You've probably never heard of the sport of mounted shooting. It's a romantic, yet risky, tribute to the times when gunslinging cowboys on horseback were a common sight.
Many a Western film aficionado has seen a desperado firing off six shooters from his trusty steed.
Modern-day mounted shooters are the real deal. They race through a course, shooting blank ammunition at balloon targets designed to break when fired at close range. The participant with the fastest time and least amount of targets missed wins.
As a bonus for spectators, participants must dress like a cowboy or cowgirl. Part equestrian event, part historical reenactment, this sport requires its athletes to be experts in both horsemanship and marksmanship. Unfortunately, these skills are scarce in the 21st century.
The blanks fired at mounted shooting events are specially designed to break the balloons from twenty feet but do not harm anything beyond. Even with blanks, this sport is not for amateurs. Blanks can still harm at close distances, and inexperienced or careless shooters are likely to harm themselves and their horses. Luckily, safety is guaranteed for horse and human alike by a certified mounted range officer, which an expert on firearms, equestrians, and event organization.
Mounted shooting has grown rapidly in popularity since the 1990s. Jim Rogers, a cowboy shooter, and Phil Spangenberger, an American Wild West historian resurrected it for modern times. It's now regulated by several organizations, and events are held nationwide. The sport has a dedicated magazine, and competitions are broadcast on Fox Sports and ESPN.
It might not find its way to the Olympics anytime soon, but mounted shooting has found a faithful audience in a country that still has a love affair with firearms, horses, and its Wild West days.