Custom saddle maker and equestrienne Shawnah Knittle is a rising star in the relatively new sport of cowboy mounted shooting.
Clad in Old West-style clothing, Shawnah Knittle, of Paulden, fires a .45 caliber carbine off her bay gelding, Dakota, during the rifle event at the Cowboy Mounted Shooting World Championship in Scottsdale in November.
Mounted shooting is like barrel racing but with balloons in between the barrels. Contestants aboard galloping horses shoot black powder blank cartridges from .45 caliber firearms at the balloons, and earn scores on accuracy and time.
Penalties, including 5 seconds for each missed balloon and 60 seconds for falling off the horse, can nip wins in the bud.
Knittle, of Firehorse Tack and Arena, has competed in the sport since 1998. She became the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association's New Mexico State Ladies' Division Class 3 Champion in September and advanced to the world championship in Scottsdale in November.
The world championship, four days of fast shooting from horseback, drew a total of 223 entries from 28 states and five countries.
Single action .45 caliber pistol marksmanship was the main feature. Knittle finished sixth in her category.
For only the second time in the nine-year history of the sport, the association offered a mounted rifle shooting event during the world competition. Riders fired lever-action .45 caliber carbines at balloons on poles that officials arranged in patterns.
Knittle was the only woman among 25 competitors in the rifle event. She placed 14th.
This past year, she competed in the very first mounted rifle event at the world championship, which occurs each fall in Scottsdale. She placed in the middle of the pack that time.
According to Knittle, the sport combines marksmanship and horsemanship.
"It's enjoyable to be with people who really value Old West principles and the simpler things of life," she said.
Spending time with Dakota, her 16-hand bay gelding, is part of the fun.
Each January, competitors have to start from scratch in earning enough points to qualify for the Scottsdale world championship. So, Knittle is planning to compete, and hopefully win, at the Arizona Cowboy Mounted Shooters Association and California Desperados Border Challenge on Feb. 15 and 16 in Parker, Calif.
A craftswoman who creates custom saddles that fit mount and rider, Knittle over the years has conducted classes showing people how to select and use the right tack. Recently, she created a video on that subject.
"Local veterinarians have endorsed it, and we've sent copies to customers in Belgium, Canada and around the U.S.," she said. "We're trying to help the horses – that's the main thing – and we want to help people make the right decisions about their saddles, proper fit and correct equipment."
For more information about cowboy mounted shooting or Knittle's new video, "Saddle Fitting – The Science and Art Video," visit www.saddle-fitting.net or call (928) 636-8632 (toll free 1-866-892-4597).
Contact Louise Koniarski at email@example.com or 445-8179 ext. 2038.