Frequently Asked Questions Equestrians Ask About Archery

By HL Felicitae de L'Hayes

What is a mounted archer?
What should a mounted archery consider before getting on the horse?
How is the range set up for safety?
Where should observers be?
What are the rules of the line?
What are the range commands?
How is a mounted archer’s range different that a regular archery range?
What should I know before I visit the Archery Range to pick up pointers?
Any recommendations on equipment?
Useful links for more information and equipment

What is a mounted archer?

Simply put, a Mounted Archery is a person riding a horse and shooting target archery simultaneously. Rather like patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time… this can be challenging!

What should a mounted archery consider before getting on the horse?

First, I think you should keep in mind that a Bow and Arrow is a potentially deadly weapon. The primary purpose of a bow and arrow is to kill animals and people.

Take this game seriously. If you make a mistake on a horse you only hurt yourself or your animal. If you make a mistake with a bow and arrow you could potentially hurt somebody else. You do not have the right to screw up someone else’s life playing this game.

How is the mounted archery range set up?

From the SCA Equestrian Handbook -

Appendix III - SCA Minimum Regulations for Mounted Archery

7.     There should be a barrier of some type that will not allow the horse and rider or horse and chariot to pass closer than 10 yards (30 feet) to any target to prevent danger from the bounce back of arrows. Beyond the target area there must either be a wall or archeryproof net, or a clear area a minimum of 100 feet long and 120 feet wide (60 feet on either side of target). The clear area for multiple targets used in “in-motion” shooting may be overlapped.

Some “common sense” points
• Are the safety zones clearly marked? Make sure your markers are not a “tripping” hazard.
• Is someone observing to make sure no-one wanders into the safety zones? (It’s not uncommon to spot young couples in love wandering downrange)
• If in doubt – be conservative. You can always take another run at the target when you have more experience…unless you hurt yourself or someone else.

Relevant rules from the An Tir Book of Target

From the An Tir Book of Target -  (Page 15)

Range Set-Up:

  1. The range and safety zone must be clearly marked off. This may be done by the use of ropes, poles, signs, tapes, etc.
  2. At events where large numbers of archers are shooting, the Target Marshal in Charge shall be easily identifiable.
  3. There shall be a safety zone behind and to the sides of the shooting line and targets. It shall be of reasonable size to prevent injury to bystanders. It must be free of traffic, campsites, list fields, parking areas or other hazards. The distance of the safety zone behind the targets may be reduced if there is a hill, permanent backstop, archery netting, etc., that will stop overshot or stray arrows.
  4. If there are roads or paths within the safety zone or range, they shall be blocked off to traffic at both ends during shooting.
  5. The shooting line must be clearly marked. It must not represent a tripping hazard.
  6. (Not applicable)
  7. (Not applicable)
  8. During shooting, all spectators shall remain outside the marked safety zones and/or at least ten feet to the rear of the shooting line.

Where should observers be?

The horse and rider will be passing perpendicular to the target. Consider that the “firing line”. Observers should stay well back of this “firing line”.

What are the rules of the line?

From the An Tir Book of Target -  (Page 15)

Range Procedures

  1. Marshall shall not allow more archers on a line than can be reasonably and safely supervised.
  2. Experienced archers, known to, and approved by the Target Marshal in Charge, may assist the Marshals. When this is done, the ratio of Marshals to archers on line may be reduced.
  3. At shoots where many of the archers are inexperienced, it may be necessary to increase the ratio of marshals to archers. This increase need not be as great if experienced archers, as well as Marshals, are used to supervise the inexperienced archers.
  4. Conditions around the range and safety zone may require the use of additional Marshals or assistants to observe and prevent traffic through the area.
  5. At specialty shoots where the archers are shooting under unusual conditions, such as off-handed, with restricted vision, etc., a one-to-one ratio of Marshals and/or assistants to archers may be necessary.
  6. Any conditions or artificial handicaps that create an undue safety hazard, even with an increased Marshal/assistant to archer ratio of one-to-one, are forbidden.
  7. The Target Marshal in Charge may remove archers exhibiting unsafe behavior from the range.

Rules of the Line:

  1. Ask the Marshal for permission before filling in on the line.
  2. If “Hold!” is called, lower your bow, remove your arrow/bolt and pay heed to the marshal’s instructions.
  3. If an archer sees an immediate problem, they should call “Hold!” and inform the Marshal in Charge.
  4. If an archer sees a potential problem, they should report it to a Marshal.
  5. All archers shall follow the instructions of the Target Marshal in Charge and of Marshals assisting on the line.
  6. Step back from the line when you have completed shooting if it does not interfere with the archers around you.

