The Old West comes alive Memorial Day weekend with the arrival in Payson of the Mounted Shooters of America.
May 29 and 30 at the Payson Event Center, members of MSA will compete in an mounted shootout reminiscent of gunfights from the 1800s.
Titled the "Beat the Heat Memorial Day Shoot," the event is expected to draw about 50 MSA members from around Arizona. Last year, the inaugural event was held the Labor Day weekend.
According to MSA President T.C. Thorstenson, mounted shooting is the fastest growing equestrian sport in America, attracting participants from all walks of life.
In the competition, entrants must ride their horses through a predetermined course firing two revolvers, one at a time, at a series of colored balloon targets.
The winners are the riders who can negotiate the course in the fastest possible elapsed time without incurring penalties.
The riders do not know which of the 16 possible courses they will be required to ride prior to the event. The courses sport a variety of intriguing names such as Big Dice, Run-N-Gun, The Fish, Double Barrel-Double Gate.
In the Double Barrel-Double Gate, riders enter the arena and must ride through a gate, shoot a blue balloon then ride through a second gate and shoot another blue balloon. After rounding a barrel, the competitor is required to shoot five red balloons in succession before ending at the original start line.
Participants compete in go-arounds much like calf ropers do in professional rodeo. At the Payson competition, each rider will have three "go's" and there will be a single elimination extreme shootout at the conclusion of each day's events, Thorstenson said.
Judges assess penalties for missed targets, failure to follow the course, knocked over barrels and lost hats.
Rules require participants dress in the spirit of the Old West by wearing Western-style shirts, boots, hats and pistol holsters. Many chose a patriotic theme for their costumes.
The mock revolvers -- each rider carries two --ust be replicas of pistols manufactured prior to 1898. Most are single-action Colts, Ruger Vaqueros or Smith & Wesson Schofields. The guns do not fire real bullets rather it is bursts of gunpowder from the barrels that pop the balloons.
Riders compete for prize money in one of five pro classes based on their skills, past experiences and successes.
For riders 11-and-under, their is a non-competitive Outlaw Class.
Each rider must supply his or her own horse.
Competition begins at 5 p.m., May 29. The following day, shooting starts at 10 a.m.
Thorstenson said spectators are welcome and there is no admission.
For more information call (480) 471-7422.