- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 10, 2016

POWELL, Wyo. (AP) - Just like how you’ve got to crawl before you run, mounted shooters have to trot before they can gallop - but spectators of the sport might not realize that when they see riders zipping around the arena, leaving a trail of gun smoke and popped balloon targets in their wake.

In an effort to introduce their sport, and hopefully recruit new riders, the local Wyoming Desperados Mounted Shooters gave a demonstration recently in the horse arena behind the Main Grandstand.

The demonstration started off with an introduction to mounted shooting and the equipment that’s used along with some basic pattern runs from riders of various skill levels, reported the Powell Tribune (https://bit.ly/2aJvFBf). Some darted around the arena, popping balloons in rapid fire while others took a brisk trot past the targets as the announcer explained that this is the foundation of the sport.

Spectators asked about point penalties for missing balloons, which is five seconds per balloon, and some were curious what age groups participate - and similar to team penning, it’s essentially open to all ages and skill levels who would be comfortable on horseback while shooting single-action .45s loaded with black powder blanks.

Among the audience were Barry Tharp and his family, who moved to Powell last fall from Oregon.

“I like it, I think it is a really great thing to merge two different sports together,” Tharp said, adding that he’d like to give it a try. “I’ve always liked riding horses since I was a kid; and then of course I grew up with guns, but was never able to mix them together.”

He also said that prior to seeing the demonstration at the Park County Fair, he had only seen mounted shooting done as a “show filler” between events at rodeos in Oregon and wasn’t aware it was a competitive sport.

Mounted shooting is regarded as the fastest growing equine sport in the world, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association.

In the late 1990s, there were only a dozen or so competitions in the country. Now they are held every week in hundreds of locations.

Further on down the bench were Powellites Gerald and Bonnie Fischer cheering on the riders.

Like the Tharps, they had never seen a mounted shooting competition before and Bonnie Fischer wanted to give it a shot.

“She wants her horse back now,” Gerald Fischer said with a chuckle.

“I think it is very impressive - a lot of horsemanship and concentration going on and camaraderie; and it looks like a whole lot of fun and you get to shoot things to boot,” Bonnie Fischer said.

Unlike barrel racing or pole bending, mounted shooting features around 60 different patterns and contestants don’t know which pattern they will have to run until the morning of the match. This means their horse can’t memorize the pattern, so the rider and horse have to be in constant communication.

On the other end of the age spectrum and the bleachers was 10-year-old Allison Magargal of Cody who was also interested in trying it out.

“It looks hard, but if you have a good enough of a horse, you could do it - but it is fun to watch and see how fast they can do it,” Allison Magargal said, adding that she competes in barrel racing. “I like fun events like flag races and this since it is fun to watch and participate. It is fun to see other events where they have to run and shoot something like balloons.”

The demo ended with the Wyoming Desperados racing side-by-side down the arena, popping balloons in a row.

Allison’s dad, Luke Magargal, said he was happy to see some horse events at the fair since the youth horse shows are held before the actual fair begins.

“We see people go to the horse stalls and none are there,” he said.

The Wyoming Desperados will host the Battle in the Basin shootout at the Park County Fairgrounds on Aug. 26-28.

For more information about the Wyoming Desperados Mounted Shooters, go to its Facebook page or contact the club’s vice president Mark Urlacher at 307-202-1006.


Information from: Wyoming Tribune Eagle, https://www.wyomingnews.com

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