HUNOCHA – A Review

HUNOCHA is by far the easier of my two competitions in Hungary to review fairly and dispassionately, so I’m going to start there.
I spoke to a journalist once at a horseback archery competition that I shall not name here. He said that one thing that surprised him was that it was not more of a celebration of the sport. At that competition there was little cheering and the mood was somewhat sombre and competitive. Those of my readers who have been to a horseback archery competition will know that this was unusual and I reassured the journalist that at most international events (and national ones), there is something of a carnival atmosphere. That’s how it was at HUNOCHA: it was a celebration. Everybody cheered everybody else on, there were raucous whoops at particularly good shots and the lower end got just as much support, possibly more, for a single hit on the Hungarian as the top people got for hitting three or four times.
Once the riding was over the happy atmosphere continued (with a certain amount of help from the reasonably priced alcohol). The competition was forgotten and everybody, from first to last place, sat around the camp fire or the beer tent and just enjoyed themselves.
There is a certain tension in the sport between those who do it basically as a hobby and travel to compete but also to have fun and those for whom the sport is more than a mere hobby. I do not speak necessarily of all professionals because I find that some professionals (such as Emil Eriksson, but he is far from alone in this) fit right into the fun set. The tension is very much in the background but occasionally it shows and while both sides are keen to have events that both can enjoy, I myself fall squarely in the fun category. There are those who feel that they would die without horseback archery. I do it because it’s fun. The day I stop enjoying it I’ll stop.
HUNOCHA was fun. For me, this competition was how horseback archery should be: a very high standard of horseback archery in an atmosphere of friendly competition and, as my journalist friend said, a celebration of the sport. HUNOCHA joins the list of competitions that I would always recommend to anybody thinking of going abroad to compete.
The judging was basically free from controversy. There was one arrow that was awarded 4 points that some people thought should have received 5 but an impartial judge awarded 4 and the matter stopped (quite rightly) there. This made no difference whatsoever to the rankings and I feel slightly churlish even mentioning it. Considering the judging problems that I have seen at some other events, HUNOCHA was basically perfect from that point of view. The rules were clearly explained and followed without incident (always a plus for a lawyer such as I).
We were almost frustrated by the weather, since rain meant that the Polish event had to be put back a couple of times but I think I’m right in saying that everybody was able to do every event. Given the forecast, I might have considered removing one of the two days of practise and starting the competition early but there was a timetable, complete with visiting government minister, so this may well not have been practicable. It all turned out fine anyway.
If I had to pick out something negative (and I kind of feel that I should, just to make it clear that I am being entirely impartial) I would say that the practice sessions, which involved all competitors training together, had 30 riders queuing at once for 3 runs down the track. Has we been put into our groups for these sessions then they would have been rather more efficient. Of course this actually boils down to the fact that we spent some time sitting on our horses chatting to our friends rather than doing the same thing sitting around a table, so it’s not like it ruined the event!

A few points now to assist those who might be thinking of attended future events:
1. I would recommend the guesthouse over camping. There were a few issues with the showers for those who camped (i.e. they didn’t always produce water) and Hungary can veer alarmingly between roasting heat and torrential rain. A good solid roof and a nice shower are the way forward.
2. If you’re looking for things to train at, start with long shots forwards and backwards (the hail of arrows involves shots of 30-90m) and cross-country (this is the hardest Polish track I have ridden).
3. The organisers, as far as I am aware, picked most people up from the airport and drove them to and from the event (certainly I was given a lift back having arrived courtesy of a friend). This makes it a very easy event to get to.
4. If at all possible, take some fruit. This applied to both of my competitions in Hungary: there was a distinct goulashy theme to the food and while this is perfectly tasty and filling (and, like the whole event, free, so let’s not moan too much) I for one found myself desperate for some fresh fruit. The pineapple pizza at the airport felt like manna from heaven. I should add that while the food for the vegetarians (not me!) was a bit thin on the ground at the start, it looked pretty good by the end. I’d recommend telling the organisers before you travel if you are a vegetarian.
5. There is WiFi available. It’s only really in an area of a couple of square feet but this makes for a social area known as WiFi Corner. It’s also a godsend for those trying to upload a blog each day.
6. You will need some Hungarian forints (the currency). The drinks were decently priced (from memory, about 250 forints for a coke and maybe twice that for a beer) and it’s worth taking more so that you have the option of the restaurant if you want to try the very fine pork steak and fries as an alternative to the standard free food.

