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Natalia Savelyeva: 
"I found myself in horseback archery"

From her very first starts in the FHAR competitions, Natalia was eager to create a team. As she was already a coach at the Equestrian Club "Matador", she and her comrades started engaging in campaigning in favor of a new type of equestrian sport, simultaneously developing their shooting skills.

In a short time, Natalia's students, children and juniors, began to take first places at the competitions of the FHAR, and she herself came close to her dream...

The article was prepared by Maya KOWAL

Natalia Savelyeva: This sport helped me to realize myself, to unlock my potential. Not only as an athlete, but also as a coach. Forces, money, a huge emotional resource are invested, and it's worth it! And I get a huge emotional return from the students and their parents. It's becoming my life's work…
However, it is extremely difficult to combine coaching with my own workouts. I spend the entire resource on teaching, as it is in priority for me, so finding time and energy for myself is not easy. So, usually, I start training a few months before the scheduled tournament, focusing on the routes that will be there. Mostly qualification - standard - routes, the necessary base for everyone and always (you can read more about in the section "Rules" - Ed.).

As for shooting, mainly I study from books and manuals. I received basic skills from Pavel Polyakov and Alexander Zhurov, and then "instrument flying", so to speak. I have had a lot of teachers in horse riding for my whole life, because I was engaged in both dressage and show-jumping. And when there are strong skills in classical riding, it is not so difficult to prepare horses (and yourself) for shooting from horse. I also recently passed a professional retraining as a "equestrian sports coach", which gave an even clearer picture of the organization of training processes both for students and for myself.


But the "Matador" also has difficulties, like everyone else in sports (especially young ones). In particular, Natalia marks the arrangement of the track as the biggest difficulty. In horseback archery the track is the most importain in preparation – the strip should be long, smooth, with the possibility of shooting along the entire length for 10 meters and beyond. Of course, without random people and horses on the firing line, with arrivals and departures, comfortable and safe, without stumps, roots and sharp turns (after all, kids are training there):

Our club is located in the forest and it is very difficult to find a straight line where there is no swampy ground or trees around. As a result, we changed three places and finally find the most convenient one (you can see it on the video - ed.). We organized there a system of arrow catchers. And in the spring we will begin to improve the soil on the track…

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Of course, coaching knowledge gives an advantage, but when you are in the position of an athlete, you need a "mirror", which knows how to analyze and prompt, for progress:

Ekaterina Neklyudova, "Matador" junior coach and my sister, help me in training a lot.  These days, when i have to be prepared for the competition, she takes my development into her own hands. As I do for her, of course. We watch each other, help with the collection of arrows on horseback training in order to make the maximum number of shots in the shortest possible time. When you don't have your own horse, efficiency and consistency in training become critical.

At the same time, I still can't say for sure which is easier: to train or to be trained. Working with students, watching their mistakes, creates a very clear understanding of how to do things right. And through the head, everything goes into the body pretty quickly, since I have good physical fitness. And the students also help me with motivation: I can't fall behind!

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But for several years Natalia has had her own coaching ace up her sleeve – annual training camps for children and juniors in the Vladimir region. They last about ten days and are a program of complete immersion in working with horses. Starting with basic care, ending with training in all disciplines: show jumping, dressage, formation and field riding, djigitovka, horseback archery.

We also give lectures on working with horses and conduct psychological work. And, of course, we discuss tournaments, our behavior at them, attitude to horses during training and competitions. In fact, this is the same general education school, but general education concerns equestrian life… You know, "If you suffer for a long time, something will turn out" is a motto that is completely far from riding. Only real knowledge of biopsychology and biomechanics of a horse will help you get closer to mastery.

In this sense, Natalia complicates her own work as much as she can, because her students are leading among kid athletes at Federation competitions. And even deservedly keep first place at the Russian Horseback Archery Championship between children and juniors.

We are now at a powerful stage of development. Recently, two more new horses were prepared for shooting, Ekaterina was connected to work as a junior coach. We already have a powerful team of athletes, but also new guys are coming in day by day. Some of them will take part in tournaments next year. We are constantly replenishing our ranks, and therefore the flow of training moves as waves: from the basics with the beginners to practicing skills with already experienced guys. Therefore we have different approach to everyone and everyone have their own supporting and competing environment. But thanks to the fact that all students have examples of success in front of them and ammunition to share, the work is in huge progress!


Natalia devotes most of her time to this. And as soon as the trainings bear fruit, new and new guys appear at the Federation competitions, and most of them are already perform categories (even HA!). But Natalia's biggest desire now is to go with the "Matador" team to international competitions:

I have serious coaching ambitions. I want to create a strong team, rally the guys and raise their interest in both the training process and the competitive ones. The tournament in Volgograd showed what we are doing!


​Natalia Savelyeva's favorite affirmations

  • If you do something, do it well, cause it could be bad even without you.

  • The health of children and horses - is the main importance: safety first, then the result.

  • Comprehensive development of equestrian athletes is necessary for high-quality work in horseback archery.

  • Knowledge is power, so many thanks to the educational centers.

  • One cannot fight single. The good team is the most powerful engine of progress.

  • The main thing is to believe.

  • The plans are made by blockheads, and the simple task of the coach is just to train

As for herself, Natalia set a goal last year: "to break into the HA ranking", and she succeeded! This proves her productivity not only as a coach, but also as a persistent athlete. And as a very attentive rider, because there is another reason why Natalia loves horseback archery so much:

About humanity. The more I delved into the realities of dressage, the more I realized that it against me. Looking at the different levels competitions , I sincerely understood the impossibility of my growth in dressage, and the unwillingness of such growth. Because more and more variants of iron, spurs, and one hundred hundred additional controls are being invented... this is a complete enslavement of the horse. A frenzied machine of marketing jokes that delight riders (and promise to make their lives easier), but do not bring joy to horses at all. I think the simpler the better. For everyone. That's what experience has given me.

And even if you discard all options for strict contact with a horse (in competent hands, strict iron can work gently), there is another side of the coin. In classical disciplines, the main athlete is a horse, and much more attention is paid to its physical form. And in horseback archery, the load is evenly distributed both on the horse and on the rider. A person in our sport should not only "work the horse", he is also obliged to "work" himself. And all that is required of a horse is what it knows how to do best – to run forward. In addition, I am very happy to realize that our horses in "Matador" like horseback archery trainings! They snort, breathe, rest from constant work going circles in the arena and on the parade ground.

Horseback archery is a challenging sport in which you can develop both as an athlete and as a coach, and both the same time, and even with pleasure for a horse, from the very childhood to the grey hair, as Natalia and "Matador" will definitey prove.

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