Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cowboys, horses and guns

The first time I heard about Cowboy Mounted Shooting, I thought the person explaining it to me had lost their mind.

They do what?

They gallop their horses around a pattern, shooting at balloons with .45 caliber guns.

And the horses don't spook when the guns go off or when the balloons break?


Call me a skeptic.

I have absolutely no interest in ever trying this sport.  But that's not to say it isn't exciting to watch, when done right.  The Single Action Shooting Society held its mounted shooting world championships this weekend, as part of its End of Trail Wild West Jubilee.  Since it was happening near my old neighborhood, it seemed the perfect opportunity to get together with some good friends to enjoy the festivities and, of course, take pictures.

The cowboys and cowgirls typically dress in period attire from the late 1800s. They compete under an alias of their choosing...Hank Klinkinspurs, Carson City Slick, George Strait Shooter...

I loved this guy's wooly chaps.

The better to protect him when he took a turn too fast and his Paint spilled all over him.

The cowboys fire special black-powder blanks.  The load will break a balloon from a distance of 15 feet.  The blanks sounded just as loud as the real thing to me – the cowboys and the horses wear earplugs.

I figure those who get into this sport are either skilled shooters or skilled riders – the shooters need to learn how to ride, the riders need to learn how to shoot. About half the horses I saw were wearing tie downs, and I also saw some mechanical hackamores.  Some of the horses were very relaxed, others not so much.

Officially, the scoring is based on accuracy and time. If I ruled the world, horsemanship would be factored in, too, and this cowboy would have won the whole shootin' match.

It always amazes me when a cowboy rides this fast and his hat stays on.  But I may have figured out the secret, which I'll tell you all about tomorrow.


  1. Do you think the horses really enjoy this type of sport? I am the first to feel sorry for the animals. I hope the one that fell is ok. I feel worse for the animal than the rider. It just isn't a natural kind of horse thing, but then again neither is polo.
    I always enjoy your posts, Carson. Keep up the good work.
    Best always, Sandra

  2. Such wonderful pictures, each and every one of them.
    My favorite is the action of the little bay pony. Perfect timing.

  3. I love the pictures and your descriptions -- it put me right there [except for the dust!].

    The second picture from the bottom, the action shot of the cowboy coming around the turn is just wonderful. He looks perfectly at ease and at one with his horse.

    Thanks for sharing your world.

  4. WONDERFUL action shots!!!
    I didn't know they made ear plugs for horses.

  5. I learned something new today. Great series of photographs. It must be very loud if the blanks can pop a balloon from 15 feet away.

  6. I'm totally obsessed with Cowboy Mounted Shooting; even more so recently. I'd love to try it once I've finished learning how to team pen (one event at a time!).

    And I can only speak of the horses/people that I know personally who do it, but those horses love it. They seem to love the speed and excitement.

  7. I think I read an article about this in Western Horseman. It's interesting and definitely preserves a bit of our western heritage! :) I was curious about the guns, thanks for explaining that. You took some great pictures, I love their cowboy get-ups. Which reminds me, were there any cowgirl riders? I think quite a few women participate. Someone asked about earplugs for the horses. That would be interesting to see. Although I knew an old school horse that they just stuffed cotton balls down his ears when he was giving lessons. ;)

  8. Wow - great shots. I'm so glad the horses get to wear earplugs, too! What a great day. I love watching horse and rider work so perfectly together!

  9. Your pictures are fabulous!

    Some friends have done CMS for many years. My husband followed one of our friends through the pattern while the friend was shooting. We were surprised our mare wasn't concerned about the firing because she gets worked up about things easily. I didn't try it with my horse. Fun to watch, but not my thing, either.

  10. That looks incredibly exciting. You got some A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. photos!

    How do they get the earplugs to stay in the horses' ears...?

  11. Again more great photos.
    I would love to dress up like that. chaps, hat, holster, gun......wild wild west here I come

  12. That was amazing. You continue to outdo yourself! Love that you captured that spill, that was great. And I see what you mean about the last guy. It shows in your photos :)

  13. Great shots Linda! Did you see the carriage driving shooting? I have a friend in carriage driving and she and her man friend do the whole thing(SASS) --- driving mules! Now that makes sitting a horse look a whole lot easier huh?

    Yeehaw -- yeah!

  14. Some excellent action shots here! This is something I always wanted to do but never thought my horses would cooperate...

  15. Boy, you've got that camera down for action shots!! Excellent. That last rider really did look like he had a horse that was right there with him. Part of a cutting horse score is "eye appeal"...having a horse like his really adds to the performance I think.

  16. I think the guy on the paint fired his pistol too close to its ears....and maybe the plug had fallen out....but, it veered left a bit too quick for Old Wooly ... I hope he learns his lesson and holds the damn gun at a better location next round....

  17. Man, really want to know how can you be that smart, lol...great read, thanks.