Bill and Juanita, owners of Allenspark Lodge B&B, are living their dream...

running a successful business and riding as often as possible.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

What a Day! Cowboy Mounted Shooting (long)

Well, the day we've been waiting for finally got here; a beginner's clinic for Cowboy Mounted Shooting.  I got the horses out and shampooed their tails, brushed them down and fed early this morning.  Last night Bill had hooked up the trailer and loaded any 'gear' we deemed necessary.  Nebalee and family had kindly said they would come lodge sit for the day, so they showed up at the appointed hour.... and we were so excited we forgot the Flip movie camera GunDiva offered up, so you will have to suffer through video clips from Bill's faithful little digital.

We headed down the road for LaFayette, CO and got our first view of the leftovers of last night's thunder/hail storms that crossed our county.
There were so many leaves on the road it looked like we were driving across someone's lawn.

Before we knew it, we were at our destination and the jitters had hit big time.  What had we done, signing up for a young person's sport?  OK, we both love to ride - and we both love to shoot (even though I, personally, had not shot a gun in years).  Good enough reason to give this a try; it's a beginner's class.  How bad could it be?

We were soon put at ease by the instructor, Elizabeth Clavette, a world-class CSMA eliminator shooter and Dick, the firearms instructor.  We got booster lessons on the different types of weapons used in the sport, how to safely handle them, and all the sport specific terminology.  They let us try all the different styles and furnished us with the specialty holsters.
... and then the action began...

You start by walking the course; trying to remember all the instructions:
1) Keep you rein hand in front of you, in a normal riding position.
2) Draw your gun and swing your arm over your horse's head to the off side, aim and fire behind you.
3) Swing your arm back over your horse's head, aim and fire on your strong side, again behind you, to keep your horse moving forward.
4) Take out all five balloons and holster your gun - without looking down to find the holster!
By the way, did I mention you are supposed to walk a straight line down the middle of the course - but watching the balloons!
Since the intended purpose of today's clinic was to teach us proper muscle memory - and teach our horses - we also got a bucket load of small snippets like:
     Aim for the pole, not the balloon.  Breezes blow the balloon around and will cause you to miss.  Works like a charm.
     Always shoot behind you, to keep your horse moving forward.  Aim, pause, shoot, pause, and follow through, before changing sides.
     Learn to find your holster by feel; develop that muscle memory spot; never look down - you lose your perspective on your target and path.
     Swing your arm over your horse's head to avoid any accidental shooting near their ears.  As you get faster and your horse runs faster, you will automatically compensate with a lower swing, but develop the proper one first.
     Don't cock your gun until you have sighted on the target; again, you will compensate with speed later, but learn correctly first.
     Don't pull straight back on the hammer; it causes you to move the muzzle of the gun up and down.  Slide your thumb off the side so you can keep a tight grip on the handle; causes your thumb to move into the correct position to help stabilize the gun.
     By the way, it helps to breathe while you are trying to remember all this.  Yes, I am walking crooked in the video.  I thought I was walking a straight line, but you walk where you look - just like you ride, so you have to practice going straight!

You will notice the camera doing some bouncing; it became obvious very quickly that Jesse was NOT going to like the noise.  We started with cap pistols, then progressed to air/pellet guns, .22's (blank loads), then half and full loads of .45 blanks.  Washoe didn't much pay any attention to the noise until the .45s.  Jesse bounced her head hard at the very first gunshot!  She never did settle down for the 45 blank half and full loads, even after all day.  At the end of the afternoon, she tolerated the .22.

Since I am still recovering from a strained leg muscle AND a sprained wrist, Bill let me trade horses with him, since it appeared Washoe was going to be today's star pupil.  As you can see, it was a good decision on my part; not so good for Bill.
We even tried some horsey ear plugs on Jesse.  She was not at all impressed.

I am going to make some like Elizabeth does, using two small, foam kitty balls and a shoe string, and practice with the horses, until they get used to them.  Both horses seemed extremely bothered by the NOISE.  I know they have acute hearing and it was obvious that was their complaint.  Jesse was still shaking her head tonight at feeding time, like she had a headache, or at least ringing ears.

My first run through on Washoe with the air gun, went so well Elizabeth suggested I do it again with a .22 blanks loaded into the 45.  She handed me a gun and off I went. Down went the first balloon and as I was swinging my arm back across it dawned on me that the balloon shouldn't have broken with the .22.  By this time, I had pulled the trigger on the second balloon and popped it, too.  Washoe and I came to the same conclusion about the same time:  wrong!  As he stopped cold I heard Elizabeth shouting, "Stop.  You have the wrong load in that gun."  It was loaded with .45 full load blanks and sounded like a cannon. Lucky for me, Washoe was as stunned as the rest of us and just did a screeching halt!  With a little coaxing, we tried it again and things improved greatly with the proper load.

This YouTube clip shows you how it looks when practiced and done by the 'good guys'.

