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.