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Riding horses with a BANG!

Mounted Shooting competition is catching fire in the West

Special to the Horsetrader - January 7th, 2016 - Cover Story, Special Section

1601A Cover SNEAK PREVIEWA growing number of equestrians are taking up arms, as shooting on horseback continues to attract new competitors to its ranks.
Lured by the challenge and the camaraderie, memberships are swelling in the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association — especially in California and the birthplace of CMSA, Arizona, where the Arizona Mounted Shooters Association has three January events to start 2016.

With names like Roy Rogers Rangers and the Tombstone Ghost Riders, how can anyone resist a peek at this fast-action sport that requires horsemanship — and a special horse.

After last weekend’s New Year’s Shoot put on by the Tombstone Ghost Riders at Livery Stable in Tombstone, AMSA events will include a Jan. 15 competition at the American Quarter Horse Association Sun Circuit in Westworld, and a three-way Border Wars comeptition Jan. 22-24 at the beautiful Horseshoe Park facility in Queen Queek. Last year, the ACMSA conducted 19 shoots. Five California-based, CMSA-sanctioned clubs are gearing up, too, including the Nuevo-based Roy Rogers Rangers and the Norco-based SoCal CMSA.

Riders use two .45 caliber single action revolvers, each loaded with five rounds of specially-prepared blank ammunition. The CMSA has a variety of levels of competition for everyone, ranging from novice levels to the seasoned professional.

Contestants are required to dress western — either in traditional western style or in the old-time style of the late 1800’s. Traditional style includes a long sleeve western shirt, five-pocket blue jeans covered by chinks or chaps, western boots, and a cowboy hat.

The CMSA also allows contestants to roll back the clock, trying to look as authentic to the period as possible with shirts without collars, high-waisted pants with buttons and no zippers, and an old-style cowboy hat. Any horse or mule is an eligible mount, although some horses take to this sport easily, others do not.

“It comes as no surprise that Cowboy Mounted Shooting is quickly gaining momentum in California,” says Kenny Lawson of Silver Dollar Ranch in Valley Center. “The sport offers something for everyone. You will find an equal amount of men and women from all ages. The sport is thrilling, challenging and very rewarding.”

Lawson competes with his three kids and his wife, all at different levels of speed and competitiveness.

“This sport requires training for the horse and rider just like any other equestrian sport,” he said.

It is up to your horse’s temperament and your desire to train him or her to get used to shooting, turning, and going fast. Some riders will use earplugs for themselves and their horses.

Mounted Shooters use .45 caliber single action revolvers like those used in the late 1800’s. Single action revolvers must be cocked each time before firing by drawing the hammer back. A double action revolver can be fired by simply pulling the trigger, without cocking the hammer. Despite the use of double action revolvers in the Old West, the CMSA limits our competitions to single action revolvers.

Riders can buy “off-the-shelf replicas” of the old-time gun belts and holsters.

The cartridges fired are .45 caliber Long Colts. The brass cartridge is loaded with black powder similar to what was used in the 1800’s. This load will break a balloon up to about 15 feet.

Live rounds are strictly prohibited at competitions. At each event a CMSA official loads the rider’s guns as he or she enters the arena, and a person to unload the guns after the rider is finished. Riders do not carry loaded guns outside of the arena or when not competing.


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