MILAN -- Clouds of dust kicked up behind the horse's hooves, mingling with the thick gray smoke from the rider's Colt .45. |
The two galloped by, hair and tail flying. Each time they neared an "enemy," the rider took aim and fired his six-shooter. Pop! And the enemy disappeared.
But the gunmen and their horses were years and miles from the tumbleweeds blowing through the 1800s' Wild West. Instead, they were 21st century riders guiding horses through maneuvers while firing blanks at balloons during the annualEastern Iowa Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association Star Spangled Shootout at Schone's Friendship Farm in Milan.
"It's a rush," Hannah Pennekamp, of Lancaster, Wis., said Saturday, from atop a borrowed horse named Reba.
Ms. Pennekamp said she has ridden and loved horses for about 20 years. Her best friend, Andria White, also of Lancaster, got her into mounted shooting a while back.
It's a sport where everyone is helpful, everyone is nice, she said. Folks will loan you horses, guns, equipment. "Everyone just wants you to do well."
Eastern Iowa CMSA member Bruce Schwarz, of Long Grove, said that's how the sport is."It's the cowboy way," he said.
Ms. Pennekamp and Ms. White were preparing to ride Saturday morning. The two donned cowgirl hats, western shirts and chaps. Their horses' reins and protective boots coordinated with their outfits.
Ms. Pennekamp said she always gets nervous before the first run. "But it just goes so fast," and before you know it, "you're done," she said.
From atop her horse, Willis, Ms. White said she got into mounted shooting because it fit. She hunts and has horses, and the sport looked like fun. She watched a Wisconsin club's members go through their paces last Februar, and thought, "'I've got to do that.'"
She said she was drawn to the "horsemanship involved" as well as the atmosphere of "competitive camaraderie."
When she's riding and taking aim at targets, she said, "I don't think much. It's kind of a blur. It goes fast."
The two said riders must trust their horses on the course. Riders maneuver their horses through barrels and cones while trying to take aim and hit 10 balloons during each run.
"It's a rhythm you get," Ms. Pennekamp said.
Steve Wagner, of LeClaire, president of the Eastern Iowa CMSA, said each rider carries two Colt .45 revolvers. Following the pattern of the course, the rider will maneuver his horse while shooting five balloon targets, holster the gun, draw another and shoot five more on his way to the finish.
The guns are "single-action," he said, which means gunmen "have to pull the hammer back (for) every shot."You've got to have a quick thumb."
Riders then are scored based on their time and accuracy.
Mr. Wagner's wife, Lu, a member of the Eastern Iowa CMSA, said this weekend's shootout has 64 participants, four under age 12. The youngsters ride the course but don't fire the weapons, she said.
Participants hail from several states including Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin, Missouri and throughout Iowa and Illinois. Some have even traveled from Canada, Ms. Wagner said.
"Everybody wants to be a cowboy," Mr.Schwarz said.With mounted shooting, "you get to dress like a cowboy, you get to ride your horse and you get to shoot guns. Who wouldn't want to do it?"
There are dozens of designated courses for the shootouts. Each morning of competition, Mr. Schwarz said about five courses are drawn up for the competition. To be able to handle each one while shooting, "you have to have good control of your horse," he said.
Dave Penner, of Winnipeg, Canada, was getting the hang of mounted shooting Saturday. He tried it for the first time Friday night after traveling to the shootout with his wife, Peggy, who took up mounted shooting about a year ago.
"It 's just a rush," Mr. Penner said. "It's fun."
The two joined a mounted shooting club in Canada last year. They owned horses, but they were more for trail riding and weren't too keen on their riders firing guns from their backs, so the couple was in search of another horse. They found Nugget online last year, who was up for sale by a family in Clinton.
The couple befriended Nugget's previous owners and decided to return to the Quad-Cities area for this weekend's event.
"It'sexhilarating," Ms. Penner said. "I absolutely love the sport."
The competition continues today at 10 a.m. at Schone's Friendship Farm, 15711 13th St., Milan.
For more information about the association, visit eicmsa.com.
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