Mounted shooter Kenda Lenseigne has drawn new attention to her sport.
By Tom Wilmes
Kenda Lenseigne’s record-breaking rise in Cowboy Mounted Shooting was not foretold by her offbeat start. When the sport was in its infancy in the mid-’90s, Lenseigne saw several riders give a demonstration at a Southern California rodeo. One of the shooters bantered with the announcer, saying, “This sport’s so easy anyone can do it. Let’s pick someone out of the audience and let them try.”
Though she’d never held a gun before in her life, Lenseigne volunteered and was given a quick training session on how to fire a single-action revolver. “They strapped a gun belt on me, and away I went,” she says. She soon became hooked on the sport.
Lenseigne, 37, had a natural knack for riding, having sat a horse since she was old enough to hold her head up. After high school, the Washington-state native moved to Texas to work with some of the country’s top trainers, and she’s been training horses (and riders) ever since. She moved back to Washington in 2003 and founded the Washington State Mounted Shooters, a charter club of the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association. The CMSA has since grown to include 98 clubs and nearly 11,000 members worldwide.
“I’ve seen [mounted shooting] evolve from a backyard ‘let’s-go-around-and-shoot-balloons’ activity into a professional sport,” says Lenseigne, who in 2009 became the first (and only) woman to win the Overall World and National Championships. She’s also a four-time World Point Champion Cowgirl and holds seven world records. “Now it’s where someone like me can make a career out of it.”
Earlier this year the American Quarter Horse Association recognized mounted shooting as an official discipline, and top events are starting to be televised. And major sponsors have gotten involved. (Lenseigne represents Circle Y Saddles, Professional’s Choice, and Cruel Girl Clothing, among others.)
“She’s paid her dues,” says Ken Amorosano, publisher of Western Shooting Horse magazine, which has put Lenseigne on its cover twice. “It was really a guy’s sport at first, and then people like Kenda came along and changed the game. She’s one of the best horsewomen you’ll meet anywhere.”
Meanwhile, the competition has intensified and championships are won and lost in the span of a stride. Lenseigne trains hard to stay on top.
“Mental preparation is key,” she says. “A run is only 10 seconds, but it can feel like a lifetime. If you’ve ever been thrown from a horse, think about how many things fly through your mind before you hit the ground. You can use that to your advantage if you stay focused on the desired result.”