that is compacted. This foundation will give you good stability as well as good drainage.
Once the foundation is in place and compacted you will lay down a layer of geotextile fabric, or landscaping fabric. This will prevent gravel from migrating into the track footing. Tamp tis fabric down firmly. You can even put in landscaping plastic barriers to help the footing remain in the track. This is more ideal than wood which can cause injury if fallen upon.
You should now have your foundation and fabric layer in place. Now it's time for your footing. What footing you use will depend on your area, what's available and what the weather is like. For rainy areas, you want footing with good drainage like washed fill sand. Angular sand is a good option but it tends to compact more. Beach sand is nice because it is not dusty, but it needs to be mixed with something like shredded rubber or felt or it will compact.
Whatever footing you choose do your research and think about how it will do in your envoirnment. It's best not to gravel, pea gravel or loam for archery tracks. My best advice would be to use a sand mixture of about 2-4 inches, no more. Once you have picked and urchased your footing, spread it on your track evenly and use a drag to make it smooth.
Now your track base is finished! All that's left is the easy stuff. To line your track you will need plastic electric fence poles, 1/4 rope, and tennis balls.
Place your fence poles evenly along the ende of your track spaced around 10 -20 feet apart. Cut holes in your tennis balls and shove them onto the top of the fence poles. Now take your rope and cut it into even sections. You can purchase break away clips or tie the rope together lovely with twine. Run the ropes through the fence poles on each side of the track tightly.
Your track is now finished!
Test out your track! How does it feel? How does it ride? Did the footing hold up well? Take notes for future adjustments. Congratulate yourself with cake!
Now that your track itself is done, you might want to know about setting up targets for it. Please check out our other blog post on this subject!