By Amanda Stringfellow @Amanda_L_S
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Videographer / Director: Jack Stevens
Producer: Amanda Stringfellow
Editor: Sonia Estal, Ian Phillips
Karl Greenwood, 43, and Zana Cousins-Greenwood, 36, have set their hearts on bringing the ancient art of horseback archery back to the UK.
The couple, who have been stunt riders for 12 years and perform jousting and equine stunt shows in the UK and overseas, run the Centre of Horseback Combat - the only venue in Britain which teaches the discipline.
The dramatic, high-adrenaline sport gives competitors 14 seconds to shoot multiple arrows at a row of targets whilst riding a cantering horse along a 90 metre track.
Riders are forced to weigh up the relative importance of speed and accuracy to get the maximum points.
Based on a country estate just north of London, Karl and Zana first discovered horseback archery eight years ago when they came across traditional horse-bow makers at a medieval event.
After a little research, the duo realised that although the practice was a regular sport elsewhere in the world, there was nowhere to go to learn it in the UK.
They were taught by renowned international competitor Neil Payne, and then spent a winter performing equine stunt shows in Dubai while searching for an insurance company who would cover the unusual sport, before returning to the UK.
The Centre of Horseback Combat is now entering its sixth year, and their advanced students now regularly compete at competitions around the world - under the Association of British Horseback Archers.
The Centre has taught over 1,000 people to ride and shoot – with enthusiasts travelling from all over the country to learn on their meticulously trained horses.
Karl said: “We became aware of people making horse bows and selling them to the medieval world and as we looked at them we thought no ones actually doing horse archery, no one we’d heard of anyway.
“We realised there was no one central place for anybody to come and learn, so we were sold on the idea we were going to provide this place.”
Karl said: “Your horse has to be at least at a canter. You gallop along, you shoot the first one, shoot the second one, shoot the third one and break an infrared beam that stops the timer.”
“The most exciting thing about horse archery is letting go of the reins, going fast down the track and shooting a lot of targets,” added Zana.
“It’s a lot of fun, the most fun you can have on horseback.
” Using bows with designs similar to those used for thousands of years, Zana and Karl can hit the archery butts whilst travelling at full gallop.
It is believed that Hungarian horse archer Kassai Lajos reintroduced horse archery as a sport in Europe about 30 years ago – but the ancient art it descends from has a long and bloody history.
Zana said: “You can look back to Egyptian chariot archery and they were shooting very similar bows to the horse bows we use, very plain and simplistic bows off the back of chariots.
“The Romans have a history of horseback archery, and, looking at different areas of the world, so do the Huns, the Parthians and Genghis Kahn - the most infamous person you would imagine with a bow and arrow on a horse.
“Most of the world has a history or tradition of horseback archery.” The competitions, which combine horsemanship, speed and accuracy with the ancient weaponry, have gained momentum since 2010. The Centre even hosted the first International Horseback Archery competition in Britain last year – with the host team claiming the silver medal.
This coming year the competitors for the Association of British Horseback Archers will see some fierce competition from other countries who will be coming to Hemel to compete at the centre. Zana said: “Internationally, the sport is really growing.
As well as our International Matches here, there are the World Horseback Archery Championships in Korea in October - It's very exciting.
“I’d love to see horse archery as an Olympic sport, I’d actually think it’s very visual, its very competitive.
“We have horse riding in the Olympics and we have archery, so why not put the two together?” For more information on horse archery,