With time various topics, most connected to the 'ancient ways,' will be covered. Some of these might be controversial in nature - you're most welcome to contribute.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Horseback Archery: Birth of the Concept

Although my people, the Boers, were known for their incredible horsemanship and marksmanship (from horseback) - horsemanship skills nearly disappeared after the 2nd World War.  The South African & Southwest African Defense Forces basically kept a bit of the traditions alive during the Bush War (north of Southwest Africa).  Today the standard of endurance horses in Namibia can be traced back to the influence of the Defense Force during the Bush War years.

Growing up in Southern Africa I saw very few horses and basically never anyone riding.  Visiting some of the farms in Namibia and South Africa, I saw horses that were used mainly by the black farm workers.  In the Kavango (tropical area) there were a few horses owned by the black population, but they were not horsemen and the horses were in an appalling condition - skin and bones.

Here in Australia I see horses everywhere - every bloody paddock owns a horse or two ... again, I see very few people riding.  Pony Clubs, camp drafting, show jumping and other horse related sports are very popular here - so people must ride sometime and somewhere.

Television was only introduced in Southern Africa, somewhere in the '80's.  The odd movie here and there, pictures in books - mainly American Indians with bows and horses, brought back 'retained memories.'  I watched and read anything I could get my hands on.

My stepfather absolutely hated horses.  His roommate  in boarding school was killed one holiday - dragged behind a horse for kilometers. Somehow it had a huge impact on his life and there was no way in the world I was going to own or ride a horse in his presence.  He grew up on a farm in Northern Transvaal and I'm sure his father took part in the Boer War (he never spoke about his father or childhood), so horses should've been part of life.  I'm not sure why and where the resistance came from.

One day, as an eight year old - while hunting in the Kavango, my black companion and I came across two Bushmen on horseback.  They carried bows and long spears - they were hunting giraffe from horseback.  In their camp I saw all the evidence of a successful hunt - large strips of meat drying in the thorn bush and the long marrow bones in and around the fire.  I could not stop asking questions and poor Muruti - my friend and black tracker who understood the Bushmen dialect, had to translate for a whole day.

Giraffe are incredibly dangerous and can kick in all directions at full speed - they are known to kill a lion with one kick.  These Bushmen chased the giraffe in thick savanna bush on horseback - darting in and out, spearing these incredible animals.  The horsemanship must have been something else and incredibly dangerous.

I must add that these Bushmen did not own these horses.  Bushmen in northern Namibia were most often enslaved by the blacks and paid in food scraps.  In this case, the horses were owned by a black Kavango who lived near the Kavango river system.  The Bushmen were 'employed' or rather forced to hunt the inner land areas. A Bushman friend of mine, Kashja, was poisoned by a jealous black owner ... died a horrible death.  This form of slavery still exists today.

During the Bush War, Bushmen were used in the mounted section of the Southwest African Defense Force, because of their natural horsemanship skills.  During my time in the army (Kavango region) I was lucky to witness them working horses in the 202 Battalion base.

Bushmen on horseback

Seeing these Bushmen horseman with spears and bows in the thick African bush triggered something in me - it activated 'retained memories' of all the horsemen in my genes and past.  It took a very long time before I could own a horse, but I was very fortunate to start off with a bow and arrow at an early age.

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