Sunday, November 29, 2015 • 09:15

VC resident awarded state championship in Cowboy Mounted Shooting

Kenny Lawson competes during the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association's state finals held March 23.
April 02, 2014
Local resident Kenny Lawson rode to the top when he took away top honors at the 2014 CMSA Overall California State Finals held by the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association last weekend. Not only did he win the state show, he also won as a clean shooter, won his division, and won the eliminator.

"He really cleaned house," said Leann Berry, Lawson's fiancé.

The California State Finals are held every year with different clubs hosting the event. This year the SoCal CMSA was the host at the Murrieta Equestrian Park in Murrieta.

Although Lawson has only been practicing the sport for one year, he won the title vying against a Northern California opponent who has been competing for 14 years.

A national sport, cowboy mounted shooting has been in existence for 20 years. It involves major sponsors for competitors who travel around the country seeking titles, cash, and prizes such as high-quality buckles. The world championship is held in Amarillo, Texas.

In the sport, there are six levels of achievement. Everyone begins at level one. To move to level two, the participant must win four matches at full class. If the win occurs with less competitors than full class, the win doesn't count as a move-up.

"The highest level is a lot more competitive," said Berry. "It indicates a level of expertise and experience and involves more time and commitment."

Lawson competes at level two whereas Berry and their three children compete at level one, but Rylee Lawson, a sophomore in high school only needs one more win to compete at level two.

Cowboy mounted shooting is a timed event in which the competitor going through the course the fastest shooting the most balloons wins the competition. There are ten balloons in every course with a gun change after the first five balloons. There is a five-second penalty if a balloon is missed. A contender can't miss and win unless the competitors are missing. There are 60 different courses in varying levels of difficulty. The event takes 12 to 20 seconds to complete depending on the course. The competition involves skill, accuracy, and speed.

Berry described watching the state championship as being extremely competitive and nerve racking.

"We didn't know who had won until they tallied up the results," said Berry who wanted Lawson to win because she knows how committed he is to the sport and horses. "It was very close, down to hundredths of a second. It was such an intense battle. It wasn't one of those oh you've got this. We knew it was close and we had a chance.

"It is pleasing to the eye to watch Kenny ride," she said. "He is such an eloquent rider."

Berry said she was nervous when the winners were announced.

"It felt like hours before the announcement was made," said Berry after Lawson was declared champion. She said it was quite an accomplishment because Lawson was the first rider in all six stages of the different courses, a difficult position to compete in.

If a competitor rides 10th or 11th, it affords the opponent the opportunity to study previous riders. Lawson won the state championship and the clean shooter division as well shooting all 70 targets without missing any balloons. He was awarded the highly-coveted Montana Silversmith buckle.

"We have been aware of the sport for many years," said Berry. "So one day we decided we wanted to give it a try."

The family attended the practice with the Roy Rogers Rangers.

"We had a blast," said Berry. "It was introduced to the family. We tried it once and now the whole family is hooked."

In fact, their 13-year-old son Dylan won in the division of adult men. The three children have been riding since they were four to six years-old.

Lawson is a third generation horse trainer. He and Berry are proprietors of The Silver Dollar Ranch in Valley Center, a family-owned ranch where they train horses in the sport of cowboy mounted shooting.

"All our horses seem to really enjoy the sport and all five have big wins under their belts," said Berry.

Berry believes that the key to professional horse training is the foundation of training and education.

"Kenny has a special way of making children feel safe and confident in helping them grow in the experience after working with him," said Berry who feels Lawson is diligent in practicing every day and has a proven method. "Kenny is passionate about helping people develop their horses, riding ability, and growing the sport of cowboy mounted shooting."

For more information about horse training at The Silver Dollar Ranch and the sport of cowboy mounted shooting, visit

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