The Island Long Riders, a cowboy mounted shooting club out of Farmingdale, held a demonstration and shooting/riding equestrian sport competition at Hallockville Museum Farm Saturday.
The club, which has about 16 members, was formed three years ago and is part of the national and international Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association (CMSA), which compiles the competition results and organizes overall standings. There are nearly 100 clubs in the nation, and according to their website it is the fastest growing equestrian sport in the nation.
The event at Hallockville on Saturday was run by club president Joe Mugnai of Farmingdale and vice president ‘Sheriff’ Jim Dupree of Ronkonkoma. The shooting is done with 45 caliber single action revolvers like those used in the late 1800s. The ammunition consists of blank brass casings holding black gun powder.
The riders aim at helium balloons tied on sticks, some spaced 12 feet apart and some as much as 30 feet apart depending on the stage of the event. The skills involve guiding and controlling the horse, accuracy of shooting and speed.
Safety in horse training and firearm handling are emphasized at all times by the group. There are no horse or mule requirements, but sometimes riders will use earplugs for them and their horses. The riders dress in traditional western attire.
The CMSA website explains the competition: “A competition may consist of 3 to 6 patterns a day. Each pattern consists of 10 balloons. For example in one pattern there are 5 white balloons and 5 red balloons. The 5 white balloons may be grouped together in one place or spread out over the entire arena. The rider shoots all 5 white balloons first. Then, the rider holsters the first gun while riding to the far end of the arena, draws the second gun, and shoots the 5 red balloons, which are usually 5 in a row straight towards the finish line. This is called ‘the Rundown.’”
The CMSA has a variety of levels of competition for everyone, ranging from novice to professional.