So you like to shoot and perhaps hunt, and you like riding horses as well. Why not combine the two and have some real fun? Cowboy Mounted Shooting (CMS) is one of the fastest growing shooting sports today. An offshoot of the widely popular Cowboy Action Shooting (CAS), the mounted version employs real horses at top speed and plenty of action as the black-powder blanks burst balloons across the course.
The object of this shooting game is pretty straightforward: Shoot all of the targets along the course in as short a time as is possible, without violating any safety rules. The advantages the shooter has are the targets are as close as you want them to be; gilt-edge accuracy isn’t necessary since the blackpowder blanks have a balloon-breaking pattern out to 30 feet or so; and, most of all, it’s all about fun and working with your horse! The challenge is that you can miss even at 5 feet, and you will need to learn how to shoot accurately while at the same time controlling your horse.
Guns for CMS shooting must be single-action revolvers chambered in .45 Colt. You’ll need a pair of them and a two-gun holster as well, since all of the courses have 10 targets to engage. Barrels tend to be short on CMS guns—3 to 5½ inches is the norm, since the shooter needs to holster one gun and grab another in the shortest time possible. Ruger makes its New Vaquero in a 3¾ -inch barreled version in .45 Colt that is tailor-made for CMS.
Equal to the marksmanship and gun handling in CMS is horsemanship. Before you introduce your horse to gunfire it must be well grounded in the basics. The two of you should have already established a bond of trust.
The best way to start a horse in CMS is to work with a group of experienced riders. Horses are herd animals and they need the reassurance of more experienced horses to learn that the noises they are being introduced to will not harm them. Begin with an empty revolver and dry-fire it as you walk your horse around in a pen or arena. Gradually let it get used to the clicking of the gun on both sides. If the horse seems anxious or starts acting up, ask one of your friends to ride just ahead or behind you to one side to encourage your horse. From there you can progress onto cap guns, then real guns loaded with just a primer, reduced blackpowder loads and then, finally, full-power loads. Some horses will go through the entire sequence in an afternoon; others may take a couple of days.
Once you get to where your horse tolerates gunfire, it’s simply a matter of practice to increase your speed and skills. And all that takes is “wet saddle blankets”—lots of time in the saddle.