If becoming a dead-eye shooter while racing around on horseback sounds like your kind of fun, Western Washington Mounted Shooters promises to make it happen.
The group is recruiting participants for cowboy mounted shooting, reputedly one of the fastest-growing equine sports in the U.S. At one-day clinics like the one in Eatonville earlier this year, instructors boast a 100 percent success rate at getting newcomers riding and shooting in just a few hours.
“We’re trying to build our club up and get word of the sport out this way,” said Renay Wilson, a Graham resident and spokeswoman for Western Washington Mounted Shooters (WWMS).
In fast-paced, timed competitions, contestants use .45-caliber, single-action revolvers loaded with five rounds apiece of blank ammunition. As their horses gallop through a course, the riders “kill some balloons,” which are the targets, Wilson said.
“It’s quite impressive to see horses and riders come together,” she added.
Participants shoot five random balloons with a pistol, then shoot five more “rundown” balloons using two pistols or one pistol and a shotgun or rifle. About 60 shooting patterns are drawn the day of the event.
The Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association (CMSA) sanctions levels of competition ranging from novice to seasoned professional.
Beginners can get started by attending a new-shooter clinic where WWMS provides guns, holsters and ammo. Instructors teach riders the basics of the sport and work on breaking horses to gunfire with the aid of earplugs. The presence of other horses soothes the natural anxiety that is felt by animals that are new to the sport.
Wilson said there is no typical profile of mounted shooting participants. Riders and horses “come from all backgrounds and disciplines,” she said. People younger than 10 and older than 50 compete against similar-age participants.
A WWMS clinic March 11 at the Ohop Valley Equestrian Center near Eatonville has been followed by more in other western Washington communities.
The leaders of WWMS are president Heather Gastelum of Duvall, who has CMSA world titles to her credit and has competed in the sport for seven years (and ridden and shown horses for 32 years), and secretary Kim Lemke of Sultan, a past state champion. They were joined as instructors at the Eatonville clinic by another Sultan resident, Karen Klein, a WWMS board member who has won state and national titles. Klein’s daughter, Kenda Lenseigne, trains in Arizona and competes all over the U.S. The WWMS membership includes veteran and active-duty military personnel.
A series of WWMS competitions and exhibitions this summer will culminate with the state finals Aug. 17-19 in Cle Elum.
SADDLE UP AND FIRE
* Age divisions for competition include men’s and ladies (age 11 and up), senior men and women (50 and over), and wranger (10 and under),
• Fixed-sight, single-action .45-caliber revolvers (designed prior to 1898 or reproductions) are used in CMSA competitions, along with leather holsters and leather saddles.
• For safety, the blanks for ammunition have a range of no more than 20 feet.
• Open to all breeds of horses and mules.
• Cowboy mounted shooting is atimed event, but accuracy is important. Penalties (added time) are assessed for missed targets, knocked-over barrels, and failure to follow the course.