- Associated Press - Sunday, December 4, 2016

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Jingles wasn’t feeling well. The paint mare had a banged up shoulder from a hard stop in the trailer in South Dakota, and the ride from North Dakota to Amarillo, Texas, had left her sore and tired.

Betty McCommon was a little out of sorts, too. Because of her performance at North Dakota Mounted Shooting events, she had moved up from the Senior Ladies 3 class to the Senior Ladies 4 class. She wasn’t sure how she would do against better competition as she headed to the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association Wrangler World Championship last month.

Her run in Amarillo was clean but slower than she would have liked, thanks to Jingles’ injury. Not long after her ride was finished, people started congratulating her. McCommon had won the Senior Ladies 4 championship - the first cowboy mounted shooting championship for someone from North Dakota.

“It was a surprise. To be fair, I wasn’t the fastest, but other people made mistakes, and I was able to take advantage of those mistakes,” she said. “I went back to my trailer and just cried. I couldn’t believe it. I hugged my horse and cried.”

It was a big win for someone who just five years earlier wouldn’t have considered the possibility that she would not only compete in mounted shooting but also drive across the country to do so.

McCommon had a long history in equine events, including horse shows and rodeos. She quit those about 12 years ago but kept horses for trail riding. About six years ago, McCommon had a bad wreck while riding. After that, she bought Jingles, then a 2-year-old.

McCommon’s daughter, Bailey Elkins, had wanted to get involved in mounted shooting, and McCommon, though resistant to the idea, went with her to a practice.

She was hooked.

Mounted shooting helped her recover from her accident, she said. It’s helped her regain her balance and reflexes and kept her mind active. And it’s strengthened her relationship with her daughter and her horse.

Jingles - named after McCommon’s daughter’s childhood stick horse - also did not initially seem interested in being used for mounted shooting. But McCommon took her to a former world champion. Within three weeks - and 600 rounds fired - Jingles was ready to go.

“Now, she’s probably one of the top senior ladies horses in the country,” McCommon said.

The unpredictability of the sport - where there are 60 different patterns that might be used for a competition - along with the variety of elements involved have kept McCommon coming back, The Bismarck Tribune (https://bit.ly/2goFgzd ) reported. Success depends on how a horse runs and on hitting the balloon targets. A gun could misfire or a rider could drop the gun.

“It’s just got so much happening,” she said. “It’s just fun.”

McCommon’s goal for the year was to be ranked in the top 10 of Senior Ladies 3. That went awry in August when she got moved up to Senior Ladies 4. She was ranked 18th in that class heading into the world championships. Her goal heading then was to have a clean run in Amarillo.

McCommon wasn’t the only North Dakotan to have a successful world championship. Keith Benz took third in Senior Men’s 3, and Roger Collins took third in Senior Men’s 1.

“The seniors really kicked butt down there,” she said.

Seniors are 50 and older in mounted shooting. McCommon, 59, said that while the younger age groups often ride -and recover - faster, there are people into their 70s still competing.

McCommon credits Elkins for pushing her to practice and get better and her husband Don for supporting her. Jingles, with the help of a horse chiropractor and lots of care, is recovering over the off season and should be ready to go for next season. McCommon will be ready, too.

“It’s become something that I just do, and it’s part of me now,” she said.

___

Information from: Bismarck Tribune, https://www.bismarcktribune.com

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