Earlier this year, as I waffled back and forth trying to decide whether or not to attend the American Horse Publication’s Equine Media Seminar in Scottsdale, AZ, I received an email about a surprise pre-conference activity. Not long afterward, I learned just how special this surprise really was as an opportunity had presented itself to participate in an actual Cowboy Mounted Shooting Clinic. Right then and there I waffled no more. The decision was made. I. was. going.
The initial information asked for participants to be experienced riders only. I thought to myself, no problem! After all, I have been riding since the age of twelve. I currently ride six days a week. I jump fences for goodness sake. Experienced? Of course I was! Except…I quickly learned that I wasn’t. More on this later.
In the weeks leading up to the clinic I could barely contain my excitement! I downloaded videos of Cowboy Mounted Shooting and showed them to all my friends. This would be me I said, galloping around the arena full tilt while firing a gun. What could possibly go wrong? In the pasture I was hilarious as I sent my mare off at a full gallop while holding one arm extended pretending to fire a gun. Now that I look back I think what those cowboys must have thought…cute, really cute, that poor girl actually thinks she can ride like us.
If you are unfamiliar with the sport of Cowboy Mounted Shooting, the Association’s web site informs that it has been around since the late eighties to early nineties. Today it is one of the fastest growing equestrian sports. I can certainly see why. Despite my obvious lack of talent, it’s the most fun I’ve had on horseback in a very long time. While I’m not ready to trade in my field boots for cowboy boots just yet, I would not turn down any opportunities that may arise in the future to try and improve my skills again and again.(cough, hint, cough)
Fortunately, I was not alone in how much I had misjudged my skill. The riders in the clinic came from backgrounds that included dressage, hunter/jumper, endurance, as well as pleasure riders. While we were all experienced in our respective disciplines, we soon learned that we were beginners in this fun, rising sport. Beautiful Horseshoe Park and Equestrian Center in Queen Creek, AZ was the perfect place to learn. Come along with me while I share with you all about the clinic! I’ve also tried to share a little about our amazing clinicians in the photograph captions. The horses, which were either clinician or client owned, were equally amazing earning the title of saint for all they managed to put up with as they taught us to simultaneously ride and shoot.
There is a lot to learn about the sport before you are ready for your gun and your horse. During our lecture we set our goals for the day and covered the history of the sport, equipment, and gun safety to name just a few of the topics. My goals were: have fun, hit at least one target, and not falling off. We also watched some demonstration rides and learned the game plan for the day’s lessons.
Talk about starting from the beginning! The first portion of the clinic was dedicated to un-mounted work. We needed to learn to draw our guns from the holsters and return them without looking. Next, we moved on to dry firing at the targets. The clinicians were great about helping us to see just when and where we would need, when the time came, to actually fire the gun.
Next, we were allowed to mount the horses but sans guns. So much leather compared to my hunt seat saddle! The clinicians provided a variety of horses for us to work with. We needed to not only learn their cues but also to do some pattern work before we were prepared to handle our guns from horseback. I got a kick out of looking back at these. It’s painfully obvious that I don’t ride western very often.
Next up was learning to find our holsters without looking while mounted followed by mounted dry firing practice.
Finally! We were allowed to shoot from horseback. These are a couple of still photographs of this. I have included videos below. If you’ve never done this before here’s the thing. I did okay, with instruction, hitting the targets from the ground and even somewhat while mounted as long as I walked my horse. Move to trotting and well, the number of targets missed rapidly increased. I was in no way qualified to go careening around the arena at the canter, much less a gallop, and hit even a fraction of the balloons. As it was, throw in a horse with a trot that is difficult to sit and well…I’ll let you see for yourself when you reach the videos.
Below, are the promised videos of both my un-mounted and mounted shooting. As far as shooting goes, I’m a rank beginner. Since I had not shot since I was a teenager many, many years ago, I had some friends up who are regular shooters prior to the clinic to work with me for a short time. It was a huge help but I clearly should have done more.
Once mounted, I found that I had difficulty coordinating my seat, hands and gun. If I got one thing together, the others were way off but man, oh man was it ever a ton of fun! (No judging unless you are ready to try it yourself!) I think I have even managed to throw in a couple of video clips of our professional clinicians who provided us with a demonstration rides. DO NOT be deceived! These are not me and are shown only so that you can see how it should be done. Albeit I set the bar low, on a bright note I did manage to accomplish all three of the goals that I set for myself at the beginning of the clinic.
When all was said and done, we paused for a group photograph. There were ten riders in the clinic. The event cemented our friendship during the conference and beyond. I also threw in a couple of shots of me and my guns for the day. I called myself “Two Gun Tex.”
Thanks to my husband for both photographing and videoing the day for me. Below is a professional video of all of the clinic participants.
Next week I’ll share with you all about this meaningful, fantastic conference. See you then!