Mounted shooting event big hit at arena

Farm Forum

“Fast horses, fast guns and the family atmosphere.”

That’s what brought Peggy Penner from her native Canada to compete in the Dakota Running Irons mounted shooting event on Aug. 21 at the Akkerman Arena during the Brown County Fair. “It’s competitive, but everybody helps everybody else out.”

For the second year, Dakota Running Irons, run by Craig and Kelli Shryock of Wessington Springs, have helped bring the showcase of Old West shooting on horseback to the fair. The group is affiliated with the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association.

Groton resident June Thompson, the local event organizer and secretary for the group, couldn’t be happier with the turnout they’ve drummed up.

“We’ve more than doubled from last year. We only had 48 shooters last year,” Thompson said.

More than 100 shooters from around North America came to compete for a share of the $10,000 pot on Aug. 21. Adults at six different skill levels — with level six being the best — ride horses through specified patterns while shooting blank .45 ammunition rounds out of pistols, rifles or shotguns, depending on the event. The blanks have a range of about 15 feet to pop balloons mounted around the obstacle course on poles.

“(Blanks are) burning black powder. It’s a slower burn than the modern powder that is used, and it gets lots of smoke,” Craig Shryock explained over the phone last week. “It’s just the burning embers. All of our ammunition will be certified to not go out too far and to go out far enough.”

Wranglers, the youth riders, steer their horses through the patterns without shooting. With adult assistance, youth will do some blank shooting while standing on the ground.

Thompson has only been participating in mounted shooting for a year. She had never been involved in horse events before, but started working toward getting an event going with the fair more than two years ago. She thought it would be a perfect fit.

“It’s very, very family oriented. I’ve never seen anybody treat the wranglers so good. We got into it because this is something the whole family could do,” Thompson said. “Even my 3-year-old can trot the pattern if we let her.”

Her son, Turner, 9, and daughter, Taryn, 7, both competed as wranglers. Taryn took a spill off her horse Blondie right after entering the arena. After letting her brother take his turn, she got back in the saddle of a borrowed horse and rode her way through the course’s pattern.

As for starting the local event, “The six of us just kind of want to get it known,” Thompson said of her family and the Shryocks.

The Shryocks also share the sentiment of the family-friendly, inclusive event. They started the Dakota Running Irons mounted shooting club in 2008.

“It was something my wife and I could do together,” Craig Shryock said. “She was a professional barrel racer and I was bull rider for years.”

The Shryocks and Thompsons were excited to check out Jessica Kuka’s run. She has twice won the world competition in Amarillo, Texas.

“I’ve been doing it 16 years,” Kuka said at the arena. “Might be too long. I grew up with horses and hunting, so when I got the opportunity to put the two together, I took it. You meet so many good people. I train horses as well, so it’s always fun to bring a new one along.”

The level six competitor rode her horse, Hickory, on Aug. 21.

“We’ve won the world twice together,” Kuka said.

Kuka advises that you’ve got to find, “an all-around horse that can handle the speed, you can control with your legs, one hand reining and has lots of athletic ability.”

Taylor Robertson of Minnesota, a level 5 competitor, had her own requirements for a good mounted shooting horse.

“Something that is quick, fast and has a brain. That’s the best horse,” Robertson said. “Probably brains over everything else.”

For more information on mounted shooting and placement from the Aug. 21 event, go online to

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