Cowboy Mounted Shooting fastest growing equine sport |

Cowboy Mounted Shooting fastest growing equine sport

Chip Tairney competing in mounted shooting that involvesriding a horse to negotiate a shooting pattern.
Photo courtesy Chris Gortzig

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“Can I shoot off that horse?” You can if you participate in Cowboy Mounted Shooting, which according to the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association, is the fastest growing equine sport. CMSA is a national association with clubs in every state.

Cowboy Mounted Shooting is a competitive equestrian sport that involves riding a horse to negotiate a shooting pattern. Modern events use blank ammunition instead of live rounds, certified to break a target balloon within 20 feet.

Contestants compete with two 0.45 caliber single action revolvers and fire at balloons mounted on traffic cones to form various patterns. Each revolver is loaded with five rounds of specially prepared blank ammunition. The cartridges fired are brass and loaded with black power. Live rounds are prohibited at competitions.

The events are timed. There is a 5 second penalty for each missed balloon, and a 10 second penalty for not running the course correctly. Speed is important but accuracy is more important. A typical pattern is 15-35 seconds and each pattern has 10 balloons. It is not hard to see how missed balloons and a failed pattern can really add up the penalties.

Because it’s Cowboy Mounted Shooting, western dress is required. The dress code includes traditional style or late 1800s style. Traditional is long-sleeve western shirt, five pocket blue jeans covered by chaps or chinks, western boots and a cowboy hat. The 1800s look has to be as authentic as possible. Shirts without collars, high waisted pants with buttons and no zippers and an old-style cowboy hat.


Dale Klot, vice president of the Colorado Regulators, a northern Colorado club, first became interested in mounted shooting when he noticed a magazine at a local feed store. As he was thumbing through it, he spotted his friend and neighbor Eli Parsons walking by. He asked her if she knew anything about mounted shooting. She told him she happened to be the secretary of the local club and they were having a clinic in two weeks. Klot laughed and asked her to sign him and his wife Katrina up. Katrina was not so sure about her husband’s new found passion. She had never shot a hand gun, so that was a challenge for her. Fortunately, most clubs have clinics in gun safety, horse training and help whereever you need it.

“For me it’s the horsemanship, the skills, and the relationship you have to have with your horse,” Katrina said.

With up to 84 different patterns Dale was hooked by the variety. Mounted shooting is fast-paced, and the wide assortment of patterns never gets old.

“That was the draw for us. We were doing gymkhanas. It was seven of the same events. We got bored. It’s 90 percent horsemanship and 10 percent shooting.”

The Colorado Regulators work closely with the Colorado Mounted Thunder, a club based in southern Colorado and most members belong to both clubs. Colorado Mounted Thunder promotes and hosts many events and “shoots.” All of the Mounted Thunder shoots are double qualifier points for the world championship.


“Both clubs put on great events and shoots that are well-organized and well-run. The Regulators host a new shooters clinic as well. We are like a big family and everyone at an event hosted by either club tries to be as friendly and helpful as possible, especially to new shooters,” said Bobby Chevarria, president of the Colorado Mounted Thunder.

Colorado Mounted Thunder’s emphasis is events and shoots and the Regulators provide clinics, lessons and practices in gun safety, horse training and handling firearms.

“That’s why we are doing these clinics,” said Dick Dones of the Regulators, 2015 Senior Men’s 5 Reserve World Champion. “We put seasoned horses with new horses and let them listen to the gun fire. It’s getting them started right and not messing the horse up. We watch the horse, watch the rider. We evaluate them on their abilities and then we address each individually.”

Safety is of the upmost importance and is emphasized in horse training and handling fire arms at all times. “Range masters” are in the arena at all times during competitions and members must demonstrate basic handling skills and gun safety before being allowed to compete.

“We do a lot of ground work and gun safety” Dones said.

So, if you are looking for a fun, fast-paced sport to get into with your horse, you might consider Cowboy Mounted Shooting.

As Chevarria puts it, “You’re going fast and shooting guns. What’s not to like?” ❖

— Hall is a freelance writer from Platteville, Colo., when she’s not writing she is riding her horse in the mountains. She can be reached by email at