This is a continuation of the series “Girls Who Sell Guns,” although this month’s installment is slightly different. Each one of the ladies I have introduced you to is as impressive as the next, and each comes from a unique life-perspective and background. In this post, you will meet Kenda Lenseigne, who does indeed make her living using firearms; however, she uses guns to win World Championships, while riding horseback and traversing obstacle courses!
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Kenda Lenseigne is a 5-time World Champion Cowboy Mounted Shooter; she has set 17 world records and is the only woman in the history of the sport to have won the High Overall at the World Championship (this means this cowgirl beat all of the cowboys)! Kenda works with many companies in both the equestrian and firearms industry in endorsements and product development, and has signature lines of holsters, guns, saddles, gear.
Cheryl: Miss Kenda, first of all, congratulations! I know what you do takes an incredible amount of work and practice, not only to stay a proficient sharpshooter, and keep yourself conditioned as an athlete, but also to work out regularly with your partners in the sport – your horses. For those of us who are not familiar with your sport, help us better understand, what is mounted shooting?
Kenda Lenseigne: Mounted shooting is a timed event in which contestants must follow a pre-determined course and shoot at balloon targets using two .45 caliber single action revolvers, each loaded with 5 rounds of specially prepared blank ammunition. Each course consists of 10 targets (5 of each color). Riders must shoot all 5 of one color first, holster the first gun, draw the second and shoot the remaining 5 targets which are typically set in a row straight toward the finish line. Scoring is based on elapsed time, plus penalties if any. Penalties can include 5 seconds for each target missed or barrel knocked over. Our horses can often reach upwards of 35 mph on any given course, so the challenge is remaining accurate while also navigating turns and timing with the shots – while maintaining balance as well as control of the animal.
Cheryl: The Mounted Shooting arena where you perform your sport is similar to a rodeo enclosure, whether inside or outside. There are spectators sitting on every side of you. Knowing that firearms safety is of paramount importance to your sport, how are you able to fire a gun in an environment where you are literally surrounded 360-degrees by your audience while practicing safety and not hurting anyone? Is there a special ammunition involved?
Kenda Lenseigne: This is the number 1 question that comes up when folks see my videos or attend an event. To enable mounted shooters to shoot in a 360 environment, we are required to use only certified black powder blank ammunition. It’s a .45 caliber LC cartridge filled with black powder and crimped at the end, meaning, there is no projectile. The blanks are certified to travel no more than 20 feet before burning out completely; it is the burning powder than breaks the target. To further ensure spectator safety, the courses are set with targets that are no closer than 35 feet to any arena fence line, in the off chance that a stray ember may be present. During competitions, contestants are forbidden to use anything other than match provided ammunition (no home loads), and live ammo is strictly prohibited at all events, again safeguarding the protection of both contestants and spectators.
Cheryl: Your horses are your partners in this sport, and are your fellow World-Champion athletes. What special training is involved to acclimate your horses to the sound of gunfire?
Kenda: I start all of my gun horses with a .22 (Uberti USA 12 shot trainer) in what I like to call the “beehive” method. As horses are herd animals by nature, they often feel safety in numbers; I implement this concept when introducing the sound of gunfire by pairing the newbie horse up with a seasoned shooting horse who doesn’t react to the noise. Meaning, with a partner, I will walk next to the seasoned horse while they are firing (generally at a walk or slow jog). More often than not, the horse in training will feed off the confidence of the veteran horse. After they have accepted the sound, I will then move to the next step, which is a ½ load .45, and so on until the horse is fully confident.
Cheryl: Do they (and you) wear hearing protection?
Kenda Lenseigne: Yes, all of my horses wear earplugs. There are a variety of styles from pom-pom to high density foam. Depending on the horse, I generally start with a pom-pom plug, which looks exactly like the name implies – colorful tufts of plush material. Pom-poms don’t block the sound as much as a foam plug but is less intrusive when training the horse to accept something foreign in the ear. I will eventually move up to the foam plug once the horse is comfortable wearing them.
Cheryl: In addition to being a World-Champion competitor, you also train people and horses for this sport. For our readers who, after reading about Mounted Shooting, are now excited about the possibility of joining this sport, how do they get involved? Is there an ideal age for young people to begin? How many hours per week do you and your horses train to be World-Champion status?
Kenda Lenseigne: I teach clinics all over the US, from beginner to advanced, and also host guests at my ranch in Arizona for workshops. The best advice I can give to folks who want to get started is to align with a trainer in your area to get plugged in and acquire good habits and valuable skills from the get go.
There are so many aspects to the sport, as we are not just shooters, but also managing a 4-legged teammate with a mind of its own. No matter what type of goal we have, from weekend hobbyists to pro level, the sport has a place for everyone. One of the appealing aspects is that the whole family can participate. We have several families participating, from little ones all the way up to grandparents all riding at the same event. Kids 12 and under compete in the Wrangler Division, where they will ride the same course as the adults do, but use a cap gun, then dismount and shoot the targets from the ground. Scoring is based on their course time along with any penalties from the ground. It promotes the next generation of shooters and over time the kids who have grown up with the sport and are now riding in the pro classes.
There are Men’s, Women’s and Senior divisions with classes 1-to-6 within each division. Everyone, regardless of status in any other sport starts as a level 1, can move up thorough the classes based on number of qualified wins. This means, someone who is just getting started will ride with others who are also just getting started; these contestants wouldn’t have to compete against someone in the upper levels.
It’s the most challenging and rewarding sport I’ve even been involved with, and also the most fun!
Cheryl: Thank you so much for taking the time to help us fall in love with your sport and to better understand the incredible amount of dedication and work you and your horses put in.
Visit Kenda’s website to learn more about Mounted Shooting and to shop.