Back-to-back cowboy mounted shooting events come to QC in February

Mounted shooting competitor Glenda Wilson prepares to fire during a previous event. (Courtesy of Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association)

Saddle up as the Southwest Regional Cowboy Mounted Shooting competition, followed by the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association Winter U.S. Championships, gallops through the town of Queen Creek.

Scheduled back-to-back, the Southwest Regional Cowboy Mounted Shooting competition will be held Feb. 9-11; the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association Bishop Trailer Sales Winter U.S. Championship will be Feb. 14-17.

Both will take place at Horseshoe Park and Equestrian Centre, 20464 E. Riggs Road.

For a schedule of the Southwest Regional Cowboy Mounted Shooting event, visit the Arizona Cowboy Mounted Shooters Association website.

For a schedule of the Winter U.S. Championship, visit the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association website.

While the two competitions will have many of the same participants, the regional event is not a qualifier for the national competition, according to a Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association representative speaking by phone for the organization.

Contestants pay to compete; spectators are free to attend the event attracting participants from throughout the country to the area. They range in age from the oldest being an 80-year-old woman to competitors’ grandkids involved “as soon as they can hold a fake gun.”

Fast-action, timed event

For those unfamiliar with the sports, mounted competitors partake in a fast-action, timed shooting event using two .45 caliber single action revolvers. Both are loaded with five rounds of thoroughly checked blank ammunition, according to the CMSA website.

It is the fastest growing, “exciting” equestrian sports for participants and spectators, according to the site.
Live rounds are strictly prohibited at the competition as the brass cartridges fired — .45 caliber Long Colts — are loaded with black powder reminiscent of the late 1800s to re-create an “Old West” setting. The load breaks a balloon up to 15 feet away.

A fun event to watch

“The cowboy mounted shooting is a really fun event for spectators to watch,” said Horseshoe Park General Manager Tim Lynch during a phone interview.

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He described the horseback event involving shooting 10 balloons in the arena while racing in a pre-determined pattern or one drawn out of a hat on the day of the competition. A competition may consist of 3-to-6 riding patterns a day, entailing various shooting sequences according to colored balloons, while aiming towards the finish line.

“Riders like to dress up,” said Mr. Lynch of required traditional Western attire that includes vintage looks from the late 1800s. “They also like to use monikers like one who’s named Dead-Eye Dick.”

Those donning traditional style can wear a long-sleeved Western shirt, five-pocket blue jeans covered by chinks or chaps with western boots and an old-fashioned cowboy hat. Dress also involves wearing shirts without collars, high-waisted pants with buttons, no zippers; and replicas of the old-fashioned gun belts and holsters or custom-made ones as detailed on the CMSA site.

Mr. Lynch described the competitive nature and camaraderie associated with Cowboy Mounted Shooting. With a lot of money at stake for winners, lots of work goes in to the “serious competition,” training riders and horses/mules for the sport involving shooting, turning and going fast.

“All horsemen are extremely competitive people, but they are the kind of competitors that will turn around and lend their saddle to their arch rivals that need it,” said Mr. Lynch, a long-time cowboy. “In the arena itself there’s no holding back. They are out to beat each other.”

Competitive levels

The CMSA has various competitive levels, ranging from novice to seasoned professionals including children, beginner, intermediate and advanced shooters. Some even won world champions. Skill levels are categorized according to men’s, women’s and a seniors’ division, with Classes 1-6 in each.

A Wrangler Class for kiddie riders, 11 and under, allows them to do the same pattern as the adults, but they may shoot Hollywood cap pistols, engaging each target as if they were shooting real blanks. Then, they shoot the real McCoy —.45’s with blanks — at balloons, from the ground while standing still with a parent at their side.

All riders start at Class 1, advancing to the next level after qualifying scores based on their time and accuracy. Penalties are given for missing a balloon, dropping a gun, running the course incorrectly and falling off the horse, so accuracy is more important than speed in a typical pattern.

The local events are described as a huge attraction for people traveling from all over, some from as far as “the Dakotas” – North and South Dakota – said Jennifer Broadhead by phone. She takes stall reservations at the Horseshoe Park arena.

“It’s always really big and very well attended,” Ms. Broadhead said of the simultaneous February events.

She added that most of the RV spaces and stalls were already filled in mid-January for the events.

“We’re fortunate that since a lot of this is the same people, they can remain in the same stalls,” Mr. Lynch said.

He noted that most of the money comes from renting out stalls, selling sacks of bedding, RV hookups and arena fees.

“It’s the arenas that lures the customers there. They spend a very large amount of money in the community,” he added.

Editor’s note: Delarita Ford is a reporter for Independent Newsmedia.

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