Horseback archery, also known as mounted archery, is gaining lots of attention thanks to a 25-year-old enthusiast whose video of himself went viral after he posted it on Facebook.
Emil Eriksson of Lycksele, Sweden, attached a GoPro camera to his helmet and then got some help from his girlfriend and her cousin to record a mounted-archery practice session with his horse, Barona.
Eriksson submitted the 49-second video to the popular Facebook page “People Are Awesome.” They posted his video Nov. 8, and it quickly went viral. As of Nov. 22, it had nearly 10 million views and over 105,000 shares.
He hoped the video would bring awareness to the sport, but was shocked it received such attention.
“It’s pretty awesome that the video went viral,” Eriksson said. “I wasn’t expecting it to be so popular, but it’s amazing to see the reaction of so many people. The number of followers on my Facebook page has almost doubled from 8,500 to over 15,000!”
Eriksson knows mounted archery doesn’t draw crowds and a huge following, but believes it’s a fast-growing sport. Especially now.
“The sport is old, but new,” Eriksson said. “It has a rich history. Tribes used mounted archery for hunting and warfare, but now it’s a sport, and I’m working to grow and develop it. The video has prompted many requests for knowledge and information. I know once something gets a certain amount of attention, it will explode. That’s what’s happening now.”
Eriksson, a self-taught mounted archer, is passionate about the activity, and started his own company to pursue the sport full-time in January 2014. He teaches classes, gives history lessons and speeches, and participates in shows and competitions under his personal branded business, Emil Eriksson: Northland’s Mounted Archer.
He even teamed up with one of his sponsors to create his own brand of arrows. The Viking series, which includes the 400 Sleipner Viking arrow, is designed especially for horseback archery.
Eriksson has come a long way. He became interested in horses at age 4 after listening to his grandfather’s stories about his fire-eyed draft horse he used for log driving. When Eriksson turned 6, he joined a riding club and has been an active member ever since.
He also became interested in archery while young. He remembers playing an archer during childhood games in the woods with his sister and friends. She gifted him a real bow she bought from a friend who’s a bowyer. Eriksson’s love for archery grew.
He merged those two interests at age 16 after learning about horseback archery in 2006 at Medieval week in Luleå, Sweden. On the festival’s last day, he bought a horse bow and became serious about the activity. He researched information and watched YouTube videos from that point forward.
There was only one problem: He had no horse. His mother said no to getting a horse, or most other pets, for that matter.
“The only pet we had growing up was a rabbit,” Eriksson said. “My mom didn’t want any big animals, so I had to get creative with my practicing routines. I tried to find ways that resembled shooting from a horse, and began riding a bike with no hands to practice shooting on the move.”
Eriksson perfected bicycle archery for two years, and found it beneficial. He only shot his bow from horseback three times before doing his first show. Even so, he placed second in the Swedish championships. Since then he has traveled worldwide to win numerous gold, silver and bronze medals, and the 2015 World Champion title.
Eriksson bought his first horse when he was 18, and his training regimen increased. He said the sport is not as hard to learn as it looks, especially when using the right equipment, and if you have experience in archery or horseback riding.
Eriksson offers six tips to beginners:
1. Ask for advice, tips and guidance from people with experience in horseback riding.
2. While riding your horse, don’t sit in the saddle. Use your legs as a suspension system to absorb the shock of the horse’s gallop. Holding yourself up with your legs helps create an even shooting platform.
3. When shooting your bow atop a moving platform, you must follow your target, not just aim at it. Track it and lead it. Shooting sporting clays is a similar concept.
4. Customize your archery setup. Use specialized equipment that fits and works for you.
5. Find a horse that you connect with. Each horse has its own personality, and it must fit your temperament.
6. Stick with it! You must practice a lot in the beginning. You’ll probably lose a lot of arrows, but you’ll get better.
Eriksson preaches another important lesson: Think of archery much as you do hammering a nail.
“You do it instinctively,” he said. “If you look at the nail head, you’ll hit the nail head. If you look at your thumb, you’ll hit your thumb. Just focus and pretend the target is the nail, and the hammer is the bow.”
Like his American counterpart, Serena Lynn Caballero, Eriksson thinks the sport is addictive, and he hopes it grows in the years ahead.
Now, use the video and these tips as your inspiration and try it! We bet you’ll nail it!