Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Cowboy mounted shooting

Rick Meyer. Submitted photo/

Skeptics beware. If the idea of riding around on a horse shooting at balloons seems quaint, a few minutes listening to Rick Meyer at the 2011 Midwest Horse Fair is likely to start your trigger finger itching. The owner of Royal Oak Ranch, Troy, Ill., is positively fervent about the sport of cowboy mounted shooting.

“From the first shot I was hooked,” Meyer said. “You’re on the course for 15-17 seconds at the most and the adrenlaline rush is so intense you’re exhausted when you cross the finish line.”

Cowboy mounted shooting clubs are springing up all over including Wisconsin and Illinios. The sport is a competitive, family-orientented time offering multiple levels of skill rivelry and growing purses for those pursuing professional ends in the sport, he said.

“You can shoot almost every weekend somewhere in North America,” Meyer added.

Competitors ride a 10-ballon course and use two pistols each holding five rounds of special blank ammo. Scoring is based on time and consistency with a five second penalty for each missed balloon and a 10 second penalty for running off course, for example. Accuracy is often more important than speed, Meyer said, because a course may last only 15 or so seconds. 

"At five seconds a balloon, missing can really add up in a hurry," he said. “I encourage people just starting out to go slow at first and make sure they hit every balloon.”

Riding fast and shooting at the same time takes some coordination between the horse and rider. Meyer said that people entering cowboy mounted shooting should be good riders. You’re going to have to condition yourself and your horse to the demands of riding and shooting.

“People who want to do cowboy mounted shooting usually want to do it with the horse they already have. That may not always work. You’ll want to evaluate your horse to see if it’ll be able to adjust to gunfire,” Meyer said.

Not only is the rider now shooting a gun from the back of a horse, hopefully there’ll be balloons exploding, too. Not every horse has the temperament to adjust to such demanding and noisy activities.
“There’s a bang and a flash and then a balloon explodes. If your horse is flighty this might not be the best sport,” Meyer said.

At the Midwest Horse Fair, Meyer hopes to introduce people to cowboy mounted shooting. He’ll demonstrate the sport during the Friday evening rodeo performance and will present seminars daily with tips about getting started.

“You can use any breed of horse or even mules. People do need to wear western clothing typical of the late 1800s time period but I noticed the trend is starting to modernize somewhat,” he said.

His own start in the sport began when a someone drove into the ranch one day looking for a place for horses. That someone turned out to be All-Star defenseman, Dave Ellett for the St. Loius Blues hockey team. Ellett’s spouse, Annie Bianco Ellett, is a World and National Champion cowboy mounted shooter and was looking for a place to keep her horses.

“I was watching her and she told me I should give it a try. All I could think was I hardly had time to do all the things I wanted to do – like a fishing boat that hadn’t been in the water for four years,” Meyer said.

When he did finally give cowboy mounted shooting a try that was it. Meyer said he was hooked.
Meyer’s background includes extensive training with performance horses of several breeds and disciplines including his own herd of Paso Fino horses. Among his many achievements are being named 1993 Trainer of the Year; serving as an international judge at the 1997 World Cup in Cali, Colombia, SA and co-authored the book “Horse Sense in Training.”

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