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Moves Like Jagger

Jagger, aka SSM Koolers Rio Dun, is not your average horse. Then again, cowboy mounted shooting is not your average day at the arena! My name is Jade Miller, Ladies Level 4, and I began competing in the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association in 2009. Jagger began his journey as a CMSA mounted shooting horse in February 2015. Together, we were the 2015 CMSA Central U.S. Open APHA champions in Stephenville, Texas, June 21.

I first saw cowboy mounted shooting online in 2008 and fell in love with the sport. It combines my two great loves—horses and guns—and an awesome sense of excitement and appreciation for the Old West. The CMSA World Championships came to my hometown of Amarillo, Texas, in 2008. Once I saw this amazing, family-oriented sport in person, I knew it was for me. There are six levels of shooters that are gender split, a senior division split by level and gender, and children’s’ divisions.

I saw cowboy mounted shooting as something my whole family could participate in. My husband, Jesse Miller, and both of our daughters, Haley and Jackey Pybus, all compete in CMSA. Jackey, age 12, was the 2014 CMSA Open Wrangler World Champion in 2014. As much fun as the sport of cowboy mounted shooting is to do, it is actually the people involved with CMSA that keep us coming back for more. We have lifelong friends coast to coast that we’ve met through this amazing sport—it truly changed our lives for the better!

I wasn’t even looking for a horse in January this year. In fact, I was doing just the opposite, trying to thin our herd. A good friend of ours, Jim Huff, tagged me and several other trainers in a Facebook post about Jagger. Always curious, I opened the link. Trainer Lacy Ford had done just about everything there is to do on a horse with Jagger. She had posted a five-minute video in which she trotted and loped cavaletti, opened gates, jumped barrels, dragged tires, crossed a bridge, backed and side passed an L shape, popped whips, shook feed bags—but here was the kicker. She had all her extra items in a lawn chair. When she finished with all that was being held by the chair, she reached down, picked up the lawn chair, swung it around and then put it on Jagger’s head. I knew at that moment I had to have the lawn-chair horse.

When starting a shooting horse, introduction to gunfire actually begins with dry firing. We do this at a walk, trot and lope, which didn’t bother Jagger. As he was ready to advance, dry firing was replaced with shooting half loads. Just as dry firing did not bother Jagger, firing live rounds, half loads and full loads made no difference as well. For me training shooting horses, time must be spent going slowly through the stages to ensure that the horse is not running out of fear, but rather because he is being asked.

Within a week, Jagger was happily loping through stages while I shot balloons. He seemed very curious about what was going on with all the balloons I was setting up. In mounted shooting, there are over 70 different stages that are courses of fire in a mounted shooting event. The horse has to have the control, mind and handle of a dressage horse and reiner, and the speed and explosiveness of a barrel horse. Jagger is no stranger to speed with points in barrel racing. His ability to think on the run and react to my every move make him a worthy mount.

While small in stature standing 14.1 hands, he is built solidly with foundation type bones and great feet. Speed is in his blood with ancestry going back to Dixies War Drum, a 1969 bay tobiano stallion who’s in the APHA Hall of Fame, and the legendary racehorse Man O’War. Training a horse that has been pattered on the courses of barrel racing and pole bending has been a challenge. Jagger was confident he knew where he was going. He is still learning that each stage looks differently and he has to trust where I send him.

Competing in the CMSA Central U.S. Championship was only Jagger’s second match, but he did all that was asked of him readily with his quiet temperament. As we went through each stage, Jagger only got better. My job was holding him back so he understood he was only going to run when I asked. He made me proud. It’s hard to believe one is riding a stud when he doesn’t nicker or neigh at passing mares. In fact, he didn’t make any display. He stood quietly next to mares and geldings alike while waiting for his turn. He seemed happy to be along for the ride, ready to turn on the speed when I asked. He thinks he is ready for me to ask all the time. I think he is probably right!

Our success together has just begun. Jagger had only one rider, his trainer, Lacy Ford, for his entire life. He had quite the change coming into my life. He has readily accepted all four of my family members on his back, each with our own differences. For me, Jagger and I are a team. In the years to come, I’m hoping we will also be a force. This year, we are only competing in the APHA classes at the CMSA major events for the remaining portion of this competitive year. My oldest daughter, Haley (age 16), will also compete on Jagger in the APHA youth division. We will both compete on Jagger at the CMSA Western US Championship in Las Vegas in late July and finish out the season at the CMSA World Championships in Amarillo, Texas in October. By next year, he might end up as my main match horse. I know we are just beginning a wonderful journey together. His life with us will not only be as a mounted shooting horse, but will continue with all he does so well. We will run barrels, poles, compete in the show ring both English and western, compete in competitive trail and trail ride. As I said in the beginning, Jagger is not your average horse. He’s a Paint!

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Flash is an annual publication produced by the American Paint Horse Association that celebrates Paint Horses excelling in timed events—racing, barrel racing, roping, shooting and sorting/penning—along with the people who love them. Check out our free digital magazine at MyFlashyRide.com or pick up a printed copy of Flash at major events across the country. And check MyFlashyRide.com/news often for the latest news about fast, flashy Paints.