At age 19, Zane Ollie Chunn already has amassed an impressive resume in the world of mounted shooting. He earned the rank of level six — the highest assigned by the national Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association — when he was 15. He was the youngest level six earned with the CMSA, Executive Director Greg Fry said during a phone interview.
Mr. Chunn is a three-time American Quarter Horse Association mounted shooting youth world champion, the reigning CMSA U.S. National Champion, one of only two people to win three of the six major events presented annually by the CMSA, and is the world’s second highest point-earner of 2016 of all CMSA competitors.
Yet there is one more goal he strives for, and earning it starts this weekend in Queen Creek.
He has not won the Winter U.S. Championship of mounted shooters that next will take place Feb. 15-18 at Horseshoe Park and Equestrian Centre, 20464 E. Riggs Road. It will be the first leg of his journey to win all six of major events presented by CMSA on his way to the world championship.
“That’s my goal, to be the first to ever win all six events. Queen Creek will be a very special leg of that,” Mr. Chunn said during a phone interview.
Mounted shooting is a fast-action timed event in which contestants compete using two .45 caliber single action revolvers each loaded with five rounds of specially prepared blank ammunition, according to the CMSA website: http://www.cmsaevents.com. The CMSA has a variety of levels of competition for everyone, ranging from novice to seasoned professional.
The young champion says he rides nearly as much in Arizona as he does in his home town of Fort Smith, Arkansas.
“I love competing in Arizona. It sure has been good to me,” he said.
He earned his level six ranking at Ben Avery Shooting Facility, 4044 W. Black Canyon Blvd, in Phoenix, and has competed in CMSA events at Horseshoe Park since 2013. He stays in Arizona about six weeks a year during mounted shooting season, which lasts from late January to October.
“Arizona mounted shooters treat me as one of their own, like I’m an adopted son,” Mr. Chunn said.
Mr. Chunn did not grow up in an equestrian family, he said. He started riding horses when he was 5, and within three months of mounting his first horse, his family had bought him his own steed, he said.
He learned the sport of mounted shooting by videotaping level six contestants at events he attended with his mother, Brenda Ollie, and grandparents, Judy and Sub Ollie.
“I would put the tape on the computer and watch the level sixes over and over and pulled their subtleties and forms,” he said.
After he found the CMSA, his entire family got involved in horse-riding. His grandfather started riding and shooting at the age of 70.
“It’s been a pretty good bonding experience. Our family pretty much does everything together,” Chunn said.
The young rider took two months off after the 2016 mounted shooting season, mostly to give his horse a rest, he said. He prepped for the new season by competing in smaller events in Fort Worth, Texas, as well in Cave Creek and at Ben Avery.
He’s competing this month at Horseshoe Park in both the Southwest Regional Championship Feb. 10-12 and the Winter U.S. Championship. He’ll be riding two horses. Jet, a 14-year-old black-and-white Paint, is his main horse, he said. About a year ago, he added Mocha, an 8-year-old quarterhorse and the brother of his previous horse Latte, who he’ll bring on the circuit in March.
Chunn credits his success so far with his ability to focus on his goals, even when competing with riders who are twice his age and older.
“That’s the beauty of it. It’s something I really love to do and I’ve been happy with the overall game,” he said.
Maturing from a teenager to a young adult also has enhanced his performance, he believes.
“It’s gotten easier (physically) because I’ve quit growing. In those early days I could feel different getting on my horse every day,” he said. “My mindset and nerves are easier to control. Sometimes I have to work myself up because otherwise I feel so comfortable.”
Listening to music while competing also has enhanced his game. Last year, he started wearing ear buds and then shooting to the music. The music genres vary from country to pop, and he said he will stick with a song to which he’s been shooting well.
That level of growth has enabled him to grow from competent competitor in 2015, when he had the lead in four major championships but did not place first in any, to winning three major events in 2016, he said.
Which leads back to his goal to win six of the six major events presented by CMSA. He’ll need to win in Queen Creek to successfully kick off that journey. But if he doesn’t, he’s confident he can try another year.
“I put plenty of pressure on myself to win, but if it doesn’t happen, I’ll be happy anyway. At my age, I have plenty of time to win one. I love what I do,” he said.
Impact on Horseshoe Park
Mr. Chunn will be among the 250 or so competitors vying for the CMSA Bishop’s Trailer Sales Winter U.S. Championship title this weekend. It follows the Southwest Regional Championship Feb. 10-12.
The two events combined are expected to generate $50,000-$60,000 in revenue for the 38-acre facility, Horseshoe Park General Manager Tim Lynch said during a phone interview.
Mr. Lynch said, for business purposes, he considers the two competitions one eight-day event because the participants for each will stay from weekend to weekend, renting horse stalls and RV spaces at the park for the duration of the events.
