cowboy mounted shooting

Cowboy Mounted Shooting

Cowboy Mounted Shooting, also known as Western Mounted Shooting or simply Mounted Shooting, is a vibrant equestrian sport in which riders on horseback shoot at balloon targets using single-action revolvers and blank ammunition. This sport offers an exciting simulation of challenging shooting conditions that one might have encountered during the old Western days, giving it its unique charm.

Ranking among the fastest-growing equestrian sports, cowboy mounted shooting stands as a wonderful testament to our continued fascination with the old wild west. Courting boldness, steadfastness, and accuracy, the sport invites a unique brand of thrill and challenge for its practitioners.

cowboy mounted shooting holsters 

cowboy mounted shooting holsters 

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A Glimpse into the Past

The sport of Cowboy Mounted Shooting takes immense inspiration from the culture and mythology of the American West, a period that spanned from the 1800s to the early 1900s, marked by westward expansion, cattle drives, and the iconic cowboy figure. Although actual cowboy life might not have involved as much gunfighting or horseback shooting, athletes in this sport emulate this romanticized persona by dressing in period costumes and utilizing American Quarter Horses known for their agility and speed.

Present Day Cultural Significance

Today, the sport of Cowboy Mounted Shooting goes beyond a competitive event; it serves as a vibrant tribute to America’s western heritage. People from different backgrounds come together to participate in this sport, relishing in the thrill it offers and honing their horsemanship and marksmanship.

The family-friendly nature of Cowboy Mounted Shooting makes it a great option for weekend events, often stretching over two or three days. These events feature music, food, vendors, and other fun features, turning it into a cultural celebration beyond just a competitive gathering.

Get to Know the Lingo

Just like any sport, Cowboy Mounted Shooting has its unique terminology. Terms like “course,” “rundowns,” “gates,” and “barrels” describe different elements of the course setup, and phrases like “clean run” or “clean shooter” are used for competitors who successfully complete a course without any errors.

Typically, riders use .45 caliber single-action revolvers loaded with .45 Colt blanks for the shooting part. These rounds do not shoot out a bullet but can pop a balloon up to fifteen feet away. Having a grasp of these terms can enhance your experience and understanding of this dynamic sport that harks back to a fascinating part of American history.

The Rules of the Game

As you have guessed from its name, Cowboy Mounted Shooting provides an adrenaline-pumping blend of horse racing and precision shooting. As one of America’s fastest-growing equestrian sports, it creates a lively competition atmosphere where competitors have to skillfully maneuver their horse through a predefined course while taking shots at designated balloon targets with their blank-loaded revolvers – a thrilling spectacle indeed. This sport, which embodies the spirit of the Wild West era, offers spectators and participants alike an exciting, high-paced event filled with action and precision.

Safety Comes First

Among the top rules in cowboy mounted shooting is the uncompromised requirement for safety. Each shooter is required to wear safety gear, which includes a cowboy hat, long sleeve shirt, cowboy boots, and Wrangler style jeans. Both the riders and their horses must leave the shooting range unharmed; hence safety requirements dictate that competitors use blanks instead of live ammo, with the courses designed in a way that eliminates the risk of hitting the horses or other competitors.

The Targets, Firearms, and Shooting Styles

The game is comprised of 10 balloon targets – five of each are part of distinct “courses” or patterns. A given pattern may require the rider to engage in single action shooting, which demands manual cocking of the gun each time before firing. The gun must be holstered when it is not in use, and shouldn’t be loaded until the rider is on the horse, ready to play.

The types of guns used in cowboy mounted shooting are typically single action .45 caliber revolvers, to keep the rides authentic and maintain the Old West feel of the game. The guns used are similar to those used by cowboys in the late 1800s.

The Scoring System

Scoring in cowboy mounted shooting is based on time and accuracy. Riders are timed from the moment they cross the start line until they cross the finish line. Hitting all 10 targets in the fastest time signifies the best performance. For each missed target, a five-second penalty is added to the rider’s time. If a rider drops a gun or falls off their horse, an additional 10-second penalty is added.

Fouls and Penalties

Like any sport, cowboy mounted shooting has specific rules that need to be followed, and breaking these rules usually leads to penalties. Committing a procedural foul, like engaging targets in the wrong order, leads to a ten-second penalty. Also, not adhering to the dress code can disqualify a competitor. Moreover, poor sportsmanship, horse abuse, and altering guns to shoot faster can get a competitor banned from the association.

