Cowboy Mounted Shooters have a blast at FENCE

Published 1:08 pm Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Cowboy Photo by John PattersonWEB

By Judy Heinrich
Life In Our Foothills, July 2015

FENCE hosted its first Cowboy Mounted Shooting competition on May 30-31. Judging from reactions of shooters and spectators, it won’t be the last.

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The main event of the weekend was Saturday’s seventh annual “Border Wars,” with shooters from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, Tennessee and Florida vying for bragging rights and the Border Wars Traveling Trophy. Since shooters can belong to one or more local/regional clubs, the “state teams” are determined by where each shooter resides. When the dust cleared and scores were totaled, North Carolina had taken the title for the first time.

In a great show of “we’re all about horses” spirit, the Tryon Hounds hosted a Saturday night “Boots, Shoots & Boogie” evening of dinner and dance at FENCE’s Gordon Wright Pavilion, with Foothills Mountain BBQ providing the food and Mountain Brook Vineyards serving beer and local wines. Local group “The New Five Cents Band” played old-time mountain music and dance caller Becky Walker helped everyone learn the steps.

Sunday started with Cowboy Church followed by competitions into the afternoon. A total of 49 shooters participated over the weekend, cheering every good run and sharing a laugh at the ones that didn’t go as planned. The horses – mostly Quarter Horses and Paints, with an occasional gaited horse and even one Marsh Tacky – stood calmly tied in the warm-up pen waiting their turns.

John Thurow of Columbus, who is president of the event’s host club, SC Mounted Shooters, said the venue was a hit.

“I want to thank Joey, Roy and Tracie of FENCE for everything they did to accommodate us, included the footing and new fence – everything was perfect and we had a lot of compliments about the set-up. Thanks also to Tryon Hounds for hosting dinner and the Junior ROTC Program from Boiling Springs, S.C., for providing the balloon runners,” said Thurow.

We shouldn’t be surprised to see Cowboy Mounted Shooting back again, with the possibility of “new shooter clinics” and practices for anyone wanting to try it themselves. (Your writer suggests a challenge event with teams including local hunt riders and BRHJA, TIEC and eventing competitors.)

Learn About The Sport

Cowboy Mounted Shooting is one of the fastest growing equestrian sports in the U.S., as well as Canada, Germany, Sweden and Italy. Contestants compete against each other by riding various patterns – called stages – in which they first attempt to shoot five balloons in a designated pattern and then switch to a second gun to shoot five more in a straight line, often at a full gallop. The guns are loaded with crimped black powder blank cartridges. There are no projectiles involved, it’s the combination of air, heat and black powder sparks that burst the balloons.

There are class divisions for men, ladies and seniors (50+) as well as Overall Awards, which can be won by riders in any of the classes. As shooters attend more competitions and earn more points, they also go up the “levels,” from 1 for beginners to 6 for the highest level worldwide. The FENCE competition was proud to host four Men’s Level 6s, since there are only about 30 in the world.

At the FENCE event were the well-known husband and wife training team of Sam and Lee Ann Helms of Hired Gun Horsemanship in Monroe, N.C., who specialize in Cowboy Mounted Shooting training for horses and riders. Check out for information about lessons and clinics, and or for more information about the sport.