All in all, then, HUNOCHA was a superb free event with a variety of good events, fine competitors, reasonably priced drinks (including Coke for those of us so ill they had to get all their calories through drinking) and filling if plain food (again free: there’s a perfectly good and reasonably priced restaurant on site if you want something other than the standard fare). One to add to your list if you haven’t been.

I will simply finish by thanking the Way of the Archer school and all those involved in making this excellent competition a reality. To all my friends I say that it was good to see you (whether again or for the first time), thanks for the memories (after the last night, some of you may not have memories) and I look forward to seeing you again somewhere in the world.

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How Horseback Archery Changed the World: Episode 1 – Carrhae

Horseback Archery in History

OK, I know I haven’t finished writing about Hungary yet, but this is a post that I’ve been working on for some time and now it’s ready it just wants to be out there.  I’ll finish Hungary later, I promise.

This is the first in a series of articles that I plan to write about the effect that horseback archery has had on world history. It grows out of the historical articles I have written for the BHAA newsletter and my researches on the history of horseback archery in Britain. This series is intended to take a different approach. I am going to focus on some of the less known (or less appreciated) effects that horseback archery has had on history.

I am not going to offer detailed examination of the battle tactics and techniques. I am going to focus on the build-up, the outcome and the effects. These are not going to be academic articles and my approach is not going to be even vaguely even-handed: I am basically going to try to demonstrate that just about the whole of world history revolves around horseback archery…

I’m going to start with my own personal favourite example: the battle of Carrhae in 53BCE.

 

The World Scene

The Eurasian land mass was basically divided into a few great empires, of which two are important to our story: Rome (a republic but with a vast territorial empire) ruled from the Atlantic to the Euphrates, Parthia (a monarchy) from the Euphrates to the Indus. Each had vast resources and neither trusted the other.

The empires had very different armies. Rome’s meteoric rise to power had come through her heavy infantry, protected by armour and by large shields and wielding javelins and the gladius, a short stabbing sword that was wickedly effective when deployed by Rome’s tightly-packed legions. The Parthians were a cavalry-based force. Such infantry as they had consisted mainly of ill-equipped peasants conscripted into the ranks with little training. The shock force of cataphracts (heavy cavalry) were clad in mail from head to hoof, man and horse, while the Parthians also deployed huge numbers of horseback archers.

 

Roman Politics

Rome had been in turmoil for about a century. On several occasions generals or rabble-rousers had seized control of the city. There had been death lists posted in the streets, confiscation of property, rioting and gang warfare, as well as outright civil war, with a Roman army marching on Rome herself. At the same time Rome had come under attack from the Kingdom of Pontus on the Black Sea, her allies in Italy had rebelled and a gladiator named Spartacus had led an uprising that had defeated three Roman armies before finally being destroyed.

Amid this turmoil three men had risen to power. The first was Marcus Licinius Crassus. He had been born wealthy and become far more so by some of the most unscrupulous business practices in history (amongst other things, he owned a private fire brigade that would rush to the scene of any fire in the wood-built city of Rome and then refuse to do anything to help until the owner of the burning building (and any neighbours) had sold their properties to Crassus at knock-down prices. If they didn’t sell then their houses would simply be allowed to burn down). In the civil war he had raised his own army and led it with some distinction and it was Crassus (played with great aplomb by Sir Laurence Olivier in the film “Spartacus”) who eventually defeated the slave revolt and crucified the renegade slaves along the Appian Way. He was, therefore, an accomplished general and a feared politician. But he was ever in the shadow of our next character.

Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, known to history as Pompey the Great, was the golden boy of Rome. He had eclipsed Crassus’ fame in the civil war as a 17 year-old general who never lost a battle. He had then pacified a rebellion in Spain, returning just in time to wipe out a few stragglers from Spartacus’s army who had escaped their defeat at Crassus’ hands. Pompey wrote to the Roman Senate of how he had finished off Spartacus, stealing Crassus’ glory again. Pompey went on to clear the seas of pirates in a mere 3 months (these pirates having been powerful enough to attack the port of Rome, as well as kidnapping a young Julius Caesar). Pompey then led an expedition to the East that had doubled the size of the empire. He was hailed as the new Alexander the Great and was made consul (the highest rank in the Republic) years before becoming constitutionally eligible. Popular among the common folk, Pompey desperately wanted to be accepted by the patricians of the ruling class, many of whom were deeply suspicious of his fame and unconstitutional rise. Among these patricians could be found Crassus.

