Neil has been competitng for a year
Royal minority sport hopes to strike large audiences
Horse archery is a small sport which has been participated by competitors in Asia for thousands of years. But now it could become popular in Europe - if one man from Somerset gets his way.
Horseback archery is a small-scale sport which spans the world. The sport of royalty, it is considered the highest prayer or offering to the Gods in the samurai religion and has high religious significance in Korea.
Widely regarded as an art form in Asian countries where it is more commonly practised, horseback archery goes back to Mongolian steppes and early warfare.
But in Europe it is an emerging sport which is a "melting pot of various techniques and styles, mainly influenced by the heritage of the ancient Hungarian tribes, the Turks, the Scythians and the Huns".
It involves competitors from Asian countries such as Korea, Mongolia and Japan as well as a few from Europe - including 32-year-old Neil Payne from South Petherton.
"Horseback archery is a highly exciting and thrilling participative and visual sport," said Neil. "I've never felt so alive."
Neil, who has been practising archery for three years and horse riding for two, became involved with the sport one year ago when he stumbled across it on the Internet.
He became interested in the sport not just because of the sporting element, but also because of the sport's links with the Arab world - an area which Neil, who speaks fluent Turkish, Persian and Arabic, has travelled around and studied for many years.
The sport soon took hold of Neil's life and he is now the chairman of the British Horseback Archery Association. He has also passed on his love of the sport to his two boys, aged one and three, who are busy practising with plastic bow and arrows.
He's just taken part in the world championships in South Korea, where he competed in four events and finished in the top ten for the single shot.
Neil's hoping to improve on this in the European Championships, which take place on 6 and 7 September in Hummelhof, near Bamberg, Germany.
The sport is easy to get involved with says Neil - you just need to find a mentor.
last updated: 28/08/2008 at 18:40