Cowboy shooting draws a crowd

September 18, 2011 • Local News

Karen Gray competes during the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association’s New Mexico State Championship at Eastern New Mexico State Fairgrounds, Saturday. (Mark Wilson Photo)

‘Anything you can do I can do better,’ as the song goes, seems to be the rally cry for women in the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association, which is having its state competition at the Eastern New Mexico State Fairgrounds, Saturday and Sunday.

A relatively new sport that combines horse riding and short range shooting, cowboy mounted shooting involves cowboys and cowgirls riding a horse around a predetermined pattern while shooting at balloons.

The guns used are all based on the Colt Single Action .45 and competitors use blanks. Cowboy mounted shooting is not a judged sport — it’s a timed sport. The fastest cowboy — or cowgirl — wins.

Kenda Lenseigne makes the precision sport — which involves mental and physical agility — look like a cakewalk. The 36-year-old is the only woman to win the world championship in cowboy mounted shooting, which she achieved in 2009 in Amarillo, Texas.

“It’s rewarding for my years of hard work,” she said. “Women with a can-do attitude can [auth] accomplish anything that we set our minds to.”

Lenseigne is once again on her way to the top. During the state competition Saturday — which is a qualifier for the world championship next month in Amarillo, Texas — she made the best time during the first stage of the competition, overall.

“I beat all the boys,” she said with a grin.

Originally from Phoenix, Lenseigne has made a career out of cowboy mounted shooting. Aside from competing, she instructs riders and trains horses. She said she trained her own horse, Justin, to become more acclimated to the sound of gunfire.

Although Justin was skittish at first, Lenseigne said she has won seven world records in cowboy mounted shooting with him.

“He’s amazing,” Lenseigne said of her horse.

The CMSA’s shooting competition attracted competitors from as far as Germany, where restrictive gun laws make it almost impossible to have such events.

Originally from Boklund — which is about 50 miles north of Hamburg — Vanessa Schmidt and Heino Hagge live on a ranch with horses. Although they enjoy cowboy mounted shooting, they have almost no opportunities to practice the sport in their native country.

“The German government doesn’t want people to have guns,” Hagge said. He said Germans are able to purchase one gun after taking a course, passing an exam and getting a license.

Once a gun is purchased in Germany, it must be kept in a special gun safe, Hagge said.

“The government is allowed to come to your house just to find out (whether or not) your guns are secure,” he said.

With all the government procedures involved, owning a gun is a very expensive endeavor in Germany. This is Hagge’s third time and Schmidt’s second time visiting the Double E Ranch in Gila, New Mexico, where they get to practice their shooting with relative ease.

Hagge said he met Alan Eggleston, the owner of the ranch, when he visited Germany to give a presentation there about cowboy mounted shooting. The horses Schmidt and Hagge used during Saturday’s event came from the Double E Ranch.

“We’re happy … that we’re allowed to do this sport here,” Hagge said. He said he doesn’t consider the possibility of ever winning an event because it is difficult to practice the sport in Germany and because he doesn’t believe he can be better than American competitors.

“The Western style of riding was born here,” Hagge said. “A lot of the guys here were able to ride before they were able to walk, it seems like.”

The event Saturday also attracted people from throughout New Mexico, California, Arizona, Texas and Colorado.

Eggleston has been instrumental in bringing cowboy mounted shooting to New Mexico. He said the sport began in Phoenix.

He took an interest in it and started to host cowboy mounted shooting clinics and matches in New Mexico.

There is currently a club for cowboy mounted shooting in New Mexico, as well as the annual CMSA state championship.

Eggleston’s devotion to cowboy mounted shooting has not only spread over the state, but has also attracted competitors from Germany who seek a place where they can enjoy their preferred sport.

“You really appreciate what we have here in the United States when you see other countries (are) strict like that,” Eggleston said. “We are so fortunate to have all these rights in the United States.”

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