Horseback archery heritage: Malaysians take a shot at ancient pastime


By AGENCY
  • Arts
  • Monday, 29 Nov 2021

Riding a galloping horse under the blazing sun, Malaysian archer Zaharudin Rastam Yeop Mahidin fires an arrow at a target as a crowd cheers.

This is horseback archery, which was common for thousands of years in hunting and warfare but declined with the introduction of firearms and other modern combat gear.

Now it is getting a revival as a niche sport, gaining a growing following in Malaysia and among a small number of enthusiasts worldwide.

Wearing a traditional outfit associated with the country's ethnic Malay Muslim majority, Zaharudin was one of 28 riders competing at a tournament in central Rembau district.

Zaharudin marking his target during a recent horseback archery competition at in Rembau, Negri Sembilan. Photo: AFPZaharudin marking his target during a recent horseback archery competition at in Rembau, Negri Sembilan. Photo: AFP

The 59-year-old veteran archer said it was the most challenging but rewarding sport he had ever tried.

"It's a blending of mind, body and spirit at its best," he said.

"The mind has to be focused on the task at hand. The body must conform to what's needed... handling the bow and arrows on a moving horse.

"And the spirit - you have to trust the horse."

Riders wearing traditional headgear and outfits are also part of the horseback archery revival. Photo: AFP Riders wearing traditional headgear and outfits are also part of the horseback archery revival. Photo: AFP

Riders at the tournament had to try to hit nine targets within 30 seconds as they galloped along a 200m (650-foot) track, and were judged on their accuracy and speed.

The tournament was established in 2018 and has been held several times since, but the recent edition was the first in nearly two years due to coronavirus curbs in Malaysia.

Horseback archery requires intensive training before riders can shoot targets while moving at speed.

It is also a relatively expensive sport to get into, given the cost of keeping horses and the fact there are only a few places in the country to learn it.

Participants waiting for their turn during the horseback archery competition in Rembau, Negri Sembilan. Photo: AFP Participants waiting for their turn during the horseback archery competition in Rembau, Negri Sembilan. Photo: AFP

But it is becoming more popular in Malaysia, with about 100 people taking part, and the sport's tight-knit community hopes to entice sponsors and government support, and make it more accessible to the wider public.

Its following has also grown worldwide, with tournaments held in countries from Europe to Asia in recent years.

For Malaysia's Muslims, who comprise more than half of the country's 32 million people, the sport has an extra appeal as the Prophet Mohammed encouraged both horse-riding and archery.

"People see this as an opportunity to practise the 'sunnahs' (traditions and practices of the Prophet)," said Zarina Ismail, owner of the Cape Cavallho Equestrian Club, where the tournament took place.

But for many, the sport's difficulty is a major draw.

"It's a challenging sport - and Malaysians like a challenge," said Syed Abdul Muiz Syed Alias, president of the As-Sibaq Malaysian Horseback Archery Association. - AFP

Article type: metered
User Type: anonymous web
User Status:
Campaign ID: 1
Cxense type: free
User access status: 0
Subscribe now to our Premium Plan for an ad-free and unlimited reading experience!
   

Next In Culture

Dutch slavery exhibition to open at UN headquarters
Clickbait or creativity? The art world wrestles with AI
Nigerian artist uses AI to show the bright side of old age
Weekend for the arts: back to the kampung, 'kenyalang circus' hits town
Get lifted by the stories of Sabah's humble baskets at this KL exhibition
A.I. uncovers unknown play by Spanish great in library archive
Malaysian author’s debut novel longlisted for Dublin Literary Award 2023
Japanese author Haruki Murakami to publish first new novel in six years
DC Comics fandom celebrates return of 'Swamp Thing' to big screen
Ai Weiwei launches new exhibit, tries to understand studio demolitions in China

Others Also Read