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Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association National Championships at Tunica Arena


By Leigh Ballard

The Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association (CMSA) held a five-day National Championship event at the Tunica Arena on April 16-20. Two hundred and eighty riders represented a wide range of states including Massachusetts, Texas, North Carolina, New York, as well as our own mid-south states. The event was coupled with a regional shoot the weekend before, so lots of shooting was going on for two weekends!

The CMSA Jeffers National Championship was the second leg of a five-part series of championship events held across the country in locations such as Phoenix, Las Vegas, Guthrie, and Murfreesboro, which lead to a World Championship in Amarillo, TX. The event was open to all CMSA competitors.  Each shooter ran several times for an average score. Run times are similar to barrel racing times: a run in the 15 second range is fast, but 16-19 seconds is normal. On the day we watched, Casey Hollis, age 15 from Woodbury, TN flew smoothly and calmly through his pattern in a smoking 15.432 seconds.

Mark Marley from the CMSA Board of Directors says former barrel horses don’t necessarily make the best shooting horses because they tend to be too “hot.” Former cutting and reining horses and good working cow horses have made some good shooting horses.  Any sound-minded horse with some agility and speed can make a good shooting horse, he says. The typical shooting horse is seasoned, between age 12 and 18, although some as young as 5 or as old as 20 were competing in the championship. Any breed may be a shooting horse, although Quarter Horses and Paint Horses dominate. The CMSA has recently formed alliances with AQHA and APHA where the horses are running for points in those associations.

CMSA offers six classes of competition, including Cavalry, Rifle, Shotgun, and the Cimarron Eliminator sponsored by Cimarron Firearms. Classes are split by gender and rider age.  In the Cavalry class riders must use a cavalry saddle and dress in authentic cavalry attire. In ladies classes, the women might wear long skirts and corsets as they wore in the “old west” days. Anyone may dress in period civil war era or old west attire, but many wear blue jeans and chinks or chaps as in any other western horse show. Riders negotiate a set pattern at speed, shooting 10 balloon targets, using 2 guns with 5 shots per gun. The event requires good coordination for both horse and rider to stay on pattern, make sharp turns, hit the target, change guns, and move fast. Whew!!

There are about 100 CMSA clubs throughout the country. While it isn’t mandated that a rider be a member of a club to compete, it is encouraged. The clubs create unity within the organization. CMSA events are for the whole family. At many events you may see grandparents, parents, and children all making their individual runs. There is a Wrangler division for children 12 and under where the child runs the pattern but doesn’t shoot. As the child gets older and closer to participating with a gun, there are ground shooting competitions which help them prepare to shoot targets.

Safety is key in CMSA. Competitors are encouraged to use ear protection for themselves and their horses, although some horses just won’t cooperate! Many shooters use single action 45 caliber pistols. The guns shoot “blanks” of black powder which easily reaches the target balloons at about 10 feet but can travel as far as 20 feet. Therefore, no target is ever closer than 30 feet to a fence where spectators might be watching.

According to Casey Hollis, cowboy mounted shooting is great fun. It’s been his main sport for 4 years now. “I just trail rode before, “he says, “but this is addictive! My mom rides too, and now she’s learning to shoot and looking for a good shooting horse.” Casey rides 11 year old Smoke Eternal Gold, or “Skeeter” who makes Casey’s lightning runs look easy and effortless. They shoot often in Shelbyville, TN and are members of the TNCMSA. Derrick Hutchins is president of that group. For more information, visit www.cowboymountedshooting.comor

(Photos by Mr. Quigley

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