Cowboy Mounted Shooting is one of the fastest growing equestrian sports around. The level of competition ranges from novice to the seasoned professional with opportunities for the young to the not-so-young to participate.
Jack Peacock, the founder of Stage Coach West, is one of the sport’s oldest competitors at 75 years old. He and his horse Red have been competing for the last seven years. He recently did a presentation on “How to Start a Mounted Shooting Horse.”
A mounted shooting course consists of one of approximately 80 patterns of 10 balloons – five each of two different colors plus barrels. A particular event may have three to six different patterns to complete. The object is to shoot the balloons as fast as possible in the proper order. Riders know the patterns that are going to be used from the beginning. Balloons may be approached from either side depending if the rider is right or left handed.
There are Men’s, Women’s and Senior’s (over 50) Divisions with six classes within each division. There is a Wrangler class for kids under 12 and Limited Wrangler for those under 10. Young riders use cap pistols only to ride the patterns. Those 10 to 12 years old may participate in ground shooting with a parent by their side.
Mounted shooters use two .45 caliber single action revolvers with five rounds each. One gun must be holstered, in leather, at all times. No projectiles are involved, just black powder. The sparks given off by the guns melt the balloons. The ideal shooting distance is eight to 10 feet although shots can be made from up to 20 feet. Pistol permits are necessary in most states.
Any breed of horse may be used during competitions but it is essential that they are well seasoned and trained in good horsemanship. Peacock recommends that the shots be taken at the 3 o’clock position or farther back to avert the sound and smell of the gun. Another hint given was not to look down or the horse will slow down. Some riders use earplugs for themselves or their horses.
Riders are scored on time and accuracy. Each event is done in stages where participants must score high enough to continue to the next stage. Time penalties are given for missing balloons, going off course, dropping a gun, etc. Accuracy is more important than speed.
Attire for the events must be traditional western or “old time style” of the late 1800s. Blue jeans covered by chinks or chaps, a long sleeved western shirt, western boots and a cowboy hat are required.
Safety is of utmost importance at all times. The hosting club must make sure all handling skills are safe.