A new equine sport, mounted shooting, is apparently picking up in popularity in central Alberta, so much so that a professional trainer from the US was in Stettler last week conducting a clinic at the ag grounds.
Stettler hosted its first regional mounted shooting competition during the second weekend of June last year, when scores of cowboys from all around the province tested their skills at the local agriplex.
Niels Lausten, vice president of the Canadian Cowboy Mounted Shooters Association, said that competition would be repeated at the same place, at the same time this year.
Himself a Class 2 mounted shooter with two championships in his class and awards of prize money and guns won in Idaho last year, Lausten said the clinic was aimed at both generating more interest in the sport and enabling local riders to enhance their skills.
Tammy Billingsley, a Class 6 professional mounted shooting competitor and trainer from Darby, Montana, was the instructor throughout the four days of practice and training over the course of last week, three days in Stettler and one day in Donalda.
“I was hoping to have this as an advanced course but some of the participants apparently need more practice with various skills,” Billingsley said.
A trainer for 12 years, Billingsley said mounted shooting required a rider to learn to coordinate several actions at the same time.
“At time of riding, a cowboy has to manage handling the gun, pointing and shooting at the right moment while keeping the horse on the course,” she said.
Referring to the dozen of participants at the clinic session on Thursday, April 28, Billingsley said: “Apparently some of these cowboys have been on the horse for a long time and some of the riders are comfortable with guns having hunted for quite a while.”
But she added that it was important for the participants to be able to learn doing everything simultaneously and in coordination.
With its first official rule book having been printed in 1992, mounted shooting has seen phenomenal growth in the US with associations being established in all states from Alaska to Florida, according to Billingsley. The total membership of those associations are said to be approaching 10,000.
In Canada, the sport has a history of only five years.