Combining archery and equestrian sports – do you dream of that too? Are you looking for a special challenge, maybe because shooting a target has become too monotonous for you? Or do you simply prefer a small and handy bow instead of a longbow or compound bow? Then we have the right bow for you: the Mongolian Horse Bow, or Rider’s Bow. What exactly this is and what you should pay attention to when buying a rider bow, we have summarized for you in our rider bow guide.
What is a Horse Bow?
If you have ever been allowed to hold a Mongolian bow in your hand, you may have noticed that it is not very large. A rider’s bow usually looks like a recurve or reflex bow but is much smaller than such a model. This is not by chance: A rider’s bow should of course live up to its name and be especially good for use on horseback – either for hunting or in war. For this purpose a longbow or a recurve bow would be rather unsuitable: The long throwing arms would be in the way when riding and shooting. Therefore the rider’s bow was shortened.
Due to its small size, the rider’s bow is not only suitable for shooting on horseback, but also for training in confined spaces. If you do not have much arm room when archery, you can solve this problem with the help of a suitable bow.
The traditional equestrian bow materials are wood, horn, and animal sinews. The latter is attached to the back of the bow and serve there as backing. The horn in turn protects the sensitive bow belly against excessive pressure.
Many rider bows reach their shooting performance by a high reflex. This means that the bow has bent throwing arms on the backside when relaxed. So it is, concerning the shooting performance, hardly inferior to the recurve bow.
The equestrian bow was used mainly by Mongolian archers, Scythians, the Mongols, and the Huns. However, it was first developed in the Asian region.
The first-mentioned equestrian peoples fought extremely effectively with the help of the equestrian bow and had a particularly high frequency of fire and accuracy, which is why they were feared by their opponents.
Mongolian, Hungarian, and Scythian rider bows differ in some details:
- Hungarian Cavalryman’s bow: The Hungarian equestrian bow was traditionally used by the Magyars, a Finno-Ugric people from the Ural region. In many raids, the very slim and short rider’s bow developed by them has proved its worth. The Hungarian rider’s bow convinces above all by its ergonomics adapted to the rider as well as by its high shooting stability.
- Mongolian Horseman’s bow: The shape of the bow is a little more stocky than the Hungarian rider’s bow. The throwing arms are more curved. The draw is considered relatively light and comfortable to handle, even with the high draw weight. The shooting performance is, despite the short bow, very neat. This is one of the reasons why the Mongolian rider’s bow was feared by the opponent. According to historical sources, its deadly range was about two hundred meters with a draw weight of about 75 pounds. The maximum range at which the Mongol archer could still be hit – without deadly force – was allegedly up to 800 meters!
- Scythian Rider’s Bow: The Scythian horseman’s bow looks even more stocky than the Mongolian horseman’s bow and its limbs are even more curved. This bow, too, owes its fame to its many wartime missions, for the Scythians were a nomadic people who regularly raided.
Which is the best riding bow? We think that every model mentioned above has its charm. Which construction of it is suitable for you is probably also a matter of taste. Maybe you have the opportunity to try out different riding bows.
Our Recommendation – AF ARCHERY Traditional Horse-bow
AF Archery produces a range of top quality horse-bows that range from the Mongolian, the Tatar, the Turkish, and the ZhuRan. If you want to see if horse-bow shooting is for you, but you don’t want to lay out a princely sum, then we recommend this entry-level-priced traditional horse-bow by AF Archery. Made from durable fiberglass with ash wood tips and handle, the bow is wrapped in luxurious microfiber leather. As it is a traditional design, it is suitable for both left and right-handed users. The bow ships stringed, but that string should be removed and replaced with the actual bowstring that is provided.
Pros and cons of a Rider’s Bow
Malicious tongues claim that the only disadvantage of a rider’s bow is the horse. That’s a bit of fun on the side, of course. But of course, this bow model also has various advantages and disadvantages, which we have listed below.
What to Consider when Buying a Rider’s Bow
As with all types of bows you should ask yourself some questions if you want to buy a rider’s bow. Which horse archer bow is the best? Which rider’s bow arrows are the most suitable?
Here we list all special features you should consider when buying a riding bow:
The right Length for the Rider’s Bow
The rider’s bow is much shorter than other types of bows so that it can be shot comfortably on a horse. There is neither an upper nor a lower limit for its size. The only rule is that it should not be so large that it hinders the rider. Therefore it is also good for children and young people as a beginner’s bow – better without a horse. As a rule of thumb: The smaller the bow is, the higher the shooting speed.
You should pay attention to the appropriate extension length. This is the distance between the leading edge of the bow and your anchor point and can be easily calculated. You determine your arm span by standing with arms outstretched and a second person measuring the distance from one middle finger to the other. You use the result for the following formulas:
Extension length in cm / 2.5 = Result
Result / 2.54 = Extension length
Or you use an online pull-out length calculator, with which you can easily calculate your pull-out length.