Crassus hated Pompey and thwarted him at every opportunity. The feeling had become mutual and the situation had become apparently insoluble: if Pompey backed a measure, Crassus would oppose it and vice versa. Into this inflammatory situation had come a man known as a dandy of dubious morality; a man whose family claimed descent from the goddess Venus but had fallen on hard times and now lived in the red light district. His name was Gaius Julius Caesar.

Despite being as upper class as it was possible to be, Caesar was loved by the common people and hated by his own class, who felt that he had betrayed them for the mob. His political rise had been tainted by scandal but he had procured himself military commands in Spain and Gaul and had proved himself a superb general, beloved by his troops and capable of extraordinary feats, including landing the first Roman armies on the semi-legendary island of Britannia.

Possibly even more impressive than his military campaigns was the fact that Caesar had somehow managed to broker a deal between Pompey and Crassus. The three men had effectively ruled Rome for years in an informal arrangement known to history as the First Triumvirate. Whenever the hatred between Crassus and Pompey threatened to ruin the arrangement Caesar had managed to smooth things over, securing supreme political office for the two of them while he himself stayed in Gaul conquering. At the end of their terms, Pompey and Crassus would each receive a provincial command, with Caesar’s office in Gaul being extended for a further five years.

Crassus hated Pompey. Pompey hated Crassus. They were both nervous of Caesar, who needed the two of them to work together. Each was immensely powerful but each knew that any attempt at seizing supreme power would unite the other two against him, resulting in certain failure. By this arrangement was the Republic kept safe from the civil wars and power grabs of the previous century.

 

Crassus’s Command

As was the custom the outgoing consuls drew lots for their provincial commands, which this time would be for extraordinarily long terms. Crassus drew the gem: a command in Syria, which presented opportunities to attack Parthia and, Crassus dreamed, to win the kind of military glory that Pompey and Caesar had earned but that had always eluded him, no matter how well he had fought in the past. The prospect was sweetened by the fabled wealth of the East and by the fact that Pompey’s fabled Eastern campaigns had failed to conquer the Parthians.

No sooner had Crassus taken up his command than he busied himself raising the extra legions and funds that he would need to invade. And across the Euphrates, the Parthians waited.

General Surena

Parthia may have been a monarchy rather than a republic but she had her own politics. The king, Orodes, had attained the throne through a civil war against his brother, the previous king (the two of them having previously murdered their father, the king before that). The civil war against his brother had been won for him by his general, a military genius from a family of generals. His name was Surena. When Crassus crossed the border and invaded Parthia, Orodes again turned to Surena to repel the attack.

Surena deployed an army purely comprised of cavalry. Most were horseback archers, backed up with a powerful force of heavy cavalry. This removed the principle weakness of Parthian armies, allowing complete manoeuvrability and removing the possibility of pinning the infantry down and drawing the cavalry in that way.

 

The Battle of Carrhae

Much has been written about this battle. Most accounts, based on the writings of Plutarch, portray Crassus as an incompetent blunderer. In fact he was a perfectly capable general whose decisions, while they led to disaster, were perfectly justifiable at the time.

Whether it was Crassus’ fault or not, the Roman army he commanded was destroyed. The Parthian horseback archers rained arrows down on the Roman ranks, which had to stay close-packed for fear of a charge by the Parthian heavy cataphracts. Crassus had a small but experienced cavalry wing of his own, lent to him by Caesar and consisting of veterans of Caesar’s campaigns in Gaul. They were commanded by Crassus’ son, Publius Licinius Crassus, who had commanded them in Gaul under Caesar. When this cavalry attempted to drive the horse archers off they fell victim to the classic Steppe cavalry tactic: the feigned withdrawal and sudden counter. Publius and his men were cut off and slaughtered, his head thrown at his father’s feet by a triumphant Parthian rider.

