Although the sport involves shooting guns while on horseback, Jordan Mrkvicka said he's never been around an event that's more family-oriented than cowboy mounted shooting.
"You don't even have to be able to ride really fast, so you can come in and go at your own pace," the rookie rider from Cairo said. "That's why it's one of the funnest events I've been involved with."
Riders of all ages took part in the Mounted Shooting State Championship on Saturday and Sunday at the Lancaster Event Center. Around 30 riders from Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Wyoming shot blank rounds with pistols, shotguns and rifles at targets in the Amy Countryman Arena — all while riding a horse.
Kim Schultz, president of the Turkey Creek Regulators, the first mounted shooting group in the state and host for the event, said the sport pays homage to the Old West, as the weapons are similar, including single-action pistols and lever-action rifles.
"It's kind of organized pandemonium when you're on that horse going as fast as you can, trying to cock, draw, shoot, aim, holster and everything. And the horses get really excited," he said. "But it's a different level of horsemanship."
The sport is divided into six divisions, with riders ranking higher the more wins they take. The groups are also split into men and women, with a senior group for riders over 50.
Mrkvicka first got involved in the sport last fall and has competed in a handful of tournaments. Despite being a newcomer, he placed first in his class at the Lincoln event.
Mrkvicka was introduced to the sport by David Hassett and Becky Seevers, who run Hassett Performance Horses, a horse training business in Cairo.
"I'd been riding for a really long time, so that helped out, but it is a big change," Mrkvicka said. "I'd never shot a gun off a horse before. I'd been around guns, but I'd never shoot horseback. So it took a little bit of time to get used to it."
Hassett and Seevers, who both competed in the event, teach riders the sport of mounted shooting in Cairo. Hassett said he sees the sport as just friendly competition.
"You can be as competitive as you want, or you can be as relaxed as you want. The level system that they have designed makes it very fair," said Hassett, who has participated in the sport for more than a decade. "A beginner doesn't have to run against me."
He said they train riders of all ages.
"I've got everything from 4-year-olds to adults just learning how to ride," he said. "We brought a young shooter with us today, and today was her very first competition. We help start new shooters year-round."
That young shooter, 13-year-old Kyra Wooden, started riding horseback last year. She had always liked horses, but started to get more into it after Hassett and Seevers moved to Cairo.
"They always did it next door and I just came and watched one day and I started learning all about it," she said.
Wooden picked up on the sport fast, Hassett said, as she shot 29 of her 30 targets her first day.
"I thought it was kind of scary at first, and then I actually started doing it, and then it got better," Wooden said. "Once you get started, you can't really stop."
For Seevers, teaching the younger riders, or "wranglers" as they call them, involves lots of practice taking care of horses and hand-eye coordination.
"I just love helping the kids," she said. "My kids all rodeo'd, and I helped their friends and everything, so that's my passion, is to see the success with them."
As one of the fastest-growing equine sports in the country, Schultz said mounted shooting is "multigenerational."
"It's something you can do with your kids. I've got sons that compete, too," he said. "It's just a nice, clean family sport."