Are you looking for a new challenge for you and your horse?
Have you reached a point in your life where, for whatever reason, you are no longer competing in the arena, but still have that competitive urge? Or perhaps, you have a great horse, but trail riding no longer excites you or your horse? If you have a good horse, a slightly competitive spirit, and want to have more fun than you ever had on a horse, then you need to try Mounted Shooting.
Mounted Shooting is the fastest growing equine sport in America and much of that growth can be attributed to the fact that the core of Mounted Shooting is riding fast and shooting guns. There are currently two national organizations, the Mounted Shooters of America (MSA) and the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association (CMSA).
Although there is a lot of overlap in the two organizations and many people are members of both, the CMSA is perhaps the most active organization in Colorado. There are currently 92 shooting clubs in the CMSA and there are two CMSA clubs in Colorado, the Colorado Mounted Thunder in Peyton and the Colorado Regulators in Berthoud. The Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association is an American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) alliance partner and all points are eligible for existing awards.
Colorado Mounted Thunder and the Colorado Regulators are both very active shooting clubs and put on clinics and events throughout the year. Beginners are welcome at both clubs and members offer encouragement and instruction. Colorado Mounted Thunder regularly holds events and clinics for new or less experienced shooters. “The Colorado Mounted Thunder works very hard to recognize the beginning shooters and to give them incentives to grow with the sport.” said President Kevin Perry, “We try our very best not to let everything go to the top shooters.”
If you are familiar with Cowboy Action Shooting, this is nothing like that. Cowboy Action Shooting is from the ground and uses various types of replica guns and live ammunition. Authentic and replica period clothing is required and as much emphasis is put on the clothing and equipment as on the shooting. While participants in Mounted Shooting are encouraged to wear period type clothing, only standard western arena clothing is required. The single action Colt .45 is the only type of gun allowed, and there is no live ammunition allowed at any CMSA event.
The rules are simple. Each rider negotiates a predetermined pattern of 10 short poles with a balloon attached to each pole. Negotiate the pattern correctly, break all 10 balloons, and have the fastest time, and you win. Sounds simple enough – except that there are over 60 patterns, so your horse can not learn the pattern, five red balloons are shot with one gun and then the five white balloons are shot with another gun, and all of this is happening while your horse is running at breakneck speed.
Use of the single action revolver, which must be cocked by the rider before it can be fired, adds another level of difficulty to the competition, but guns and ammo are standardized. Kevin Perry, President of the Colorado Mounted Thunder, explains, “Two revolvers are required and they have to be single action, caliber .45, long colt. The only ammo that we shoot is .45 long colt based blanks. There are no special loads. The ammo at every event is supplied by the event. Everyone has to take their ammo out of the same box, so that everyone is on an equal plane.” Perry continued, “there is no projectile of any kind, including any wadding. What is breaking the balloon is hot, burning black powder. There is nothing in the end of the shell casing. The brass shell end is crimped and holds in the compacted, high powered black powder.”
Although the gun is important, everyone agrees that this is primarily an equine event. Bill Beamin is the Vice President of Colorado Mounted Thunder, and calls mounted shooting the “most strenuous, most demanding of any equine event in the world. The horse is running, stopping, turning, pivoting and a guy is on their back shooting a gun.” Kevin Perry echos that thought, “My opinion is that it is 95 percent horse and 5 percent gun. I love the gun part, but this is absolutely a horse sport.”
One very appealing facet of this sport is that it is something that the whole family can do together. Everyone can go down the road together and kids and parents alike can compete at the same event. The gender split on contestants is about 50/50, and kids as young as five can be ponied though the pattern. At eight, if they can handle their own horse, the kids can ride through the pattern and point fingers or cap pistols at the balloons. At 12- years-old, they can shoot.
“Our whole family does it together.” said Dee Chapman of Larkspur, Colo., “We like it because it is a family sport. My husband was into guns and I was into horses and this was something we could do together. My 10-year-old daughter rides and competes. We all travel together, compete together, and go with other families. It’s just good family fun.”
“It’s a huge family oriented sport.” said Kevin Perry, “There are more examples of couples and families that do this together than individuals who go down the road on their own.” Mounted shooting events are divided into skill and experience levels so that people are competing against others at their same level.
If you want to see just how much fun a Mounted Shooting event can be, the Colorado Regulators will be putting on an event at the National Western Stock Show on January 8. If you can not make that one, there will also be a Mounted Shooting event at the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo, which will be held March 9-11, at the National Western Complex, in Denver.
If you would like more information on how you can take part in this fun and exciting equine sport, you can contact Ken Abeles, President of the Colorado Regulators at (303) 523-4082, or Kevin Perry, President of the Colorado Mounted Thunder at (719) 338-6355.