The Roman infantry withdrew and the next day Crassus and the Parthian commander agreed a parley. Something went wrong and whether through misunderstanding or treachery the Parthians killed Crassus and took his head back to the king (where it was used as an impromptu prop in a play that was being performed as the messenger arrived). Most of the Roman army was either killed or captured, with only a small force under a commander named Gaius Cassius Longinus making it back to Rome. Stories persist about the fate of the Roman captives, including that they were employed as slave labour to build the city of Merv and even (rather fancifully) that some escaped and became mercenaries in China.

Surena became a national hero. However, a successful general, famous and popular and with a history of toppling monarchs, was intolerable to the Parthian king and Surena was assassinated shortly after the battle.

Aftermath and Political Manoeuvring in Rome

Pompey’s glee at his old enemy’s demise can only be guessed at but he also made political hay. He had, years earlier, married Caesar’s daughter as a way of sealing their alliance. She had died the previous year and Pompey lost little time in remarrying. His bride? The widow of Publius Crassus. Quite apart from her marriage into Crassus’ family, she was a high aristocrat in her own right. By this marriage Pompey moved away from Caesar and cemented his ties with the aristocracy whom he had always courted (but who hated Caesar).

Suddenly Rome was no longer ruled by three men under the threat of mutually assured destruction. Now there were two: one in the capital with the Senate and aristocracy behind him; the other in Gaul with a substantial army under his command. The scene was set for civil war.

Pompey had one disadvantage: there was no army in Italy. While there were many veterans who could be called up, that would take time and money. Pompey was confident, stating that he need only stamp his foot and men would spring up all over Italy. In this he underestimated Caesar, whose generalship had always been marked by rapid movement and surprise attacks.

Caesar’s term of office in Gaul came to an end and his political enemies were ready to prosecute him the moment he returned (like all Roman governors, Caesar had been immune from prosecution while he held office but would be vulnerable when he returned, which he would need to do in order to run for further office). Pompey could have prevented this by guaranteeing immunity for Caesar but his move to the aristocratic side was complete and he instead acquiesced in the Senate’s demands that Caesar lay down his arms and return to Rome without immunity from prosecution.

Had Crassus still been alive it is doubtful whether Pompey would have taken this hardline stance against Caesar, fearing that his two rivals would join forces against him. Had he been able to convince Crassus to go against Caesar (which is unlikely) then Caesar would have been forced to surrender, not having a hope of going against both together. With Crassus’ death there was nobody to prevent Pompey from siding against Caesar. There was also nobody to dissuade Caesar from choosing to back himself and his army. He chose to gamble.

Caesar refused the Senate’s demands that he dispand his army. He marched his troops across the obscure little river that marked the edge of Roman Italy: the Rubicon. His customary lightning marching speed allowed him to approach Rome long before Pompey could raise a significant force to oppose him. Pompey and the Senate abandoned Italy and fled to Greece. A vicious civil war followed between the two sides, in which Caesar defeated his enemies. Pompey fled once more, this time to Egypt, where he was murdered. Caesar, following him thence, met the young Queen Cleopatra and was instantly smitten, having a child by here and bringing her to Rome. The war won, Caesar returned to Rome as sole ruler. The Republic, while it continued in name, was dead in fact.

 The Ides of March

Some years later, on the Ides of March (a date in the Roman calendar, not a place) Caesar was assassinated by group of conspirators, led by Brutus, the son of Caesar’s long-time lover (Brutus was rumoured to be Caesar’s child, although this is unlikely to be true). Contrary to popular belief, Caesar was not stabbed in the Senate House. He was stabbed in the building that had for some time been serving the role of temporary Senate House. It was a theatre, built using the spoils of Pompey’s Eastern expeditions and named in honour of Pompey himself. Caesar, the last of the three men who had ruled Rome for so long, died at the feet of a giant statue of Pompey, his great rival and one-time co-ruler.

What few people realise is that the other ringleader of the conspiracy against Caesar was the same Gaius Cassius Longinus who had marched with Crassus to Carrhae and had led the only Roman troops to escape the battle. The assassination took place days before Caesar was due to march away from Rome with his armies, leading them against Parthia to avenge the defeat at Carrhae.

