COWBOY UP – Action Shooting On Horseback

Nicholas C
by Nicholas C
photos from @kenda_lenseigne

I have seen videos of cowboy action shooting, which is a form of 3 gun using cowboy themed firearms. But I did not know there are people shooting while on horseback. I have certainly seen archery competitions on horseback but there is a Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association for people who like shooting on horseback.

Kenda Lenseigne is a competitor and she just won overall at the CMSA National Championships.

COWBOY UP – Action Shooting On Horseback

photos from @kenda_lenseigne
photos from @kenda_lenseigne

Here is a breakdown of the match and gear according to CMSA website.

CMSA Requirements

Are there clothing requirements?

Yes. It is required that you dress western. You may either dress in traditional western style or you can dress in the old time style of the late 1800’s. Traditional style includes a long sleeve western shirt, 5 pocket blue jeans covered by chinks or chaps, western boots, and a cowboy hat. If you prefer ‘rolling back the clock ‘ to the late 1800’s try to look as authentic to the period as possible, by wearing shirts without collars, and high-waisted pants with buttons, not zippers, and an old style cowboy hat, for example.

Are there horse requirements like breed, or registration?

No. You can use any horse or mule that you want. Some horses take to this sport easily, others do not. 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.

CMSA Guns & Blanks

What type of guns are used?

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. Only fixed sight single action revolvers of .45 Colt caliber, designed prior to 1898, or reproductions thereof, shall be allowed in CMSA competitions. Examples are: Colt Single Action Army or Bisley Model, Smith & Wesson Schofield, Russian, or Remington Models 1875 & 1890, their reproductions and Ruger Vaqueros, Bisleys or Montados.

What about gun leather?

Riders can buy ‘off-the-shelf replicas’ of the old time gun belts and holsters. Or, you can have custom-made gun belts and holsters to suit your wishes. There are several custom ‘makers’ that you can find in ‘old west’ magazines.

Do you use live ammunition (lead bullets) or bird shot?

No. The cartridges fired are called .45 caliber Long Colts. The brass cartridge is loaded with black powder (like that used in the 1800’s). This load will break a balloon up to about 15 feet. Live rounds are strictly prohibited at competitions.

CMSA Skills & Safety

Are there levels of skill?

Yes. There is a Men’s Division, a Women’s Division, and a Senior’s Division, with Classes 1-6 in each of those divisions. There is also a Wrangler Class for those 11 and under. All riders start at Class 1. When a rider gets a qualified win as a Class 1 four times, they advance to Class 2, and when they get a qualified win in Class 2 four times, they advance to Class 3. Four wins at Class 3 and on to Class 4, 5 wins at Class 4, etc.

Kids? Do the kids ride and shoot?

Yes… and no. The riders in the Wrangler class ride horseback the same pattern that the grown-ups do, but they may shoot Hollywood cap pistols, engaging each target as if they were shooting real blanks. They then shoot the real McCoy (.45’s with blanks) at balloons, from the ground while standing stationary with mom or dad at their side.

How about scoring?

The riders are scored on time and accuracy. There is a 5 second penalty for each missed balloon, a 5 second penalty for dropping a gun, a 10 second penalty for not running the course correctly and a 60 second penalty for falling off your horse. Speed is important, however, accuracy is usually more important than speed. A typical pattern can be run in 15-35 seconds, so penalties can really hurt.

What about safety?

Safety in horse training and firearm handling are emphasized at all times. Many clubs sponsor clinics to assist new shooters in starting their horses and learn the basics of safe firearm handling. Range masters are in the arena at all times during competitions to insure safe riding and shooting is exercised. New shooters are usually required to demonstrate that they have achieved minimum acceptable levels of riding and shooting skills.

Is there a pattern to ride?

Yes. There are 50+ possible patterns. The patterns everyone will ride can be pre-determined or can be drawn out of a hat on the day of the competition. A competition may consist of 3 to 6 patterns a day. Each pattern consists of 10 balloons. To give you an idea of riding a pattern, let’s say that there are 5 white balloons and 5 red balloons. The 5 white balloons may be grouped together in one place or spread out over the entire arena. The rider shoots all 5 white balloons first. Then, the rider holsters the first gun while riding to the far end of the arena, draws the second gun, and shoots the 5 red balloons, which are usually 5 in a row straight towards the finish line. This is called ‘the Rundown’.

5 second penalty for dropping a gun? In USPSA or 3Gun that is automatic disqualification. Maybe they are more lax since they are shooting blanks?

Here are two photos Kenda posted on her Instagram showing what it takes for her to practice. That is a lot of single action revolver shooting and it was probably all done on horseback.

For those interested, Buffalo Blanks sells bulk lots of 1,000 rds for $410. This is their training ammo. That comes out to $0.41 a round!!! That is pretty pricey just for practice.

Check out CMSA if you are interesting in finding clinics to help train your horse and if you want to learn to shoot on horseback.

Nicholas C
Nicholas C

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6 of 24 comments
  • Garavella Yk Garavella Yk on May 12, 2018

    that horse must be deaf already :(

    • See 2 previous
    • Sonny Sonny on May 17, 2018

      @gene Not happening.......... a person and their horse most often have a relationship that two married people can only dream about....

  • Datimes Datimes on May 12, 2018

    How is her horses hearing?