WEST GARDINER — Checotah, a thoroughbred quarterhorse cross, shook her head, flicked her tail and snorted at the noise her rider made shooting at balloons with her .45 caliber pistol.

“She’s a getting a little excited,” said her owner and rider Maureen Lallier, after they trotted through two rows of balloons at the Steel Dust Stables in West Gardiner.

The retired accountant traveled from Seekonk, Mass., to participate in Saturday’s mounted shooters clinic.

Stable owners Brian and Amy Gordon belong to the Maine Cowboy Mounted Shooters, which promotes the sport.

Brian Gordon said cowboy mounted shooting is the fastest growing equestrian sport in the United States.

“It’s new and it’s an action sport,” Brian Gordon said. “It’s like barrel racing with guns.”

Lallier said she has competed in western pleasure and western trail shows for 38 years and felt it was time for something different.

“I got this girl for Christmas and got right into the game,” she said.

Gordon said he offers clinics twice a year, one in March and one in April. The next clinic is scheduled for 10 a.m. on April 21.

At Saturday’s clinic, mounted shooters started with the basics of what they have to do, discussed rules and procedures and what to expect when they compete.

Cowboy mounted shooting touches on all the disciplines including reining, barrel racing and horsemanship. Mounted contestants compete in a timed event using two .45 single action revolvers each loaded with five rounds of specially prepared blank ammunition.

Any breed horse can compete, he said, but they must first be trained to be at ease with the sound of gunfire and smell of powder.

“We do a walk-through with people to get them familiar with handling the guns then bring in the horses and walk them around to get acclimated to gunshots with somebody on their backs,” he said. “Then we’ll have them shoot four or five balloons.”

Cyndee Carroll, a private nurse from Surry, brought her appaloosa Piti to see how he would do with the loud popping of the gunshots. Piti was a little skittish at first, but seemed to handle the noise better after a while.

“I just love barrel racing and you can have a gun with this,” Carroll said. “I like the gaming part of it too. I was always terrified of guns and thought this would be the best way to get used to them.”

Bill Ledoux, president of the Maine Cowboy Mounted Shooters, said the sport started about 20 years ago with five guys in Arizona and started shooting at targets from the back of their horses.

“The sport just grew and grew from there and now it’s international,” Ledoux said.

Gordon said competitions are held three times a year at the Hollis Equestrian Park, in Hollis Center. The two-day shoot in August is held in conjunction with the New Hampshire Cowboy Mounted Shooters.

Winners can compete in national events, he said.

His wife qualified this year as Maine’s high point ladies shooter. He said she could have gone to Tunica, Miss., April 14 for a national competition, but it was too far to travel.

Gordon said the rider shoots black powder blank ammo from a .45 caliber pistol at 10 balloons and is scored on accuracy and time.

“It’s not only accuracy with shooting, but speed and agility with horsemanship,” Gordon said. “They all play a part in it. And there are divisions for both men and women and a wrangler division for kids.”

Cindy Eggleston, a retired florist from Brunswick, said this was her fourth clinic. Her horse, a paint named Mr. Trouble Moon, has been solid throughout the training sessions. And she just keeps gets better with her accuracy and horsemanship.

“I’ve always wanted to be a cowboy,” Eggleston said. “It’s in my blood. I was born too late”

Mechele Cooper — 621-5663

[email protected]


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