Spectator admission is free, so the park profits from other event line items. Renting horse stalls is the park’s No. 1 revenue-generator, Mr. Lynch said.
“We’re always looking for and finding events that put horses in the stalls,” he said, adding the park has 320 permanent stalls plus 84 temporary stalls in a rented tent to fill at $15 per day each. “The truth of the matter is in every single facility like mine revenues are competitor-driven rather than spectator-driven. Many communities have a hard time with that. They keep repeating the mantra ‘butts on the seats’ when it’s ‘poop in the stalls’ that drives revenue and what makes you money.”
The temporary stalls help house horses participating in the Southwest Regional Championship and the Phoenix Pinto Horse Association Show Feb. 10-12 as well as the winter championship Feb. 15-18, the Heart Cry Church rodeo at 6 p.m. Feb. 17; and the East Valley Arabian Horse Association show, Queen Creek Cutting Horse Association show and Queen Creek Gymkhana Club, all starting at 8 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 19, in various arenas in the park.
Spectator admission is free to all these events.
The second-highest revenue-generator is selling bedding — wood shavings — for the stalls, Mr. Lynch said.
Bedding costs $10 per bag, and most renters will purchase three to eight bags on their first day depending on how deep they want the shavings for their horse. Horse-owners in town for more than one weekend will probably purchase another three to five bags of bedding for the extra weekend, he said.
Arena rental fees generate the park’s third-highest revenue, while RV park space revenue is No. 4, the general manager said. All 56 spaces are booked for the back-to-back weekends, he said. The cost is $25 per RV bay for one night; the rental includes water and electric hook-ups.
“We just added 16 RV bays to our RV park in December. We went online in mid-December and we have had 100 percent occupancy in our RV park from that day through today, and we will continue to have it until early May,” Mr. Lynch said. “That’s the highly successful part of our park. In this business, the arenas are the cake at a picnic that tempts the ants to show up. They come for the cake, but it’s the stalls that we have to sell that makes the money.”
Winter U.S. Championship
The CMSA events do not attract the high numbers of spectators events such as Roots N’ Boots Queen Creek rodeo, coming up March 15-19 to Horseshoe Park, which fills the stands of the main arena.
However, because of the unusual nature of the mounted shooting event, Mr. Lynch said he expects about 200 spectators to attend, which is more than other events.
The competitions will start at 9 a.m. Feb. 15, 17 and 18 and at 8:30 a.m. Feb. 16, according to the schedule on the CMSA website.
They are expected to last most of the day, Mr. Lynch said, noting the gunfire-based competitions must shut down by 10 p.m. due to noise ordinances.
The town does not require special permits for the gunfire because no live ammunition is used, Mr. Lynch said.
When competitors enter the arena, they must show the producers that the chambers of their pistols are empty to make sure there are no live shells. They then receive 10 blanks from the producer to use during the competition, Mr. Lynch said.
Competitors will shoot at five balloon targets during each of two rounds while going for their fastest time. They have to break every balloon, Mr. Lynch said.
If there is a problem discharging a blank and not all 10 are used, the rider cannot leave the arena with a live blank in the pistol chamber, Mr. Lynch said.
Instead, the competitor must ride a safe distance away from the crowd and shoot the live blank into the ground, he said.
The park and CMSA have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to mishandling weapons.
“Anybody on the grounds, no matter whether they are at the trailers, the concessions or arenas, anyone who plays with their guns or performs fancy gun tricks will be evicted from the premises,” Mr. Lynch said. “These people are very safety conscious.”
Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association
The Winter U.S. Championship is the first of six major events presented by the CMSA each year.
Riders can compete almost weekly at major and regional events during which they can earn points toward the world championship event in Amarillo, Texas, Mr. Fry said. The 2017 event will be held Oct. 18-21, according to the website.
The organization has held the winter championship at Horseshoe Park since 2013, he said.
“It’s a good facility and people treat you well,” Mr. Fry said, adding about 90 percent of the competitors will stay in trailers on the grounds.
He said he is excited to have the new season begin and looks forward to watching competitors like Chunn advance the sport.
2016 World Champion Ethan Wilkinson also will compete in both the Southwest Regional Championship and the Winter U.S. Championship. Last year this level six rider earned the most points of anyone in the CMSA: 18,169.
Another rider to watch is Glenda Wilson, Mr. Fry said. With 16,226 points, the senior, level-five rider is the world’s third highest point-earner for 2016, and the No. 1 point-earner in her division for ladies over 50, Mr. Fry said.
“It’s neat because she’s a senior lady. For a senior rider to be that high in the world standings is a really cool event,” Mr. Fry said. “Be sure to watch for these riders.”
For more information, visit the CMSA website at http://www.cmsaevents.com/events/.
For more information on Horseshoe Park, visit the town’s website at http://www.queencreek.org/departments/horseshoe-park-equestrian-centre or call 480-358-3793.