The Fallout from Caesar’s Assassination

Caesar’s followers, led by Mark Anthony (Marcus Antonius) waged civil war against Brutus and Cassius, defeating them at Phillipi in Greece. The return of the Republic was overshadowed by a power struggle that developed between Anthony and Octavian, Caesar’s great-nephew and adopted son. This turned into outright war between Rome, under Octavian, and the forces of Egypt and the Eastern provinces under Anthony and Cleopatra. Octavian won and settled down to run the Empire under his newly-granted name: Augustus. He set the tone (as well as the family dynasty) for Imperial rule for centuries to come, so that even the name of Caesar came to mean ruler. It still does, in the German Kaiser and the Russian Czar.

 

Conclusion

Had Crassus not been defeated (and conventional armies without mounted archers very rarely defeated the Romans in this period) it is likely that the uneasy truce between Caesar, Pompey and Crassus would have continued. There would have been no civil war between Caesar and Pompey. Without this war, Caesar would never have gone to Egypt and Cleopatra would probably be a name known only to historians. There would have been no assassination on the Ides of March, no subsequent civil war between Brutus and Mark Anthony. Caesar’s great-nephew would never have risen to be emperor and Rome may well have continued as a Republic (she had survived dictatorships and tyrannies before). Instead, because of the crushing defeat inflicted by the Parthian mounted archers, the Roman Republic, which covered most of Europe and beyond, was riven by decades of war and the Roman Empire was born from the ashes.

HUNOCHA Day 5

A couple of days later than planned, this post is about the final day of HUNOCHA. I shall do one or two more posts later about this trip more generally, as I tend to do when I get back.
The final day of HUNOCHA dawned rather earlier than quite a few people would have liked, after what had proved a pretty epic evening and night. Being the sober, sensible one, I went to bed at around 0130 after no more than a can of beer and a few deep swigs of palinka. Some others had been helped/carried to their beds somewhat earlier in the night and a few intrepid souls stayed up for another hour or more. It was as fine a party as I can remember at a horseback archery competition (admittedly there have been finer ones, but an integral part of that is that I don’t really remember them (see Korea 2013, for example).
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Luckily, my group wasn’t first on. By the time we mounted for our rain of arrows event I was feeling tolerably well for the first time in days. It showed in my archery, which finally got back to something like its usual standard, aided by my years of field archery, which involves shooting at much longer distances than horseback archery usually does. The hail of arrows is run over a 120m track with two 120cm targets, one at 90m and angled for forwards shooting, the other at 30m and angled for backwards shooting. In the first half of the track you may only shoot at the 90m target and for the second half you shoot the 30m target. What this means is that the shortest shot is 30m (longer than any Korean event shot and further than most Hungarian shots) and they are all either forwards or backwards shots.
Although still competing with a horse that had to be kicked the whole way along the track, I managed a total of 5 hits in 6 runs, placing me in 9th place out of 30, despite the almost complete lack of speed points available to me. I was and am pretty proud of this, as it meant beating some very impressive opposition. It also confirmed to me that with proper concentration and focussing on technique I can hit at these long ranges, which is promising for future scores in the Hungarian event, quite apart from any future hail of arrows competitions.
Ours fears that the Polish track would be cancelled proved to be unfounded as the course dried out nicely and the three Brits were among the first three to go (because we had to be away before the competition itself had finished to catch our flight). What followed were three of the most exciting (not to say terrifying) rides of my life. The horse continued its plodding lope around the first half of the track, no matter how much kicking, yelling and occasional switches with an arrow I did (this is why, despite some OK shooting, I scored a grand total of 1 point in my three runs – time penalites took the rest). Upon reaching the final section, however, she took off into a fast canter into the long straight downhill run, ending in a 90 degree bend into the short home straight. Here my lack of riding experience and, frankly, my sense of self-preservation, took over. I got off one or two hasty shots but otherwise tried desperately to slow the horse and steeled myself for what seemed like inevitable death. Of course the horse was fine and doubtless had I simply had the guts to get on with shooting I would have done rather better. All in all, my low score on this course can be put down to my inability to get the horse to go faster when she wanted to go slowly and my inability to cope when she went faster than I wanted. Much more riding ability was required than is contained in me to do well over this excellent and challenging Polish course.
The other two Brits also survived with varying degrees of ease (Oisin is a riding instructor and breezed it, albeit his shooting let him down; Adam is even less experienced than I am (although also more fearless) and fell on his second run, damaging his quiver. This came apart in his third run, leaving him with a score of 8). No sooner had we finished than it was time to go. I collected my saddle (about which more in a future post) and we went up the hill to say goodbye to our friends, pausing to pose for the very kind local crowd, who gave us a rousing ovation as we passed. Then it was back to the accommodation to shower and pack before a drive to the airport.
Unfortunately our trip home was delayed by a couple of hours thanks to the late arrival of our ‘plane from its incoming flight, followed by long clearing of the ‘plane. Even when we arrived in London there was nobody to open the door for nearly half an hour, after which our luggage took an age to arrive. We had been scheduled to land at 2300. I eventually drove away from Stanstead at 0200, walking in the door at 0400 on the dot, tired but happy to be home.
So there it is, dear readers: the last day of my trip to Hungary. 12 days, two competitions covering 5 events. Overall I am disappointed that I did not shoot better but the stomach bug didn’t help and I didn’t exactly disgrace myself. These were high level competitions and I finished mid-table in both, with promising signs for the rest of the season.
I shall write a couple more posts about this trip, including an overview of each event to help future competitors and short pieces about a couple of my new pieces of equipment that I have been using. For now, though, I shall finish with a picture or two.
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hunocha 5

