Custer’s Cowboys began in 1999 with a clinic offered by world champion shootist and horsewoman, Annie Bianco-Ellett. Since then, they have grown to a statewide club that organizes various shooting competitions across the state. Custer’s Cowboys is an affiliate club of the national Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association.
Mounted shooting is a timed event that requires horse and rider to maneuver around a pattern of barrels with balloons stationed between them. The rider shoots black powder blanks from a .45 caliber pistol which can break a balloon if engaged closely enough. Elapsed time lus 5 seconds for each missed balloon scores the ride. There are 50 possible patterns to ride; unlike barrel racing, your horse never “learns” a pattern. The event requires horse steering, speed, and accuracy.
Mounted shooters use two .45 caliber single action pistols – the old cowboy gun that you see in every western. They are real guns, but the riders are shooting blank cartridges in them. You can use any horse or mule for mounted shooting. Some horses take to the sport easily, others do not. The horse’s temperament and owner’s ability to train the critter to gunfire, turning and going fast will determine success.
Mounted shooters try to dress as authentically to the Old West as possible. However, those just starting out can wear a cowboy hat, a long-sleeved shirt, jeans and cowboy boots. As the shooters progress, they can add more authentic clothing. Saddle and tack must either be western or the old cavalry-type McClellan rig.
Custer’s Cowboys celebrate history! Butch Cassidy, Sam Bass, and other cowboy-outlaws regularly practiced riding at full speed past a row of fence posts emptying their six shooters as the went. An eye witness account said he never saw Butch miss a post! Other accounts describe many a Texas Ranger who saved his life shooting from the back of his horse. Custer, himself, was a fair marksman with a pistol from horseback. But it wasn’t just the men….
A western ranch-raised woman could ride, rope, brand, and shoot with the best of the boys. She had to; the reality of the frontier did not recognize gender and in the beginning, she did it all in a dress. It was said that a cowboy feared only two things: lightning and a good woman.
Come watch Custer’s Cowboy (and Cowgirls) perform their amazing shooting action during the Saturday evening program: Main Arena,
2017 Michigan Horse Expo Times & Dates:
- Friday March 10th:
5:00-6:00 p.m. – Main Arena