Cowboys, Guns And Hot Air

Here is a fun video taken by banjocat at a recent event she attended. She writes: From the AQHA Cowboy Mounted Shooting World Show at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Each rider shoots first with a pistol and then a lever action rifle in each round. They’re shooting blanks; the embers are sufficient to pop the balloons (and it keeps the audience from having to dodge bullets.)

An example of a less common horse activity that combines a fair bit of horsemanship with some additional skill, it’s an interesting combination of obedience, agility, and a more literal than usual degree of bombproofing for the horses; accuracy and clear communication/training from the riders. You can’t be relying too much on reins for control when you need both hands to work a lever action rifle.


As I am wont to do, I took a closer look at what was going on with the horses in this video. The best horse runs were the second and third. Not surprisingly, these were also two very good rides that netted the fastest times in the round. Compare to the fifth run (Appy), the worst of the lot.

The obvious difference is the ability of the horses to negotiate the barrels/changes of direction, keeping the entire run consistent through smooth transitioning of weight transfer. While the Appy appears to be the most fleet of foot, he also had a rider who ran him off his feet, never letting up so that the horse could transfer weight to his haunch, instead pulled on his mouth to slow him, and leaned at various times, which made it harder for the horse to maintain its own balance.  There’s no way to know (without asking, or viewing several runs from this pair), if this is how it regularly goes, or if the rider – in the excitement of the event and the pressure to put in a fast, accurate run – let nerves/adrenaline/desire to win take over, throwing caution (and good riding) to wind.

You’ll need to pause the video several times, but I encourage you do so and closely examine these three runs, pausing in particular a few strides before the horse has to negotiate a barrel or change of direction. Keeping playing and pausing every stride and compare horse and rider positioning for these three runs. Key points to look for would be height of haunch, location of hocks, head tossing (though all are wearing tie downs), back positioning (hollowed or rounded), rider hand, as well general body alignment (ear, hip, heel), head/shoulder/upper body rotation in direct relation to lower body (hip) rotation and the direction of travel by the horse etc…

This is an event designed for a compact, lower to the ground individual, with a big hip and straighter hind leg. One of the slowest horses was the big, dark bay with the white face. Probably an individual who can hack/hunt all day long, but isn’t going to set any land speed records. This is partly conformation (too much leg and body), partly training/preparation/riding, but also will be partly muscular and neurological. This is distance runner, not your sprinter.

I’d have liked to have seen more than one woman in the class – maybe there was and banjocat simply didn’t get them on film? This is definitely an event that requires both parties to bring some serious skills to the table. Thanks for sharing, banjocat.

11 thoughts on “Cowboys, Guns And Hot Air

  1. I am pleased to say that in my area, this sport has become popular enough to warrant a free mag down at the feed store from time to time. And from what I read, yes a lot of women are competing. But as I watched the video, the most striking thing to me was the size of the crowd. Now that I can see videos, (not that I’ve looked at a whole bunch) I have been struck by the lack of audience here, and impressed at the size of audiences in Europe. This kind of fast, fun, easy to understand sport, along with the cool costumes, is what we need to promote here in the U.S.

  2. Yes, you can either go western, or authentic. Most of the riders in my local mag have really neat outfits both for themselves and their horses.

    • Oh, you’re talking about the event at your locale because there are no costumes in the video I linked…unless you consider a cowboy hat, a costume?

  3. The long time farm manager/trainer at my vet’s farm got into this about 12 years ago. He used to do walking horses for field trials and train plantation walkers for the hunting plantations. He is pretty good, and emphasizes handle and accuracy before speed. I don’t know that he competes nationally, but has won top state and southeast regional competitions. I’ve seen him work a green horse, he’s real quiet, asks for a lot of bending exercises.

    This is a Cavalry (costume) class picture of the trainer. He’s using the tie down and has a pretty short rein, but isn’t leaning on the mouth or inverting the neck, that horse is seriously down and under itself.

  4. Thanks, Mercedes, for sharing it with everyone, and of course for the analysis. There were many other rides not filmed, but surprisingly there only was the one woman.

    trailrider20, the spectator potential really struck me as well. There were dozens of other things going on at HLSR that day, and no publicity for this particular event, but the folks who were there loved it. There were so many elements to pay attention to, for horse people, gun people, and exciting-fast-stuff-with-music people. I think it could hold its own in the main venue (Reliant Stadium, where the Texans play football in the non-HLSR season) among the traditional rodeo events.

    A so far cursory poke around suggests that mounted shooting has been growing quickly, tho from a small base so that’s relative. Inherent coolness may well overcome the barrier to entry of adding on another skill set, gunproofing your horse, etc. And it’s less impact-y than jousting…

    Sorry, everyone, for the shakiness of the video (it’s a little better after the first ride) – shot with a handheld Flip, in between having absolutely no luck catching stills with another camera. Rider, horse, and photographer all get lots of credit for that great pic jrga shared – that’s hard!

  5. Here in NM, the mounted riding has been in full swing since 2004/2005 My Vet was the 2005 National Champion. (not sure what he has done since) Costumes are mandatory as mentioned. Either Western Cowboy or Traditional. SASS is the the local club and they hold a huge event at Founder’s Ranch East of Albquerue. I shot a 2005 show at the local Sheriff’s Posse grounds with a 35mm camera as a favor to the Vet. Have some stunning action shots that sold well to the competitors. The non riding friends and family members dress up and that is really a hoot. The SASS Folks also had a really cool booth at the 2013 NRA National Convention in Houston last year.

    The guns shoot 44/45 caliber shells blanks filled with with black powder and no actual bullet. Some of my photos have the smoke trails from the powder. They have children starting at age 12 and up, very well trained in competiton as well. Here we had both men & women and boys and girls. One of the vest riders was a little girl in pink in her first show. Talk about focused. Have not been to Founder’s Ranch, but it is a yearly thing. Have seen everything from AQHA, Pinto (VET & his wife) to TB’s and a couple of Arabs. Really makes them put some work into those jorses to knee rein and keep control.

  6. We have a morgan 4 year old in training at Matt Jobe’s CbarJ ranch in Windsor MO. I am hoping to have him doing some mounted shooting by the time I pick him up this summer. Matt is really into this sport and it looks like fun!

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