Are there levels of skill?
Yes. There is a Men’s Division, a Women’s Division, and a Senior’s Division, with Classes 1-6 in each of those divisions. There is also a Wrangler Class (only in the US) for those 11 and under. In Canada, our Wranglers are anyone under 18 years of age. All adult riders start at Class 1. When a rider wins Class 1 three competitions, they advance to Class 2, and when they win Class 2 three times, they advance to Class 3. Four wins at Class 3 and on to Class 4, etc. Everybody gets a shot at a title! There is often a prize for the best score overall. So…if you are technically a level 1 rider at the show, but you beat everybody – you win the highly coveted “Best Overall” title.
Kids? Do the kids ride and shoot?
Our Wrangler (18 and under) class members can ride (or be lead) through the patterns but they cannot use real firearms to shoot from horseback. The Wrangler A and AA classes ground shoot only. We track points and times for the Youth and Wrangler classes and trust me, these are some of the best competitors!
How about scoring?
The riders are scored on time and accuracy. There is a 5 second penalty for each missed balloon, a 5 second penalty for dropping a gun, a 10 second penalty for not running the course correctly and a 60 second penalty for falling off your horse. Speed is important, however, accuracy is usually more important than speed. A typical pattern can be run in 15-35 seconds, so penalties can really hurt.
What about safety?
Safety in horse training and firearm handling are emphasized at all times. Many clubs sponsor clinics to assist new shooters in starting their horses and learn the basics of safe firearm handling. Range masters are in the arena at all times during competitions to insure safe riding and shooting is exercised. New shooters are usually required to demonstrate that they have achieved minimum acceptable levels of riding and shooting skills.
Is there a pattern to ride?
Yes. There are 60+ possible patterns. The patterns everyone will ride can be pre-determined or can be drawn out of a hat on the day of the competition. A competition may consist of 3 to 6 patterns a day. Each pattern consists of 10 balloons. To give you an idea of riding a pattern, let’s say that there are 5 white balloons and 5 red balloons. The 5 white balloons may be grouped together in one place or spread out over the entire arena. The rider shoots all 5 white balloons first. Then, the rider holsters the first gun while riding to the far end of the arena, draws the second gun, and shoots the 5 red balloons, which are usually 5 in a row straight towards the finish line. This is called ‘the Rundown’.
Doesn`t it scare the horses?
The horses learn to tolerate the gunfire as long as they are carefully and gradually introduced to it. Every care is take to ensure that our shooting horses are kept, safe, sound and happy. Most horses really enjoy racing around the patterns!
Doesn`t it hurt the horses ears?
They make ear plugs for horses too! Usually large, soft foam balls are inserted into the horses ears. They may be tied together and attached to the bridle so they don`t get lost. You can find these equine ear plugs at many tack stores, order them online or make them yourself out of shoe laces and foam cat toys (the kind that look like golf balls).
Is it a big hassle to get hand guns in Canada?
Not as hard as many may think! You have to take some training and fill out an application much like a passport. Everyone is responsible for themselves when it comes to knowing firearm laws and our Join page should get you enough information to get started.
What is the process to become a mounted shooter in Ontario?
You must have a mounted shooting club membership, a firearms Possession and Acquisition License (PAL) (endorsed for restricted firearms), (RPAL) (over 18) and an Authorization To Transport document (ATT) for your guns. Our Wrangler Program is for those under 18. There are restrictions to what they can do with firearms, but they can compete. An individual OEF or CRHRA membership is required as well. Oh, and you need a broke horse!
Call one of us and/or attend a demonstration, practice or beginner clinic. You can learn a lot just by stopping by a practice and asking questions. You don’t need to bring a horse.