Mounted shooting is a sport that draws riders from all walks of life. A fast-paced, family-friendly sport, the discipline often attracts Paint lovers as colorful as the horses they ride.
Flash caught up with Ken Harris of Haltom City, Texas, to learn more about his Paint and journey to the shooting arena.
Who’s your ride?
I ride Trailer Trash, a 2004 sorrel toveo gelding by Trashadeous and out of Deltalena Lady. He’s got an APHA Register of Merit in reining, and I’ve been shooting off him for the last three years. This year, I’m shooting with him and qualifying for the APHA World Championship Show in reining.
Trailer Trash is just now coming on—we started off as a Level 1 and we just now moved up to a Level 2; he’s a super horse.
What brought you to shooting?
I’ve been riding reining horses since about 2000, but I wanted something that I could go do that was really a lot of fun with my horse without needing a $20,000 animal to be competitive. My trainer, Mark Miller, had Trailer Trash for sale as an already trained, affordable horse, and I thought he’d be a good fit for mounted shooting, too.
Our first mounted shooting show was in 2012 and we spent time as a Level 1 trying to figure things out. We did well last year with three wins, including winning the Men’s Level 1 at the Western South Regional Championship.
If you’re looking for a place to show your horse that’s affordable with nice people, come to mounted shooting. Once you do it, you’ll be hooked.
What is your biggest challenge right now?
Before mounted shooting, I’d never competed in a speed event before; though there’s some speed in reining, it’s a controlled speed with a focus on finesse. It’s taken me some time to get used to the speed while maneuvering different pattens and make bigger risks.
What exercises do you work on with Trailer Trash?
I think reining horses are really great for this sport, because they’re good at guiding where you want and collecting up underneath themselves to make those athletic moves the patterns require. So I keep him in the same type of athletic shape whether I’m reining or shooting. I just want to keep him fit and wanting to do his job.
To work on speed, I feel like we could really work on improving our barrel turns, so that we can carry more speed into our barrels. I’m thinking about taking some lessons with barrel trainers to improve.
I’ve also noticed that if you only show your horse in an arena, he’ll tend to take shorter strides. So I’ve been taking Trailer Trash to a long dirt track and really encouraging him to stretch out a little bit more. It’s helped me get my confidence up, too, because I’m learning to go faster while still feeling OK and in control.
What’s the best mounted shooting advice you’ve ever received?
Shoot clean—that’s critical. You are only as fast as your accuracy. You’ll see a lot of people run in with blazing speed and leave up one or two balloons, and after all their penalties they’re not really in the hunt.
You simply can’t outrun your gun-handling skills. So, run at the speed that your accuracy and gun handling skills will allow. But as your skills improve, you need to step things up and push yourself and your horse—it’s a timed event, after all!
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