Cowboy mounted shooting event with participants riding horses and shooting at targets.

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Competitors wear two single-action 45 Caliber Guns race against the clock, navigate through a variety of course patterns while shooting at balloon targets.  Each gun is loaded with five Black Power Blanks, making for a colorful and exciting run.  Competitors dress up in the ‘Golden Era’ cowboy clothing.

The Firearms in Cowboy Mounted Shooting

Two .45 caliber single action revolvers play a pivotal role in cowboy mounted shooting. The term ‘single action’ signifies that the gun’s hammer needs to be manually drawn back before each shot, mirroring the historical allure of marksmanship in the Wild West era. Consistent with traditional cowboy sidearms, these revolvers are unaltered to accommodate no more than five rounds at a time.

Ammunition Used in Cowboy Mounted Shooting

The ammunition used in cowboy mounted shooting is very specific, known as .45 caliber Long Colt blanks. The bullets are not conventional live rounds but blank cartridges that burst into a flame and smoke on firing, capable of popping a balloon up to about 15 feet away. Live rounds are never used in this sport, reflecting a firm commitment to safety.

Riding Gear Used in Cowboy Mounted Shooting

Just as the firearms used hark back to the old west, so does the riding gear. Participants typically dress in traditional cowboy attire, including a western shirt, five-pocket jeans, chaps, cowboy boots and hat, while the specific regulations may vary between different competitive organizations. Additionally, the riding gear includes traditional leather or rawhide saddles, with many riders choosing models that reflect the historical period.

Safety Equipment for Cowboy Mounted Shooting

Safety is paramount in this sport. Despite using blank cartridges, safety glasses are required to protect the eyes from any potential fragment released during firing. Hearing protection is also a critical requirement given the close-proximity discharge of the blank rounds. Furthermore, a mounted shooter wears a holster that safely reserves their firearms, usually located at the waist level for easy access.

Horses in Cowboy Mounted Shooting

There is no specific breed of horse required for the sport. A good cowboy mounted shooting horse can be of any breed that is adaptable, trainable, and capable of withstanding the sound of gunfire. However, Quarter Horses are a common breed due to their agility and inherent “cow sense”. This notwithstanding, the horses must undergo careful training to acclimatize to the gunshot sounds and quick maneuvers required in the sport. Whether the horse is a speed demon or slower but with fast responsiveness, courage, speed, agility, and a calm temperament are what makes a good competitive mount.

In essence, the exciting world of cowboy mounted shooting brings together the quick-fire action of marksmanship, the agility of equine sport, and captures the raw and rugged aura of the Old West. Everything from the firearms used to the riding and safety gear maintain the authenticity of the sport while aligning with rigorous safety mandates.

Cowboy mounted shooting event with riders shooting firearms while riding their horses

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Training for Cowboy Mounted Shooting

cowboy mounted shooting is not for the faint-hearted. It’s a dynamic competitive event that demands a fusion of precise horsemanship and sharpshooting skills. Competitors ride horses and aim to hit ten balloon targets with blank ammo, all while moving swiftly through a predetermined course. Dexterity, accuracy, and superior horse-riding expertise are prerequisites for both the horse and its rider in this challenge.

Choosing the Right Equipment

To participate in cowboy mounted shooting, you’ll need the right equipment. This includes a dependable horse trained for the demands of the sport. An ideal horse should be quick, agile, and comfortable with the sound of gunfire. Competitors also require two 45 caliber single action revolvers loaded with blank ammunition, a saddle, and proper cowboy attire to comply with the regulations of the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association (CMSA).

Riding Skills Requirement

Preparing for cowboy mounted shooting begins with refining your riding skills. It’s essential to have a thorough understanding of all the basic horse riding techniques. This includes maneuvering, stopping, starting, galloping, and turning. Key to the sport is the ability to control your horse with one hand while the other hand manages your firearm.

Firearm Handling and Accuracy Practices

Beyond mastering horse control, riders also need to become proficient with the firearms. Competitors must be able to draw the revolvers from their holsters, shoot accurately, and holster the weapon while maintaining control of their horse. Practicing firearm handling and accuracy is crucial to becoming successful in the sport.

