RAPID CITY — Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association competitors displayed their skills Friday morning at the Black Hills Stock Show, held at Rapid City’s Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.

Contestants ride a horse through a balloon-laden course and shoot with two .45 caliber single action revolvers, like those used in the late 1800s. A brass cartridge is loaded with black powder and will break a balloon up to 15 feet. Live ammunition is not used.

Mark Thompson of Groton, S.D., has competed in events like this for three years. His wife started him in the sport, and he said he had never ridden a horse before that time. 

“She wanted to get the kids into it, so she got a horse for our oldest son,” Thompson said. “She got bored just sitting and watching, so she decided this is what we’re going to do.”

Learning the basics was understandably difficult for Thompson. 

“I had to learn how to ride a horse,” he said. “I knew how to shoot guns, but it’s hard to do both at the same time.”

Thompson said it is fun to be able to shoot at the Black Hills Stock Show. “It’s one of the few sports the whole family can do: boys, girls, adults,” he added. His 11-year-old daughter Taryn competed in a younger class on Friday.

He has competed in the Men’s Level 3 division for about a year. Winning three events at Level 3 will enable Thompson to move up to Level 4.

Goals for Thompson center on clean runs and keeping control of the horse. He completed his first Friday run in 8.350 seconds and the second in 8.887 seconds; different patterns were used.

Earning a win has provided Thompson with his biggest highlight. He said he goes to larger shoots that boast tough competition.

The challenge keeps Thompson competing.

“You get frustrated; the horse can be difficult some days,” he said. “That gives you a reason to keep trying and make it work.”

Christina Seemiller tended to her horse following a run in the Ladies’ Level 4 division. Her first two go-rounds spanned 9.624 seconds and 30.773 seconds, respectively.

The resident of Torrington, Wyo., began in shooting sports about three years ago and has competed in Level 4 for about six months.

“Horses and guns: the best of both worlds,” Seemiller said in describing how her interest began. 

She grew up in Pennsylvania and rode horses before stopping for 15 years. When she resumed, she did not want to return to English jumping but chose to do the complete opposite.

“I’ve always been into guns, and I’ve always been into horses,” Seemiller said of learning the basics. “It just kind of went together.”

She most enjoys the people and fun associated with a mounted shoot. 

When asked about her biggest challenge, she said, “I’m kind of hard on myself. So, I’m always trying to do better.”

Seemiller plans to attend as many shooting events as she can.

Being able to compete at the Stock Show particularly appeals to Seemiller. “Normally at our shoots, we don’t really have a lot of spectators,” she said. 

She said a shooter may learn something from everyone, and all people are quite helpful.

Seemiller and her horse have worked together ever since she began in mounted shooting. The rescue horse was about 200 pounds underweight when she got him.

“When I decided to get into shooting, I thought maybe he would enjoy it,” she said in describing her horse. “He kind of took right to it.”

Thompson and Seemiller plan to compete in Arizona next week.

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