The optimal Draw Weight for Rider’s bows
As with all types of bows, the draw weight should be kept rather low for a beginner. It is important that the technique is correct before you increase the draw weight. For a rider’s bow, draw weights of fifteen lbs for teenagers, twenty lbs for women, and 25 lbs for men are considered optimal. Deviations due to the physical constitution are possible.
Since the arrow is not shot over an arrow rest in the rider’s bow, the grip is reinforced. Horn is usually used for this purpose. Especially in Asia, other materials are used, especially bamboo, which is known for its strength and flexibility. Mostly, however, this is also lightly coated, so that the underlying grip material does not suffer.
The material of the Rider’s Bows
Traditionally riding bows were made of different animal materials such as horns and tendons. Nowadays they are often made of different types of wood, but modern materials such as glass fiber are also used. As a rule, the rider’s bow is covered with a Dacron string.
With the composite construction method, the horseman’s bow reached its perfection among Turkic peoples. Composite bows are not only light but also extremely stable and lie well in the hand. Thus they became the ideal weapon for hunting and war.
Which Rider’s Bow Arrows are the best?
In principle, the same arrows should be used for the rider’s bow as for other bow types. Rider bows are traditionally shot with wooden or bamboo arrows. These are inexpensive and can even be produced in-house. However, wooden arrows do not have the best flight characteristics and are not very durable.
Carbon Arrows are the optimum for most beginners and semi-professional archers, regardless of the type of bow. This also applies to the rider’s bow. A disadvantage is a fact that carbon arrows can easily splinter and their fragments are practically impossible to remove from wounds. However, their price-performance ratio is unbeatable. As long as you briefly check your arrows for damage before each shot – by bending them slightly and listening for a soft crunch – there is nothing to be said against carbon arrows.
Aluminum arrows are in principle the best arrows available, but they bend when they hit a hard target. So if you are still a beginner archer, you should rather use other types of arrows.
An important criterion for the choice of arrows is the length of the arrow. Under no circumstances should the arrow be too short or too long, otherwise there is a risk of injury! So you should definitely determine the correct arrow length.
You should also pay attention to the appropriate spine value. This describes the bending strength of the arrow and how much it is deformed in the tendon parallax. Although the tendon parallax is not quite as pronounced in the rider’s bow as in other types of bows, it is simply more pleasant to know that you are using the right arrows. For archery beginners, you need to use the correct high-quality material, otherwise, you might quickly lose interest. You can easily find out the right spine value with our online spine value calculator.
If it concerns the feathering, then only natural feathers should be considered, since the arrow is deflected by the missing mechanical arrow support otherwise too strongly. There is disagreement among archers as to exactly how many feathers should be used – opinions range from two to four feathers. For the beginner, however, this discussion is initially futile.
Recommended Rider’s Bow Accessories
As already mentioned, a rider’s bow is shot with a thumb ring. It is up to you to decide which material it should be made of. Traditionally horn or bone is used.
In the meantime, gloves are also available that allow you to practice the thumb technique. Otherwise, shooting gloves or finger tabs for a riding bow are rather unusual.
You should, however, make sure to wear a bow glove with the horse bow, which protects the back of your hand from injury. Riding bows are used without a shelf, i.e. they are shot over the back of the hand. Of course, you may also use an arched window and a cam point limiter. This makes it easier for beginners. Advanced riders, however, usually do not need these riding bow accessories.
Otherwise, the same protection and shooting material is recommended as for other types of sheets:
- Forearm protection, for beginners preferably longer ones, which protect your forearm from the rebounding tendon
- Possibly a breast strip protector, especially for women, so that the arrow is not deflected
- shooting targets or, for the beginning, a jute bag filled with cloth or straw as target
- Possibly one or more arrow catches
- A Quiver
This is how you draw your Rider’s Bow properly
If your bow is not in use, you should relax it, as this way its limbs are not so heavily loaded and its life span is increased. If you want to use it then, you must of course first re-stretch the bow.
There are different methods for this:
- With tensioning cord: The tensioning line should have two pockets into which the ends of the throwing arm are inserted. The bow is put through the two tendon ears, then you hook the lower ear. The throwing arms are now put into the two tension cord pockets. Then turn the bow around so that its belly points towards the ground. The tensioning cord hangs down between twenty and thirty centimeters. Now grab the bow by the handle with one hand and step onto the tensioning cord with one leg. Now pull the handle of the bow until you can hang the string with your free hand. Now you only have to check if the tendon and the auricle are in the middle, remove the tension cord and check the correct position of the tendon again.
