Horseback archery turns the usual archery experience up several notches by adding movement. Suddenly the archer is on a galloping platform, which introduces new challenges both in shooting and horsemanship.
A great horseback archer is in tune with the horse and can shoot arrows with the same ease as an archer standing on the ground. It’s no surprise how this combination of speed and accuracy was devastatingly effective in battle.
The Dothraki are a group of fierce archers who love their horses and winning battles. But you won’t find them in the pages of a history book – they’re from the pages of George R.R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones” and brought to life in the popular HBO series. In the fictional story, they are feared by any army that faces them and, in this most recent series, they got some serious screen time.
Dothraki Historical Ties
The Dothraki might be a work of fiction, but they’re actually based on historic horseback archery cultures.
“The Dothraki were actually fashioned as an amalgam of a number of steppe and plains cultures…Mongols and Huns, certainly but also Alans, Sioux, Cheyenne, and various other Amerindian tribes…seasoned with a dash of pure fantasy,” George R.R. Martin wrote in his blog.
According to the British Museum blog, the Dothraki culture is very similar to the Scythians, a real-life group of nomadic warriors. The Scythians are horseback archers who conquered vast expanses of Asia and Europe. They were the original mounted warriors and laid the foundation for other horse archery cultures like the Huns and Mongols.
Like the Scythians, the Dothraki use short recurve bows that are easy to maneuver on horseback and shoot arrows a great distance. “They are better riders than any knight, utterly fearless, and their bows out-range ours,” Jorah Mormont said in “Game of Thrones, A Song of Ice and Fire 1.”
In “Game of Thrones,” the Dothraki didn’t have female warriors until Daenerys became their queen. In contrast, archaeologists believe the Scythian women were warriors. They found bows in female and male graves, and females were buried in full battle dress. One theory is that these female warriors inspired the myth of the Amazons.
Shoot like a Dothraki
The horseback archery tradition continues today, but it has shifted from warfare to a competitive sport. Archers throughout the world compete in high-speed archery matches that would challenge any Dothraki.
The bows are aptly named horse bows and look like the ones used by Scythian and Dothraki archers. While the designs are similar, they use modern materials like fiberglass for longer bow life and reduced cost.
A horse bow is an excellent option for those who want the authentic look or just want to participate in horseback archery. Another bow option is a traditional recurve, which is longer than a horse bow but just as much fun to shoot. You can check out a horse bow or traditional recurve bow at an archery shop in your area.
Don’t saddle up your horse just yet. Once you have your bow, try it out at a local range and get some instruction on archery technique. You can also try horseback archery and learn more about mounted archery through a horseback archery seminar.
If you’re like most “Game of Thrones” fans, you’re probably dreading the long wait for the next season. You can pass the time learning to shoot like a Dothraki or a bannerman of House Stark. You’ll want to hurry though – winter is coming!