Kansas State Fair has mounted shooting this year.


Here is what that competition is. Two sports collided to create one at the state fair on Tuesday. Both sharpshooting and barrel racing have their own competitors, but when combined, they create a new sport — mounted shooting.

In mounted shooting competitions, contestants of all ages are able to shoot guns and pistols while mounted on a horse. This takes coordination and a horse that does not spook from noise.

There are more than 80 patterns each rider might be requested to ride, maneuvering through posts and barrels while at the same time taking aim at balloons.

“It’s fun,” said Tyler Chambers of Pretty Prairie, one of the mounted rider organizers. “You have to cock (the gun) each time.”

Because this sport is flanked by audience members on three sides of the arena, the guns shoot black powder blanks. “The most hurt you can get is a burn,” Tyler Chambers said.

Chambers’ brother Ryan, of Pretty Prairie, and Scott Vanderhoofven of Wichita demonstrated the sport in Exhibition Hall. Each man did two rounds, perfectly hitting each white or red balloon in the proper order.

When competing, the rider is placed in a novice through expert category, ranging from 1 to 6. Chambers competes at level 4, while Vanderhoofven completes at level 2.

“You get points for every person you beat,” Tyler Chambers said.

Each competitor is judged on whether they make each shot, do not hit a barrel or pole, wear proper western attire and remain on their horse. “Your horse has to do a lot of work,” Chambers said. “Some of them have the natural ability; others have to get trained.”

Both Ryan Chambers and Scott Vanderhoofven hit each white and red balloon, stayed on their horse and did not hit any of the poles or barrels. The two western-clad men rode through two courses seamlessly.

“I did this one time, and I was hooked,” said Vanderhoofven, a former U.S. Marine. “It’s kind of a hidden event in the horse world.”

Although Vanderhoofven is an expert shot, he didn’t start riding horses until three years ago. Now, he and Moon, a 13-year-old American quarter horse, travel to Arizona, Texas and Colorado together competing in this event. This year, the KSF held two demonstration events and one competition event during the fair.

Kenny Kowalsky of Ellinwood, came down to the fair, specifically to watch this event.

“It takes a very special horse to do this,” Kowalsky said. “We love watching it. We’ve never seen it live until now.” Like Kowalsky, Gayle and Simeon Hopper of Partridge came specifically to watch the mounted riders. They both enjoy horses and shooting.

“We’ve rode horses, and we’ve shot guns,” Simeon Hopper said, “but we’ve never done them together.”


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