- Without tensioning cord: The bow is inserted through the two tendon auricles and the lower auricle is already hooked in. The bow is now held in front of the body with your left hand so that it is at the same level as the other tendon. The tendon will be held tight! With one leg you will now virtually step into the bow, i.e. between the tendon and the bow. The lower end of the bow is placed in front of the right shinbone and the bow handle is clamped behind your thigh. The foot is moved slightly forward. Now you grasp it: The tendon is held taut with your right hand, while your left-hand push the upper throwing arm forward. The upper tendon is now slowly and carefully brought up to the throwing arm and hooked in. Afterward, the seat of the tendon is checked as described above and the tendon is returned.
*For the sake of simplicity, we assume a right-handed person here. If you are left-handed, you follow the above steps mirror-inverted.
Regarding all methods, you should be very careful and support the middle of the handle well, because there is a risk of injury! It is best to have a professional or advanced rider show you how to tighten the handle. With Bows with a C-shape you have to be careful, because they are very sensitive to high pressure and can break when being stretched.
Shooting technique for the Rider’s Bow
As a rule, the Mediterranean technique is used in archery, in which the string is tensioned with three fingers. The shooting technique for the rider’s bow, on the other hand, is a bit special: it is a thumb ring shooting. This means that the shooter wears a ring on his thumb – usually made of horn, bone, bronze, or silver – which holds the string. When shooting, the archer suddenly releases the string.
This technique has several advantages with the Rider’s Bow:
- The fingers, on which an enormously high pressure acts with short bowstrings, are relieved
- Experienced shooters create an almost breathtaking firing frequency
- The fixation of the arrow on the bow is very stable until it is shot
- Faster reloading takes place than with the Mediterranean grip, which in turn affects the firing frequency
- Reloading is safer because the shooter does not prick himself with the arrowhead as is sometimes the case with the Mediterranean grip
- A higher extension length is achieved
- The spine value of the arrow is relatively irrelevant – the shooter does not have to shoot with a perfectly adjusted arrow
Rider’s Bow Technique on Horseback
A big challenge is of course the use of a bow on horseback. Because not only the handling of bow and arrow plays a role here, but also character, training, and contact with the animal.
Imagine that you not only have to lay the arrow on the ground and tension the bow with the right technique but also let the arrow shoot off the string in the perfectly appropriate time – when all four legs of the horse are in the air during a gallop. Otherwise, the vibration of the striking hoofs will lead to the deflection of the arrow. Ideally, you will then hit the target and will not injure yourself, the horse, or anyone else around you.
There are also different ways to shoot the arrow from the horse:
- To the rear (so-called Partherschuss)
As a rule, the horse is shot to the left, so that the horse is also ridden in a left canter. The reins do not lie in the hands, but loosely on the horse’s neck. Help is therefore only available via the thighs.
History of the Rider’s Bow
The rider’s bow comes originally from Asia. The bow as a weapon quickly gained a predominant position both as an instrument of war and as a hunting instrument. Archers from all over the world always used the materials that were available to them in their manufacture. Nomads who built the horseman’s bow, for example, the Magyars or the Mongols, used mainly animal sinew and horn due to the lack of good bow wood.
Mounted archers were considered a kind of elite unit among the soldiers. Their bows were often laid in their graves after death. Excavations, especially between Austria and Manchuria and between the Tuwa in Siberia and the Mongolian Altai, prove the efficiency and excellent construction of these bows.
Also, masters of their trade were the towering bow makers, who perfected the composite construction method. They became a threat to the Occident not least because their composite bows and their “elite units” were highly efficient. Fortunately, bows and arrows are no longer considered a weapon, but a piece of sports equipment.
A major advantage of the rider’s bow was the fact that in principle every halfway fitting arrow could be used. The spine value is, as already mentioned, negligible, because there is not such a strong tendon parallax as with other bows, and so the archer could collect arrows from the ground during the battle and use them himself.
FAQ – Questions and Answers about the Rider’s Bow
Is a Rider’s Bow suitable for Beginners?
YES. The advantage of a rider bow is its short and simple construction. Therefore it is easier to handle for a beginner than for example a huge longbow or a compound bow which is difficult to adjust.
But you need a really good technique for the riding bow. Archery is the art of repetition. You must be able to make the same movements over and over again. It is not easy to keep the bow so steady that you hit the target perfectly, even when you are not on the back of a galloping horse. This is due to its light construction. For beginners, the rider’s bow should therefore be used with caution. Its use can quickly lead to frustration. However, if you are prepared for its peculiarities, you can adjust to it.
Is it possible to build a Rider’s Bow yourself?
This is rather difficult and especially not recommended for beginners. Especially the curved limbs and the composite construction pose a special challenge for the construction of the Rider’s Bow. In the beginning, we would recommend the self-construction of a longbow.