CARENCRO, LA (WVUE) - It's a fast-growing sport that lets you strap on a holster and six-shooter and then hop on a horse. Before long, you'll feel like you're watching an old Western cowboy movie. Dave McNamara introduces you to the Blazin' Cajun mounted shooters in tonight's Heart of Louisiana.
It usually starts with a love of horses. Then this Wild West thing starts to happen. And before you know it, you're racing around on horseback, blasting away with a six-shooter.
"I had the horses, but I didn't have the guns - no experience with guns - and the first time I shot one, that was it. I was addicted," said Julie Vincent.
Vincent, of Sulphur, has only been doing this for a few years. But Chuck Duncan is one of the top mounted shooters in Louisiana, and he competes on a national all-star team.
"Now that I am 65, I don't want to get out and run races, but the horse can run the race and I can concentrate on steering the horse and shooting," Duncan said. "So I'm still involved in the competition, but I don't have to do the really hard part."
Duncan founded the Blazin' Cajun Mounted Shooters Club in 2005, but it all began out West. The sport was started about 20 years ago in Arizona by a rancher who enjoyed competing with his buddies shooting bottles off of a fence with live ammunition.
"So we use a .45-caliber blank with black powder in it, and the black powder is what breaks the balloon when we shoot," Duncan said. "It will shoot about 20 feet."
In competitions, the course and patterns of targets are frequently changed to test the riders' skills.
"The hardest part for me in the beginning was remembering where to be," said Cindy Nielsen. "Remembering the pattern, because each one has a specific what you have to run through it."
The competition is timed with thousandths of a second separating the top shooters.
But you also have to be close enough to make sure you shoot the balloons because it's a five-second penalty if you miss a target," Duncan said. "And that, you can't outrun that miss."
"The hardest part is staying focused and hitting your target while on your horse and trying to stay concentrated on your pattern," Vincent said.
"A well-trained horse responds to touch by your rein hand, touch with your calves and your feet and your butt, basically," Nielsen said.
The Blazin Cajun shooters practice at this Carencro farm every weekend, except when they're off at a competition. Getting in sync with their horses, trying to concentrate and not to miss hitting a single balloon.
The mounted shooters claim they are the fastest-growing equine competition sport, with more than 10,000 members in the U.S. and around the world.