HUNOCHA Day 4

Overnight rain meant that the Polish track was not safe this morning and so my group began the day doing the Korean event.  My horse was not in enthusiastic mood and the combination of stomach cramps, no breakfast (because of the stomach cramps: breakfast was available but I skipped it) and having to kick my horse along the whole way meant that I shot pretty poorly.  At least I hit on every run but only one on each run of double and then 14 out of 15 on the serial shot.  Even when my shooting improved (thanks largely to the genuinely helpful advice from Lukas Novotny in the crowd, reminding me to come to full draw) I missed out on bonus points through not getting across the line in time.  I finally managed it in my last run, by which time I was just about ready to collapse.

After am ill-advised lunch I spent the afternoon in both bed and pain, to such an extent that I withdrew from the Hail of Arrows event in the afternoon.  About 10 minutes later I manned the f*@£ up and decided that if I could walk to the start line then I could ride.  This I proceeded to do, just in time to get caught in a prodigious rainstorm that led to the cancellation of the event half way through (and before I had even saddled my horse).  Back to bed!

No dinner for me tonight, just a quiet chat with friends over a swig or five of palinka (the local spirit – think gasoline with added alcohol).  I’m drinking coke, of course…

Tomorrow we will try the Hail of Arrows again, after which it will be time to pack up and leave.  Sorry though I’ll be to leave my friend for what could be years in some cases (I haven’t seen some of these people for over 2 years), I am also ready to go home and see Claire and the boys.  It’s been a great could of weeks but reality calls.  Next post probably from good old Blighty!

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HUNOCHA Day 3

Last night was pretty horrible so for the rest of the day I opted for nothing to eat whatsoever.  I spent a leisurely morning watching the Polish track, culminating in an excellent run from Ana Sokólska, complete with offside jarmaki shot, turning to grin at the crowd between targets and even taking time out to answer Serena’s shout of “hey babe!”.  They’ve been exchanging this being about one a minute since we got here.  I have had to correct Serena’s assertion that “this never gets old”…

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My group, including all three Brits and some other friends, did our Hungarian event this afternoon.  I shot OK in the circumstances but nothing like as well as I can.  My horse will consistently run 90m in 13.5s if kicked the whole way.  Best shoot accurately for the rest of the competition, really!

I spent the rest of the afternoon taking photos on Oisin’s SLR.  Loving the panning shots:
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Others weren’t working quite so hard.
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I’ve now braved a spot of dinner and some palinka – Hungarian home-made alcohol that, appropriately enough, was given to us in a bottle labeled “ethanol”.  I had lots of other things to say, but I’ve quite forgotten them! 

Tomorrow I have the very challenging Polish track first thing, followed by the Korean in the afternoon.  Should be another fun day!

HUNOCHA Day 2

I woke up this morning feeling awful.  This was not because I drank too much, before anybody says it!  Stomach cramps and a streaming noise are not ideal for horseback archery, even for training, and I think my horse picked up on it, resulting in extra work for me as I desperately tried to get her to run at a reasonable speed.  Yesterday was better (although she’s no speedster anyway) so hopefully for the competition she will do as a lot of horses do and pick up on the energy of the event. 

