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Cowboys coming to Calsonic Arena

Celebration hosts first CMSA

By ZOË HAGGARD - zhaggard@t-g.com
Posted 9/20/22

The Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association started 28 years ago with just a handful of people shooting out in the desert, according to communication coordinator David Royal.  

Jim Rodgers …

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Cowboys coming to Calsonic Arena

Celebration hosts first CMSA

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The Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association started 28 years ago with just a handful of people shooting out in the desert, according to communication coordinator David Royal.  

Jim Rodgers is the founder. And he came up with the idea to make the sport more “mainstream.” Cans were replaced with balloons while the desert landscape was replaced with a covered arena. It grew from less than a dozen shooters to thousands.  

Today, there are over 100 different courses that competitors shoot. “At any event across the country, basically, as a rule, they are drawn first thing that morning, posted, and then before shooting starts, they know what first course, second, etc. are going to be,” explained Royal.  

Rodgers’ goal of expanding the sport worked. According to Royal, they have 15 new members added every year to CMSA, of all ages. They already have 19,000 members.  

“Our event keeps growing,” he said.  

It’s this growth that has led them to expand to Calsonic Arena from where they were previously in Murfreesboro.  

“We are thrilled to have such a large event and such an entertaining event on our grounds,” said Celebration CEO Warren Wells. “CMSA’s leadership has been amazing to work with the last year as we planned this event and the last two weeks since they first arrived in Shelbyville.” 

"Our stall and RV numbers make us one of the largest equine event facilities around.  It was well known that the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration is one of the largest equine events in the world and we do it very well, but we are focusing on keeping this facility busy 12 months out of the year.” 

Wells added that having CMSA provides them with an avenue into hosting many other breeds and disciplines, especially once they have their new footing and dirt in the Calsonic Arena in place this winter. 

CMSA has 45 affiliates across the US and Canada. The event that took place this past was considered a “major” and hosted the 2022 CMSA Eastern US Championship.   

“For an average weekend show, we have probably 70 to upwards of 100, depending on whether it’s regional or state championship. Just in our main match here, we have over 290 entries. Then we have all the ancillary events,” said Royal. Those other events include the use of the rifle or shotgun. 

You’ve also got the wrangler division, which are the grandkids or kids of adults who are shooting. They get started young and are taught how to handle a firearm but don’t use one until they’re older.  

But those that do shoot use blanks of black powder that travel about 15 feet. Colorful orange streaks spew from the rifle or revolvers with a boom familiar to the cowboys. 

For Royal, his personal favorite is the rifle. “You shoot the first five [balloon targets]. You then have to holster your pistol, pull out your rifle, then shoot five rundowns with the rifle.” 

It’s also what he likes to shoot when he’s competing. Royal got hooked on the sport after “giving it a try.”  

“I got on and loped through a course, shot the balloons, loved it, and I was pretty much hooked from there.”  

Now in his fifth year competing, Royal says it’s the thrill of the speed and the focus that keeps him in the industry. “We have changes, angles, focusing in on those balloons. It gives you a thrill, and on horseback there’s nothing really else like it.”  

It’s also helped that Royal has been around horses his whole life. 

“You develop a bond with your horse. You become a team. You know how your horse moves, how they can handle a certain maneuver...” For most of the horses, it’s leg and reign communication. For example, going into a turn to stay out a little further, you put your leg into the horse to say, ‘move away from.’ 

In CMSA, you can ride any breed you like. Royal said they’ve had competitors ride Arabians, thoroughbred-crosses, and even Tennessee Walking Horses. 

But....as a rule, most of the horses are quarter horses. 

“They’re quicker for that first quick burst of speed than any other breed.” It’s around a 10 to 20 second run.  

Like the rodeo, this is a timed event. The fastest time wins, while points for the world championship come from a point ratio. (For example, this event is 8-times the regular points. A 101 finish for pistol would get 800 points. Who’s ever below you, you get points from them.) 

It’s another reason why they’ve got so many entries in this year’s championships event. “When you’re going after points, going after championships, you don’t want to go to a 1-point shoot that only had 50 people in, when you can come here and there’s 300 people entered,” Royal said.  

Wells said they would like to see the CMSA event come back next year.  

Royal added, “It’s a really good two hours. It's fast –paced and full of action.”  

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