Training the Horse

Training your horse for cowboy mounted shooting requires patience and consistency. Begin by introducing the horse to the noise of the blanks in a controlled environment. Over time, the horse should grow to associate the noise with a standard aspect of its job, rather than anything threatening. Additionally, the horse must be trained to navigate through a variety of course designs at high speed, making agility and obedience essential.

The Importance of Trust and Bonding

A crucial aspect of preparing for cowboy mounted shooting is the relationship between rider and horse. Developing a strong bond based on trust is vital. A horse with trust in its rider is likely to perform better under the high-stress conditions inherent in the sport. This trust doesn’t appear overnight but develops over time with consistent training, care, and positive interaction.

Mental Preparation for the Competition

Even with the proper physical skills, mental preparation is critical to success in cowboy mounted shooting. Competitors must be able to remain calm and focused in high-pressure scenarios, make quick decisions, and adapt promptly to unexpected changes. A habitual mental routine consisting of visualization exercises, breathing techniques, and self-affirmation can be beneficial.

The Importance of Competition Experience

Participating in local and regional cowboy mounted shooting competitions provides valuable experience and helps riders and their horses become accustomed to the atmosphere, rules, and pressure of competition. Multiple participations allow you to gauge your skill level, identify areas of improvement, and develop strategies for future competitions.

Endless Knowledge Growth and Skill Enhancement

Always striving for greater knowledge and enhanced skills is vital in the world of cowboy mounted shooting. This continuous learning journey may include participating in workshops, gleaning insights from seasoned riders, or securing the guidance of an expert coach. Each learning opportunity provides a significant contribution to solidifying your grasp on this demanding, yet thrilling sport, ultimately increasing your chances of success.

Image of a cowboy on horseback shooting balloons in a cowboy mounted shooting event

Photo by carteryocham on Unsplash

Major Competitions and Notable Figures

Premier Cowboy Mounted Shooting Competitions

Cowboy mounted shooting is an exhilarating spectacle that seamlessly fuses impeccable horsemanship with precise shooting skills. There are numerous premier competitions globally, attracting professional riders and their horses to demonstrate their dexterity and velocity.

One of the most distinguished contests is the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association’s (CMSA) World Championship. Held annually, this event draws the crème de la crème of riders around the world to compete in diverse classes and levels. Participants are tiered according to their skills, from levels one through six, and a champion is honoured in each category. The World Championship is the highlight of the mounted shooting calendar.

Equally important on the CMSA schedule is the Eastern U.S. Championship. Mirroring the prestige of the World Championship, this competition features top-rated shooting talent from the Eastern U.S. region across various categories, including races for men, women, seniors, and a special event for professionals.

Across the Atlantic, the Western Mounted Shooting Association (WMSA) organises the European Championship. Similar to CMSA events, stellar competitors from an array of classes battle to clinch the coveted title of European Champion.

Notable Figures in Cowboy Mounted Shooting

Cowboy mounted shooting isn’t just about the competitions; it’s also about the people who excel in the sport, demonstrating outstanding skill and dedication.

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Know about Cowboy Mounted Shooting 9

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Know about Cowboy Mounted Shooting 10

Kenda Lenseigne is a notable figure in the sport. She has been a CMSA World Champion and holds multiple world records. She is renowned, not just for her impressive shooting but also for her extraordinary horsemanship. She spends considerable time training horses to perform at the top level in the sport, which has earned her a reputation as a skilled horse trainer.

Spencer Balentine is another key figure in cowboy mounted shooting. A Kentucky bourbon distiller in his day job, Balentine has won the Men’s Level 6 at the CMSA World Championships. Balentine is well known for his exceptionally speedy and accurate shooting.

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Know about Cowboy Mounted Shooting 11

In the junior circuit, Chloe Alhaig has been making waves as a young up-and-coming rider. Despite her age, Chloe has already proven herself as a formidable competitor, winning several championships and earning her place among the top ranks of her class.

Contributions to Cowboy Mounted Shooting

These individuals not only compete in cowboy mounted shooting but also play significant roles in promoting and developing the sport. Lenseigne, for example, has written books on mounted shooting and conducts clinics to educate and train aspiring riders.

Individuals like Balentine contribute through their influential roles within the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association. He has served on its board and has been instrumental in shaping the rules and guidelines that govern the sport.

Despite their personal achievements, the lasting impact of these figures will be their contributions to the growth and popularity of cowboy mounted shooting. They have brought the sport to broader audiences and inspired countless others to participate in this exciting blend of riding and shooting.

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