Afternoon
It is now 7pm and I’m back in bed after eating a very fine dinner of chicken and cracked wheat.  I probably shouldn’t be eating with the way my stomach is playing up but I need to be able to function tomorrow and I’ve never done well at resisting food when it’s offered.  This afternoon we practised foot the opening ceremony, in which we will ride alongside some reenactors in hussar uniform (they’ll be in the uniforms, not us).  This practice consisted of lining up boot to boot and then forming two ranks and trotting in a big circle in an inclined field before reforming the single line and responding to some commands in Magyar before being inspected by a minister (government, not church).  It turns out that sitting trot in circles up and down a hill is not good for a dicky tummy and I felt distinctly unwell after a couple of goes.  Luckily I was able to derive some wry amusement from the commands to close up as close to each other as possible when at all other times we are told to keep distance between the horses because they don’t all know each other.  It all went fine, of course, but as somebody who enjoys life’s little quirks, I raised a satirical mental eyebrow.

After the parade we moved to the Polish track.  This is a demanding course, maybe 450m long and over rough and hilly terrain, including tight turns and a long final canter down a slightly-too-steep slope.  It also starts with a qabaq (upwards shot) and includes front, back and issue shots, some of which are hidden amongst trees or bushes.  After a practice walk, trot and canter runs, I’m looking forward to it but not expecting great things.  I managed to get the horse to speed up by shouting loudly but I am informed that my “yah!” sounds so very English that I may as well shout “excuse me, would you mind awfully going a bit faster?”.  I may have to shout that instead at some point…

There will shortly be a meeting to discuss groups and rules, so I will have to get up again.  On the bright side, this will mean going to the WiFi hotspot, so I can post this to my adoring readers.  I shall leave you with a couple of pictures of a little church that overlooks the competition site and forms part of the HUNOCHA logo.  I strolled up there earlier with Adam and Oisin, now that the weather is slightly less infernally hot.

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Tomorrow the competition starts.  Good luck, everybody…

HUNOCHA Day 2

I woke up this morning feeling awful.  This was not because I drank too much, before anybody says it!  Stomach cramps and a streaming noise are not ideal for horseback archery, even for training, and I think my horse picked up on it, resulting in extra work for me as I desperately tried to get her to run at a reasonable speed.  Yesterday was better (although she’s no speedster anyway) so hopefully for the competition she will do as a lot of horses do and pick up on the energy of the event. 

Afternoon
It is now 7pm and I’m back in bed after eating a very fine dinner of chicken and cracked wheat.  I probably shouldn’t be eating with the way my stomach is playing up but I need to be able to function tomorrow and I’ve never done well at resisting food when it’s offered.  This afternoon we practised foot the opening ceremony, in which we will ride alongside some reenactors in hussar uniform (they’ll be in the uniforms, not us).  This practice consisted of lining up boot to boot and then forming two ranks and trotting in a big circle in an inclined field before reforming the single line and responding to some commands in Magyar before being inspected by a minister (government, not church).  It turns out that sitting trot in circles up and down a hill is not good for a dicky tummy and I felt distinctly unwell after a couple of goes.  Luckily I was able to derive some wry amusement from the commands to close up as close to each other as possible when at all other times we are told to keep distance between the horses because they don’t all know each other.  It all went fine, of course, but as somebody who enjoys life’s little quirks, I raised a satirical mental eyebrow.

After the parade we moved to the Polish track.  This is a demanding course, maybe 450m long and over rough and hilly terrain, including tight turns and a long final canter down a slightly-too-steep slope.  It also starts with a qabaq (upwards shot) and includes front, back and issue shots, some of which are hidden amongst trees or bushes.  After a practice walk, trot and canter runs, I’m looking forward to it but not expecting great things.  I managed to get the horse to speed up by shouting loudly but I am informed that my “yah!” sounds so very English that I may as well shout “excuse me, would you mind awfully going a bit faster?”.  I may have to shout that instead at some point…

There will shortly be a meeting to discuss groups and rules, so I will have to get up again.  On the bright side, this will mean going to the WiFi hotspot, so I can post this to my adoring readers.  I shall leave you with a few pictures of a little church that overlooks the competition site and forms part of the HUNOCHA logo.  I strolled up there earlier with Adam and Oisin, now that the weather is slightly less infernally hot.
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Tomorrow the competition starts.  Good luck, everybody…