Gunslinging On Horseback

Riders dress in Wild West-era attire to complete the perception of being a cowboy or cowgirl in that time period. (Photos courtesy of Island Long Riders)

It’s not every day that you can watch people dressed as cowboys riding on horses, especially on Long Island. For the Island Long Riders, it’s been a big part of their lives for more than a decade, bringing cowboy mounted shooting to the area.

“We were involved in national organizations that do this,” said Joe Mugnai, president of the Long Riders. “We initially got into it in 2006 and were riding with groups in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire. There was nothing in New York at the time so we decided to start our own.”

The equestrian sport was initially created in the mid-1990s by the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association as an ode to the cowboy and historic Wild West shows that included these types of shooting events. The Long Riders are affiliated with United Mounted Shooters.

Cowboy mounted shooting pits horseback riders against each other to see who can shoot all targets the fastest.

The sport involves riding a horse and shooting at targets in a specific pattern. Each event involves riders in the club competing against each other to shoot a specific amount of balloon targets in the shortest amount of time. Events include four to six courses and two different guns that are used to shoot the balloons.

The pistols are single-action sixguns and 0.45 caliber, but use blank ammunition instead of live rounds for safety precautions. All cowboy mounted shooting events are directed by a certified mounted range officer who must know all elements of the event, from firearm safety to handling the horses, in order to keep everyone at the event, participants and spectators alike, from being harmed.

The participants even dress the part of the Wild West. Shooters in each event race around in cowboy hats, long-sleeved shirts, chaps and prairie dresses to bring that era back to life.
The first match that the Long Riders ran was at Old Bethpage Restoration Village in August 2009 and while they’ve competed in matches all over the northeast, their home base has been the village from the start.

Cowboy mounted shooting pits horseback riders against each other to see who can shoot all targets the fastest.

“They’ve been real nice to us,” said Mugnai. “It’s given us a great opportunity to ride out of there.”

The events held by the Long Riders are spectator-friendly. Those competing in the matches often take part in demonstrations to show off how the sport works and how they are able to perform these quick shooting techniques. Every year, the club also does demonstration-only shows at the Smithtown Country Fair in September. They even hold clinics for new riders who would like to join in on the fun.

“We have training programs of our own to introduce people to the sport and approve them,” said Mugnai. “Experts sometimes come in from out of state to run clinics for the more advanced riders. Pretty much, people just need to have a solid horse, a solid foundation in horseback riding and a lot of training in gun safety, which is what we do.”

Mugnai makes it clear that new riders are always welcome for the group. If you are interested in joining, contact him at joe@islandlongriders.com.

Catch the Island Long Riders at Old Bethpage Village Restoration on Aug. 11 at 11 a.m. For more information on the Island Long Riders and other upcoming shows, visit www.islandlongriders.com.

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Christopher Birsner
In addition to being the editor of the Massapequa Observer and Plainview-Old Bethpage Herald, Chris Birsner is the sports editor for Long Island Weekly and often contributes gaming articles to the arts and entertainment publication.

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