On that, we broke for lunch and had hamburgers and hot dogs cooked on a grill, cold pop and a lot of fun chatter.  The clinic furnished all the weapons, the holsters, ammo and lunch for $100.  I bet we shot more than that in ammo!
Bill kept valiantly working with Jesse.  Elizabeth said she thought it was a battle of wills with that horse; she has no idea how close to the truth she was about working with Jesse.  I love that horse to death, but she is as opinionated as they come.  She worked great for him in setting balloons, and following him all over the course, but don't put a gun in his hand!  He never did get to shoot anything louder than a .22.

Sometimes Elizabeth would ride her horse along with the new horse when they got frustrated; it helped the horse to calm, and start thinking.  She had to do this a lot. (I think Washoe is the only one that went totally on his own every time. )
The first two balloons were always the worst, then she would sort of settle like she was saying, "Let's just get this DONE!"

Later in the day, we added the second half of the course and the second gun, so we could practice holstering one and drawing the second.  On this run, I was shooting a mix of half-load .45 and .22.  You do this so you don't get in the habit of anticipating the next round - for you and the horse.  Even Washoe was beginning to tire of the noise by now, so I had to do a second run through without ammo to settle him.

This particular horse was the real trooper of the day.  We called him Eyore, because of his ears.  You can see how Washoe handled all this; just turn away and ignore the sound.

By this time it was about 2:30 and rain clouds were moving in.  Bill and I had already decided the horses had had enough; we didn't want to overdo their tolerance and develop a hate for the sport, so we did one 'clean' run, without guns, just practicing aiming with our arms, and called it quits on a good note.

It turned out not all the participants showed up and there were only four of us riding, with a couple of watchers.  We got a lot more runs in than if there had been many there, so it was a really, really good day.
Bionic Cowgirl


  1. That looks like crazy fun! I mean, except for the horses not having a blast... the learning and the sport look wow!

    I felt so bad watching Beel come off Jesse... but at least he's way less injury-probe than I am (and thankfully didn't break anything!)

    Are you guys going back with Queen Estes and GunDiva sometime?! :)

    1. After I was sure Bill wasn't hurt, I couldn't quit laughing, because that was the exact same way I came off Jesse last summer, up on the mountain. What gets you is that you just don't know WHEN she will do that. It's actually easier to stay on her bareback when she does that; which I think means we depend on the stirrups too much when in a saddle. Bad mindset, for sure. Of course, Bill was focused on not letting the gun hit the ground - a BIG no, no.


  2. Interesting! Is it a big sport over there? Are there competitions, do people do it mainly for fun or do they hunt or horse back?

    1. This has become a very big sport here in the U.S. We also hunt with horses, but hopefully not shooting off them. However, I have been riding other people's horses when gunshots were fired, and had some near misses with the ground! I really want MY horses to do better.

  3. I've been wanting to try this kind of activity out with my horse here in California. So do these people do clinics everywhere? Any contact info?

  4. I have nominated you guys for the Liebster Blog Award!

  5. And I promise that wasnt spam... ^

  6. My friend in AZ, Diana Olson, is very active in mounted shooting. There is a national CMSA website and one for AZ. I'm sure other states have them, too. Diana is Ladies Level 7, I believe. Love mounted shooting!

  7. To: Ranger the Horse
    From: Summer Breeze the Rocky Mountain mare

    How come you did not get to go?
    Is this sport for mares only?
    You gots cute ears.

    1. I do not like sounds that are very loud. I get worried. I get nose blood. Beel sayed he did not want to deal with it. Me too.

      Ranger. The horse.

  8. What kind of clinic throws green riders with green horses out there to learn the ropes?

    Seriously, my friend Ta-Willow Romero is a World Champion Mounted Shooter here in New Mexico and does Beginner clinics.

    But she puts the green riders on her experienced mounted shooting horses, so they can learn the ins and outs of shooting off horseback, without the safety issue of having to deal with terrified green horses while they are learning how to shoot properly off a moving animal.

    The rider never walks the course, but instead the rider will ride the experienced mounted shooting horse at a walk, with the trainer beside him on horseback, through the course, practicing the correct arm positioning.
    Then once they have that down, the rider will walk or trot the course on the experienced mounted shooting horse while shooting.

    The rider doesn't use his own horse at all until after they are confident and have some experience under their belt first, and not until their horse is desensitized to the sounds of the shooting and taught the course.

    Our local SASS at Founders Ranch does Beginner Mounted Shooting Clinics for horses and riders all year long, where folks bring their horses to a mounted shooting demo, and just stand and watch with their horses on a lead rope.

    Once the horse seem calm enough, then the owner mounts up and goes into the arena, where there are experienced mounted shooting horses mixed in with the beginner/green horses, so that when the shooting begins, the experienced horses help the green ones stay calm.

    Gosh, seriously, that clinic you went to just threw you right into the chaos, with no foundation or preparation.
    I'm glad no one was seriously injured or worse.
    There's a lot to be said for taking it slow and easy. In the end it's a more positive experience for rider and horse.

    Stay safe!


I had to turn verification back on. Ten "spams" an hour is making me crazy...