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A progression of skills and a brief map to achievement

Mounted Shooting is exciting for a beginner. It can be difficult to see past the energizing addition of pistols and rifles. It’s tough to know which will suit you best when you’ve just watched that guy you were talking to hit the rundown and drop their reins to pull out a rifle! Your heart is pounding to the beat of that horses hooves and you can’t wait to get started, but your first priority probably isn’t going to be what you think it is. So here’s the way things should start. Where you finish, is entirely up to you.


Your riding is top priority. Most people fail to realize the difference between pleasure riding and performance horses. You need to make sure you have control over your body at the various speeds you’ll be using. Working with a performance horse coach can help keep you away from common bad habits like leaning, falling behind or getting too far ahead of a quick moving animal. I like to remind people that horsemanship is subtle. Don’t exaggerate and be deliberate in your movements. A reining or dressage instructor can make a vast difference and they can help you with these components. I know it’s expensive but your safety is worth it.

These skills will be the cornerstone of your gun work to come. Mounted Shooting is a sport that builds upon itself so your foundation needs to be solid.


Once your groundwork is concrete, add some pistols. Effortless gun-work requires the same sort of practice as your riding: consistent and dedicated. Smooth holstering is another building block. Start with a raised elbow, pull your gun straight up and out, pointing it safely at a fence post then pretend to fire. Repeat this for say, five fence posts with an even, rhythmic timing between shots, after those five, raise your elbow as you point your pistol to the top of your holster, and push it straight in. As horses tend to go where we are looking, especially at speed, it’s helpful to lean to change guns while looking ahead, not at your holsters. Repeat this process over and over, but don’t rush. Be deliberate in your movements. With these recurring and measured motions, speed will come. Repeat the words smooth is fast in your head!

Try it on for Size

Once you think it’s time to purchase your own set of pistols, DON’T. Now is the time to get observant and talk to your friends. Don’t listen to people you haven’t seen compete. Salesman rarely win with the stuff they’re selling. Watch what holsters and guns just won the last event. I put my very own equipment on loan to my students until they get more comfortable. The beautiful thing about folks in mounted shooting is their genuine desire to bring more people into the sport. I promise you, folks will be more than willing to let you try out their equipment. Let their generosity help you. Please don’t allow your excitement to override your ability to choose equipment best suited to your needs. (#’s 2 and 3 often work hand in hand. You can practice with a cap gun or get accustomed to different equipment by using a friends rig, but the process should still be tempered with practice and careful consideration of your needs.)


I would encourage you to stay away from rifle and shotgun until your first season is complete. These events require total confidence in your riding. Many successful shooters never even attempt rifle competition. Everyone has unique abilities and while thrilling, rifle may not be in your wheelhouse. If that’s your ultimate goal, you can achieve it through persistence and the perfecting of skills. Be willing to progress slowly. Don’t rush. Have fun and know your intense and thorough work today will pay off tomorrow.

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