Safety Rules:

  1. Archers should always remember the potential danger of their weapons.
  2. No arrows or bolts shall be nocked when anyone is in front of the shooting line.
  3. No archer shall discharge a bow when anyone is downrange.
  4. No archer shall shoot while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  5. In the case of overshoots of the targets, place an arrow upright in the target (whenever possible) before going behind the targets to search for the overshot arrows. By corollary, if an arrow is standing upright in the target, it may be assumed that someone is behind the targets and the range is not clear. Always investigate and verify before clearing the shooting line to commence shooting.
  6. Never reach in front of the line to retrieve an arrow while the range is open for shooting.

What are the range commands?

From the An Tir Book of Target -  (Page 16)

Range Commands:

  1. The Marshal will call the archers to the line.
  2. The Marshal will look to see that the range and line are clear and safe.
  3. The Marshal will call out “Range clear!” or the equivalent, and wait momentarily for any responses.
  4. If all clear, then the order “Loose!”, “Loose at will!”, “You may begin!” or the equivalent will be given.
  5. When finished shooting, the archers are to lower their bows, step back from the line, and wait until the order to retrieve is given.
  6. When all archers are done shooting, the Marshal will call “Bows down!”, “Cease!” or the equivalent and wait for compliance.
  7. When all weapons are down, the Marshal will give the command, “Retrieve arrows!” or the equivalent.
  8. In the case of a serious safety problem on the range, such as someone entering or about to enter, the target or safety zone, the call “Hold!” shall be given by anyone noticing the problem. All archers are to remove the arrows or bolts from their weapons.

How should a mounted archer recover their arrows?

See above numbers 5, 6, and 7

How is a mounted archer’s shooting range different that a standing archery range?

Range is about the same. The 5-6 feet of elevation gain you get off horseback is insignificant in regards to range. Wind factor, draw length, arrow weight will have more effect.

SCA Equestrian Handbook  -
(See Appendix III - SCA Minimum Regulations for Mounted Archery)

“Bow poundage is not to exceed 35 lbs for use with small game blunts and regulation target points…”
With my 35lb bow I regularly shoot a 180 yard Clout shoot which is n\my max range. Expect that in general a mounted archer’s max range will be about 200 yards.

“… not to exceed 50 lbs for all other types of arrows.” The other types are basically SCA war arrows whose range is severely limited by their weight and design. You would be lucky to shoot these more than 100 yards.
What signals, calls, etc. should a mounted archer be familiar with?

What should I know before I visit the Archery Range to pick up pointers?

From the An Tir Book of Target -  (Page 17)

Range Courtesy

  1. When moving to the targets to retrieve arrows, first pick up any of your arrows lying short of the target.
  2. Remove arrows by “worrying” them out. Place one hand against the target face, if possible, and use the other to work them free from the target. Do not yank them out.
  3. Do not handle anyone’s equipment unless you have asked for and received the owner’s permission.
  4. Do not remove other archer’s arrows unless you have asked for and received the owner’s permission.
  5. Keep distraction, such as loud talking and laughter, to a minimum near the shooting line.
  6. Be careful when moving around behind the shooting line of equipment left on the ground.
  7. Avoid loud exclamations of either positive or negative import while on the shooting line. An archer is expected to maintain their dignity while in the act of shooting so as not to distract other shooters.
  8. Archers shall not take unfair advantage of their opponents.

Where can I get equipment?

Cheap Fiberglass bows are a great way to start. They are virtually indestructible and at $26 to $45 dollars at NW Archery you can pass them on to the kids when you want to move up to something better.

Useful Links

Rules and Regulations

SCA Target Archery Rules -

SCA Equestrian Handbook  -
(See Appendix III - SCA Minimum Regulations for Mounted Archery)

An Tir Book of Target -

An Tir Kingdom Equestrian Book of Horse  (as of March 2005, not yet available)

Inter-Kingdom Equestrian Competition (IKEQ) -
Set-Up Criteria and Rules For Mounted Archery (scroll to bottom of page)

Other Useful Links

On-Target Archery -
This is the best resource for SCA Archers.

NW Archery -
Suzanne with NW Archery knows SCA gear. She makes some of the best Cedar Shaft arrows you will find anywhere.

Truemark Archery -
Andras Truemark and his wife Liesl merchant at a lot of SCA events. You will usually find them near the archery range. They carry a lot of used bows and everything you need to shoot them. Truemark Archery also carries Istvan Toth's Hungarian horse bow line.  This includes the full size Mongolian and Hungarian bows in the heavier poundage (30 plus lbs) plus the Scythian young adult or ladies bow and the children's bows.

International Horse Archery Festival   -

History of the International Horse Archery Festival -