Cowboy Mounted Shooting: Competition With a Cowboy Twist

posted on September 26, 2019

Editor's Note: For this #ThrowbackThursday, we present this article from then-16-year-old Kathy Hollmann. Kathy was the 2008 Western National Ladies Overall Champion; S.A.S.S.  2008 Ladies Overall World Champion; C.M.S.A. 2008 Ladies Limited Division World Champion. It was originally published 10 years ago, in October 2009. Kathy, if you're reading this, we'd love to hear what you're up to these days!

How big is your shooting partner? My shooting partner is Roy: He weighs over 1,200 pounds and shakes the earth when his hooves hit the ground. He’s also registered with the American Quarter Horse Association as “Royal Triple Doc,” and Cowboy Mounted Shooting is what we do. How does riding a horse as fast as you can and shooting balloon targets as you go sound to you? Are you looking for a family sport where you and your family can compete together, cheer for each other, meet a lot of really great people and just have a lot of fun? Try Cowboy Mounted Shooting. It’s a family action sport that’s the fastest growing equine sport in the world and anyone at almost any age can compete!

Mounted shooting is like racing barrels or poles, except instead of running the same pattern each time, they’re all different. Oh yeah, there’s something else too. Spread around the course are 10 balloons and you have to shoot them all using a pair of .45 Colt single-action revolvers and blackpowder blanks! Does that sound like fun or what? Kids under 12 years old don’t shoot; instead they run the pattern and pretend to shoot by using their hands or a toy gun. Once you turn 12 you must start shooting off your horse. 

Riders aged 12-15 are in the Junior class where competitors are not split by gender. Mounted shooters age 16 and over are in the adult divisions where there is a gender split and riders are also divided into different classes or levels. The higher number of the class, the higher their skill level. In the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS) there are five levels and in the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association (CMSA) there are six. When you first start the sport you are automatically in Class 1. Moving up to the next class requires you to win your class twice with a full number of riders competing. As you move up to higher classes the required number of wins to earn you a move up increases too. So the higher your level, the harder it is to move up. In January this year (2009), I started in the Ladies 1 adult class and after five wins have moved up to Ladies 3 so far. 

Mounted shooting has a lot of difficult challenges that many riders encounter. It is not easy to win and even the best riders can’t always win. Riders share a few things in common like being great riders, great shooters and having great horses, but a lot of times it all comes down to one thing. When the horses and riders are all really fast, even after six stages many championship events will have several top riders within a second of each other. Often he or she who has the best mental focus and concentration will take the prize. It’s just as easy to lose your focus as it is to get it back—just get tough and concentrate on what you are doing. I have encountered many challenges and made many mistakes in competition. I try to learn from those mistakes and get better each time I ride. If I don’t pay attention, I have a tendency to go too fast, try too hard to win every stage or beat certain people in the match. Sometimes when I’m not feeling well I’ll run the courses on autopilot and not concentrate at all, screwing up and missing balloons. It’s a five-second penalty for each missed balloon, and with riders just a couple hundredths of a second apart, that knocks you down the list pretty far! You have to always be on your game—I love the tough competition because it makes our game even more fun! 

Championship events are the best! The best of the best will be competing against each other to take the buckle for each class and the overall title too. SASS and CMSA have their own way of entertaining the spectators in a Wild West Way. SASS has Founder’s Ranch near Albuquerque, N.M., for their big events. That’s a 480-acre ranch with an Old West Town under constant construction that can be used as a movie set when finished. At their “End of Trail” World Championship there will be about 100 vendors set up in the permanent storefronts selling all kinds of Western stuff. Plus they have all types of entertainment throughout the day and into the evening. It’s really cool to walk around with everyone in frontier and movie style clothing in a real Old West town! CMSA championships also have vendors set up, and at night they have showcases in which the top riders come in for the last battle in the Futurity, Maturity, Rifle, Calvary, Eliminator and Pro Class’s a Wild West Show that’s really worth watching.   

How did I get started in Mounted Shooting? Well, after I was born in Georgia, I moved to Hagerman, N.M., along with my family when I was only three.  I started shooting at two years old, and riding horses at three. Dad and my older brothers competed in the SASS “Action” matches with real bullets and steel targets. I wanted to do it with them and started shooting in the local SASS action matches with the Rocky Flats Rangers and the Seven Rivers Regulators at age seven, about the same time I started barrel racing and pole bending in the 4-H play days. Then my dad let me go work cattle on the Flying H Ranch for some friends of ours when I was eight.  The ranch is in a really rough and rocky area, but it’s a beautiful country. It’s very peaceful when you’re out riding in open country on your own, just you and your horse. When I was 10, my Dad read an ad in the newspaper about a mounted shooting clinic in Hagerman. Alan Eggleston of the Double E Ranch ( was teaching, and since I love riding horses and shooting guns—and mounted shooting has ‘em both... 

My life changed ever since I joined the world of mounted shooting. This is my fifth year competing and it keeps getting more fun every year. I have met many great people who have great sportsmanship ethics and are always very nice. I’ve heard many different stories of a rider’s horse getting hurt and even their closest competition offered to share their horse...I have experienced that. At a CMSA N.M. State Championship match in Las Cruces, my horse Roy got kicked by another horse while he was tied up and we’d only run four out of six stages. Jim Rodgers (founder of the sport) and his wife Lily (first lady in the sport) offered to let me ride one of their horses, Prescott, to finish the match. Then a few months later at another CMSA match in Arizona, Roy got dehydrated and I ended up borrowing Prescott again for the Eliminator stages. Roy was fine for the main match the next day. I ended up winning my division in the Eliminator and my class in the main match on different horses! This is just one example of the wonderful people and great role models we have in mounted shooting. There’s other reasons why I love this sport, and one of them is that it’s a family sport. My Dad is a Mens’ 2 in CMSA and a 3 in SASS, and my mom travels and cheers us on. Competing in a sport with your family is really special, and with all the fast action and different stages, mounted shooting is also a great spectator sport. I enjoy watching my competition ride, but I’m not a good spectator. What I mean is, unless I’m waiting my turn to run I just can’t sit still. I need to be out there riding and shooting! You ought to come join us sometime. If you see me at a match come on over and say hello. Maybe if you’re brave enough we’ll put you in the saddle so you can see what it’s like for yourself…


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