Give It a Shot, Part 2

When you have the proper horseback-riding equipment, equine partner and instruction, you can begin practicing cowboy mounted shooting. Heed this advice to learn how.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

Once a horse has accepted the noise and activity going on around him, trainer Chad Little starts schooling shooting from the saddle. Journal photo.

Cowboy mounted shooting is a fast-paced sport that requires horsemanship, skill and precision. In Part 1, you were introduced to Chad Little, one of the sport’s leading competitors. Chad explained the objective of mounted shooting and the equipment you’ll need to get started. Now it’s time to learn the proper way to practice so you can work your way up to competitions.

Get Started

Cowboy mounted shooting is a friendly sport.

“You could show up at a (Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association) event in your car with nothing but your (CMSA membership) card, and you’d be able to get through a shoot; people would loan you enough stuff,” Chad says.

When you’re ready to get started, visit the CMSA website at www.cmsaevents.com. The association offers contact information for local clubs that can help you get started.

“The best idea is to find someone who has been shooting,” Chad says. “When I say ‘been shooting,’ (I mean) probably a higher level (competitor). If I were going to go learn some other horse discipline, I’d want to go to somebody who was better at the game. Anybody who has done it a few times can help you, no doubt there, but (when choosing an instructor), instead of going to a Level 1, go to a 5 or 6 and have them get you started right. It’ll make it so much easier in the long run. They can teach you good habits and good stuff to work on.”

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Chad says one of the biggest learning curves for many students is gun handling. This means being able to pull the hammer back and pull the trigger in a fast, efficient way, which requires a lot of practice.

“Normally, I’ll have my students practice with their guns, then I’ll stick them right out there to shoot,” he says. “If you have a good horse, that’s the easiest way to do it. If I had a horse that was green, that’s the last thing I’d do.” In that instance, it’s better to find an experienced mount to practice on while schooling the green horse.

If you have a horse in your barn you think might make a good shooting horse, how do you test it out?

“I take him to some shoots and let him listen to it for a while,” Chad says. “When we get a new horse at our farm, we’ll stand him at the fence while we’re shooting off other horses. A lot of them don’t like it at first. They’ll act scared, throw their head and pull back. They’re all different. The horse you think might never make it might be the best horse you’ve got. The one that looks dog gentle might just hate it. It’s hard to tell until you start. The last thing you want to do is get him scared.”

Once a horse has accepted the noise and activity going on around him, Chad starts schooling shooting from the saddle. He first warms up the horse while carrying loaded pistols in his holster. Once the horse is warmed up, Chad will shoot into the air behind him.

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“Way away from their head,” he says. “I fire one shell and see how he is.”

It is important to keep your body position so as to not unbalance the horse and to move slowly.

“Where people go wrong is they’ll go to shoot, stick their arm out there way fast, and they’ve already scared their horse,” Chad says. “Keep everything steady and smooth, and don’t let that noise correspond with anything else you’re doing.”

A green horse will typically speed up in response to the shot. Chad just steadies the horse and keeps everything steady. A horse inclined to be a shooting horse will soon settle down.

“I just keep shooting there until the horse is good about it – he doesn’t speed up, he doesn’t flinch, he just stays calm in the same lope,” he says. “Then move (the shots) forward to the area around his head, a little at a time. You have to do it both directions, like anything else. And you may not do it in a day, or you may not do it in a month. They’re all a little different.”

Once you have the horse and the gun-handling skills, it is merely a matter of putting it all together. Cowboy mounted shooting is a fast-growing sport with clubs all over the country, and one that might just prove to be a “blast.”