Sunday, August 9, 2009
Last time I spoke at length about my attendance of a clinic for the sport of Cowboy Mounted Action Shooting. Well, I attended another one yesterday, on a different horse. Since my old War Horse Woody just doesn't like the whole idea of shooting off of his back, I decided to try out my little Quarterhorse Gryphon this time. He's kind of a scaredy-cat about a lot of things, but in our practices he didn't seem to much mind us popping off percussion caps around him, so I thought I'd give him a try. I was very, very pleasantly surprised to discover that he is a GREAT little horse for shooting off of! After the first few shots he didn't even twitch an ear when I fired, and did the course flawlessly at all gaits. I'm impressed with the little guy! I guess I've got myself a good shootin' partner now!
But this blog isn't to discuss the merits of horses exactly, but rather to ponder the imponderables of how and why people do the things they do in the pursuit of, or guise of, Historical Reenactment. It is also to vent my spleen with regards to people who seem to have absolutely no idea as to what they're doing, too, so read on, gentle reader, for my rant.
I guess I have to say that first off, I have an odd proprietary feeling towards the sport of Mounted Cowboy Action Shooting, since I was witness to the official debut at the Cowboy Action Shoot "Winter Range" in Arizona in 1992. I thought it was a hoot and a half, watching three guys (one of whom I had worked with previously, and had just sort of showed up for the heck of it to the shoot, only to get dragged into the match because he had his horse with him. Lucky him!) take part in a very exciting display of shooting from horseback. Of course it was with blanks, and shooting at balloons, but it was set in the "Old West Town" stage of the range, and looked incredibly cool to the onlooker. For a bit more of the history of the sport, check out this article by founder Jim Rogers. Anyway, I thought it was very cool, but as I didn't have a horse at the time, figured that it was beyond my resources to get involved. Time passes...
So 17 years later, lots of films and many horses later I finally decide to try it again, just for the heck of it. The sport has changed from it's humble beginnings, with Jim Rogers insisting upon at least a nod to the historical Cowboy in one's dress and whatnot. From what I can tell on Youtube, it's all about speed, very little about horsemanship, and hardly anything at all about history. As I had long thought, it's simply "Barrel Racing with Guns." Sad. But there is hope out there, so who knows where it will lead.
One of the things that I have noticed about all forms of Cowboy Action Shooting, be they mounted on horses using blanks, or standing at a shooting range using live ammo, is that most folks haven't the faintest idea of what a real old-time Cowboy or 19th Century Westerner looked like. There are some wild flights of fancy, but for the most part I think that people are just lazy and don't bother looking at original photo's to even see what the people they think they're portraying looked like. Or if they have, they've made no attempt to modify their outfits to show that they have. So sad! The whole "Cowboy Era" is one of the most engaging mythologies of North America, and to serve it so poorly by not even giving it's reality a nod is a huge disservice to the men and women who worked, lived and often died in the West in that time. I will admit freely that the participants of the standard Cowboy Action Shooting come a lot closer to a true "historical look" than the Mounted Action Shooters do (that I have seen), but it's sort of like damning by faint praise to say it. I'm sure that it's often as not a case of ignorance, and these folks actually think that they're making a serious attempt to look proper and carry the proper arms and leather, but many times it's just that they don't care. They want to win, and that's what it's all about. And THAT attitude is what is REALLY sad!
By the way, I would like to point out that I not only have nothing against the folks who chose to portray "B" Movie Western characters, but I think that it's great! Guys portraying The Lone Ranger, Hoppalong Cassidy, or even pure fantasy characters who are of the "type" are cool as all get-out, and I laud them for their time and effort that they put into it. After all, it takes time, research and money to come up with a cool alias such as that, and that's what I'm all about. Slightly different focus of course, but I can appreciate where they are coming from.
While I'm ranting, I will veer off into some related issues. There was one gentleman who showed up to the clinic yesterday with a gorgeous mare who was obviously more horse than he was able to handle, and who even more obviously didn't want to be there or be involved in this sport. She jumped every time a blank was fired, and absolutely, positively refused to "run the course", even when virtually forced into it. She just wasn't having any of it. That was fine. What wasn't was the fellow's insistence that she BE a shootin' horse, no matter what. I understand that it's poor form to let the horse win, but by the same token, pushing them past their limit is guaranteed to put you well back in your training, and you'll have to work back up to it to get to the same place you already were before you got stubborn and stupid. Gryphon hates jousting, so he doesn't have to do it, Woody loves it so he gets to. Woody hates action shooting, so he doesn't have to do it. Gryphon seems to love it, so he gets to. There are some things that we're good at, some things not. Horses are no different, so why try to force a square peg into a round hole? Damage to both horse and rider may result in such attempts!
So here's my conclusion, or at least my plea. That people who wish to take part in a form of Historical Reenactment of some sort at least tip their hats to the originals that they claim to represent, and that they treat their horses the way they themselves would like to be treated. It's not all that hard, folks.
Okay, rant mode off until my next rant.