August 2006
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Cowboy Mounted Shooting Event To Be Held in Beaverton

  Tony Tucker shoots a balloon during a practice match for the Alabama Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association.
By: Susie Sims

The Alabama Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association will hold the 2006 Kickoff Shoot at the Circle S Arena in Beaverton in Lamar County.

This first-time event for Alabama will begin on Saturday, Aug. 19, at 5 p.m. Action will begin at 10 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 20.

The local club began meeting and practicing in June, according to club president Sharon Sullivan. "We try to meet every two weeks," said Sullivan. "We’re trying to introduce our horses to the sport."

Sullivan noted that none of the local members’ horses had participated in this sport before this summer. The group is believed the first club of the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association (CMSA) to be established in Alabama.

Members of the Alabama Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association are (from left) David Harris, Jill Harris, Tony Tucker, Bill Mengel, Linda Mengel, Sharon Sullivan and Dennis Seales.  
Points Leader to Compete

The current points leader in the nation, Rock Clark, is scheduled to compete in the shoot. Clark currently holds the world record on a CMSA certified course.

"We are thrilled to have someone of Rock’s caliber to participate in our shoot," said Sullivan. "He draws a lot of attention to the sport."

Clark’s 12-year-old son, Cody, will also be attending the shoot. Cody recently became the Western United States Junior Open Champion. Last year he was the points leader in the Wrangler division of the sport.

  Club President Sharon Sullivan uses ear plugs in her horse Brandy’s ears. The ear plugs help the horses from being so skittish when the shooting starts.
What is Mounted Shooting?

According to Alabama club member Bill Mengel, the rapidly growing sport began in 1993 in Arizona. "There are currently about 6000 members in the United States," said Mengel. "We have eight in our local club."

Mengel explained that riders engage 10 targets during each stage of the event. The CMSA has more than 50 patterns that can be used to set up each course. The targets are divided into two colors. The first color is shot in a pattern around the arena. The second color is usually placed in a straight line called "the rundown." Riders are timed and are penalized for mistakes such as missing a balloon, dropping a gun, or not running the course correctly.

Each competitor carries two .45 caliber single-action revolvers that are characteristic of the late 19th century. The guns are loaded with blanks, which will break the balloons within about 15 feet.

Period Equipment Required

In order to compete, riders must hold a CMSA competition card and adhere to the rules. Each competitor must dress in period clothing from the late 1800s. Shirts must not have collars and pants are to be high-waisted and cannot have zippers. Even the horses have to be outfitted in period tack.

Conner King draws his cap gun.  
Mengel explained that riders can choose their own horses and there are no requirements. The CMSA brochure states that mules may be used as well.

Levels of Skill

Riders compete in different divisions according to age, gender and their level of skill. Mengel said there are six levels of skill in CMSA.

"There are only four level six shooters in the U.S.," said Mengel. "Rock Clark was the first level six in the sport."

Competitors advance through the levels by winning matches. All riders must begin at level 1. Riders also compete for an overall prize, which pits Mom or Dad against the kids.

Getting Started

Local members got started in the CMSA by attending regional events.

Mengel and his wife, Linda, attended the Ohio Equine Fair last year and saw the sport for the first time. They were instantly intrigued. "We saw a demonstration and were very impressed," said Linda Mengel. Bill Mengel is considered to be the experienced member of the club. He competed in a match in Tennessee earlier this year.

Club president Sullivan recently saw the sport in Tunica, MS, in the spring. She came home and started the Alabama club right away.

David Harris works with Sullivan. He and his wife, Jill, had been trail riding horses but became interested in mounted shooting instantly.

During a recent practice match, several spectators surrounded the arena. Sullivan noted that many of the folks who come to their practices have expressed interest in joining the young club.

"Some people bring their horses so they can get used to the shooting," she said, noting that many of the club members have purchased ear plugs for their horses. Sullivan said the plugs have helped the horses not to be so skittish once the shooting starts.

"We’re all learning together," she said. "And we’re all having fun."

Persons interested in learning more about the sport may contact Sullivan at (205) 412-0684.

Susie Sims is a freelance writer from Haleyville.