UNION COUNTY, Iowa -- It looks like something a ten-year-old invented.
In other words, it looks like a blast.
"There's not much more fun than getting to ride a horse and shoot a gun at the same time," says Clint Travis, behind a big smile.
Cowboy Mounted Shooting is meant to be just that: simple, old-fashioned fun.
"It's a fast-paced sport that gets to showcase our horsemanship skills and our marksmanship skills all at the same time," says Carl Watson of Creston.
Riders go through a timed course hitting targets as they go.
“When you’re starting at the barrel and running straight down all them white balloons," 11-year-old Connor Travis says, "you fly down that.”
Some of these guys are really good, like Connor.
“Well…on a scale of 1-10? I'm a 12,” he boasts.
Attitude is a key component -- after all, you’re using a high-caliber pistol to shoot a balloon.
But hang on, these guns are loaded with nothing but powder.
"When you're beyond 20-25 feet from the target, there's no way to hit the target," Watson demonstrates. "The ammunition will not reach that target. You have to be within 20-25 feet in order to hit the target."
It’s yet another arena in which the American Quarter Horse excels.
"A quarter horse is supposed to be the fastest through the quarter mile," Clint Travis says, sitting atop his mare, Dally. "They've got the fast burst of speed."
They were bred for cowboys and to be steady around gunfire. But these get modern treatments.
"My horse, Zip, is wearing a pair of ear plugs," Watson points out. "This allows me to take shots relatively close to his head without damaging his hearing."
These cowboys’ "giddy-up" might be most important, but their "get-up" ain’t far behind.
"It's one of the rules that we have for the competition," says Watson. "We need to have the overall appearance of the traditional working cowboy. So, chaps or chinks--and today I'm wearing the chinks."
Yeah, he said that right--"shaps", not "chaps." Short for chaparejos, invented by Spanish-American cowboys to combat the thorny cacti of the American southwest. They're just one part of the best uniform you could dream up.
Whatta think, Connor?
“I think I look cool riding on a horse, out there all cowboyed up and stuff,” he admits.
That you do, partner. Most of all, you look like you’re having a blast.