Cowboys Shoot Em’ Up in the ‘Boro

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Article & photos by LaCresha Kolba

It looked like a scene out of the old west at the Miller Coliseum in Murfreesboro, TN when the Cowboy Mounted Shooters came to town for a week. The Cowboy Mounted Shooting State Championships were held September 5-6, and the Eastern Regional Finals followed on September 9-12, 2015. Incentive to compete at the Eastern Championship was the offer of $25,000 prize money. Those who qualify will go on to compete in Amarillo, Texas at the World Championships.

A Cowboy Mounted Shooting is a speed event, with a horse and rider team riding through a pattern of balloons. The rider has two loaded pistols and the goal is to shoot all the balloons in a pattern in the quickest time possible. If you miss a balloon that is a 5 second penalty; if you run a pattern incorrectly, it is a 10 second penalty. There are 60 different patterns, and four patterns in a day is considered a match. A rider’s score is obtained by combine the times of each ride, along with penalties, and tally the total. 

Everyone who begins riding with the CMSA, no matter the skill level, starts as a beginner. There are six levels to work towards, and how the horse and rider team performs will help them progress to the next level. The divisions consist of a gender split, Senior Class and regular class; this allows the different skill-level riders to compete fairly and competitively. 

The ammunition used during practice and competition is black powder blanks. They are made specifically for the Cowboy Mounted Shooting organization. They have a specific range to keep the competitor and spectator safe.  No pattern can be less than 30 feet from to the wall barrier of the arena, this keeps everyone safe. Ammunition is provided by the CMSA and is available for practice and shows.

The guns used are single action 45s, which have to be cocked each time to shoot. This adds a degree of difficulty, as competitors are riding at a lope or gallop around a pattern, while cocking their pistol, aiming and shooting – all with one hand while also controlling a 1,200 lb animal. In addition to hand guns, there are rifle, shotgun and Cavalry classes. 

The rifle class brings a different level of excitement as the first 5 balloons are shot with a pistol. Then the rider drops the reins and does the run shooting with a lever action rifle. (Sounds like the 1960s TV western The Rifleman!)
Attire requirements are simple. Riders are required to a wear long sleeve shirt, cowboy hat, chaps and jeans; in the Cavalry class, shooters dress in Cavalry attire.  Some of the CMSA riders also show in the AQHA, Reining, Cutting, and Working Cow Horse. Through the efforts of the members, the CMSA is now affiliated with the AQHA.

For someone who wants to enjoy the cowboy experience, this organization can take you down that avenue.  Practices are offered to help you get started.  By joining the CMSA you are eligible to participate in any of the competitions throughout the US. The Tennessee Chapter of the CMSA has 65 members; there are 13,000 members in the national CMSA.  The Tennessee Chapter hosts seven shows a year in middle Tennessee and northern Alabama. For more information, visit: 

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