By day, Carl Watson of Creston manages customer care for the Winterset center of AgriVision (formerly Barker Implement).
In his spare time, Watson is a cowboy in the truest sense of the wild west in 13-second bursts of action.
Watson placed fifth in the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) Cowboy Mounted Shooting World Championship held March 20-22 at Houston, Texas. His wife, Donna, is secretary in the superintendent’s office for Creston Community Schools. Their daughters, Rebecca and Kelsey, are also active in equestrian events.
Cowboy mounted shooting is gaining popularity nationwide, and the event joined the AQHA family of world shows in 2012. Cowboys ride on horseback during the timed competition and shoot at targets, which are balloons on PVC pipes.
According to the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association, two .45 caliber single action revolvers are used. Single action means you have to pull the hammer before each time you shoot.
Watson has been doing mounted shooting for only 10 years, yet only four competitors finished ahead of him in the open division at the AQHA World Finals. He was perfect on his targets as he was timed in 13.789 seconds in his finals stage while riding Whatta Golden Zippo.
World champion Chad Little of Minnesota was timed in 12.397 seconds. So, Watson was barely a second over world-champion status.
“It gets pretty busy quick,” Watson said in an understatement.
Watson was one of 67 competitors in the open division at Houston. All qualified through their performances in events during the 2013 season.
There was one show in particular that Watson and Whatta Golden Zippo performed well in, triggering his first invitation to the world finals.
“I think the one that put me over the top was the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association Nationals in Tunica, Miss., back in April,” Watson said.
“Once we got to Houston, we had qualifying rounds,” Watson said. “Two stages were set up. The top 15 got to come back for the finals.”
The final round was just one stage, with 10 targets.
“We carry two revolvers,” Watson said. “The first five targets are set up to showcase your horsemanship skills — rollbacks, accelerate, decelerate. The last five are typically on a straight rundown to showcase speed. Both the horse’s speed and your marksmanship skills at a high rate of speed.”
It’s the ultimate in multitasking. Delicate horse maneuvering, bursts of speed, and all the while, cocking the revolver and firing it accurately. Penalties for missing a target would have knocked Watson out of the running for a top-five finish.
Whatta Golden Zippo is an American Quarterhorse stallion raised by the Watsons as an offspring of the stallion shown by his daughters in 4-H competition.
Watson said this event is the perfect melding of two primary interests.
“I used to compete in other shooting sports,” Watson said. “I got introduced to cowboy mounted shooting about 10 years ago. We ended up forming the first club near Story City.”
In two weeks, both Carl and Rebecca will be back in that national event. Perhaps another world championships invitation will be on the line.
Anyone interested in watching cowboy mounted shooting closer to home can attend a competition planned by the Iowa Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association June 7-8 at the Union County Fairgrounds in Afton. Bruce Travis and Todd Jackson are local organizers.