Laura Parmentier-Wilson, Union, wears the holster and guns she uses in mounted shooting competitions as she poses with her horse Loni's Delight, aka Sonny. The buckle on her belt is her latest prize for taking first in the ladies overall contest at the Lone Star Classic back in October. Her next competition, the Missouri State Championship, is this weekend in Lake Saint Louis.

Cowgirl bling. That’s how Laura Parmentier-Wilson described the flashy belt buckle in her hand as she looped it onto an even flashier belt to pose with her horse, Loni’s Delight, affectionately known as Sonny.

A reserved young woman who doesn’t usually like to draw too much attention to herself, Parmentier-Wilson, Union, is proud of this latest buckle, an award for winning the Ladies Overall Title and the Amateur AQHA (American Quarter Horse Association) division at the Lone Star Classic, a cowboy mounted shooting competition held Oct. 11-14 in Vernon, Texas.

“Lone Star Champion Cowgirl” it reads.

The buckle is pretty to look at, but what means more to Parmentier-Wilson is what it stands for — her first major title win and a time that was just a quarter of a second behind first place overall.

“That’s not even the blink of an eye,” said Bob Myers, who is like a grandfather to Parmentier-Wilson.

“She’s really good,” he added with a smile. “She sure puts on a show.”

Parmentier-Wilson is hoping to bring home more “bling” this weekend when she competes in the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association (CMSA) Missouri State Championship in Lake Saint Louis.

The competition will be held at the National Equestrian Center, 6880 Lake Saint Louis Blvd., Feb. 23-24, beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday. The event is open to the public, and there is no admission charge for spectators.

What Is Mounted Shooting?

Described as the “fastest growing equine sport in the nation,” cowboy mounted shooting looks like a scene straight out of the Old West with men and women riding in traditional gear, gun in hand, shooting at targets.

The contests are timed and they move fast — at the Lone Star Classic, Parmentier-Wilson’s time was less than a minute: 58.249 seconds (the first-place overall time was 58.003 seconds).

Mounted contestants wear a holster with two .45 caliber single action revolvers each loaded with five rounds of specially prepared black powder ammunition (no bullets are used).

Contests feature different courses or patterns for the riders to follow, and some are more challenging than others. There are dozens of courses available, and each contest will include multiple courses for riders to complete.

Each course has 10 balloon targets — five blue, five red, said Parmentier-Wilson. The rider has to “shoot” the first set of targets before going after the second set.

“The first half (five targets) of a course of fire will vary with each go and requires the horse and rider to stop, turn, change leads and accelerate rapidly,” according to the Missouri Big Irons Cowboy Mounted Shooting website, “The second set, called the ‘rundown,’ is a straight course with targets set at 36-foot intervals.”

Riders are penalized for missing targets or knocking over barrels set up to mark the course.

Time is critical, though. Parmentier-Wilson recalled one competition where she missed a target, but still won because her time was that much faster than the others.

Competing for Six Years

Growing up in Union, daughter of the late Vic and late Cheryl Parmentier, Parmentier-Wilson has been around horses her whole life and began competing in equine sports at a young age.

She started out in western pleasure and showmanship, then ran barrels with her sister. About six years ago a friend who had started mounted shooting encouraged Parmentier-Wilson to give it a try, so she took her mare, Trissy, to a practice to see what it was all about and hasn’t looked back since.

“The people (in mounted shooting) are so nice,” she remarked. “They are the nicest I’ve ever met.

“They gave me a set of guns and a holster to use.”

Parmentier-Wilson, who had grown up deer hunting, was familiar enough with shooting to get started.

“I thought it would be fun, a whole new challenge,” she said.

With her father’s blessing and support, Parmentier-Wilson purchased a set of Ruger Montados .45 caliber single-action revolvers.

Part of the challenge of mounted shooting is in being able to handle and operate the revolvers while riding. Parmentier-Wilson said each time she wants to shoot, she has to cock the hammer and pull the trigger.

In completing a mounted shooting course, riders are holding onto the horse’s reins with one hand with their other outstretched aiming at the target. And while the revolver isn’t heavy, it easily weighs a couple of pounds.

It’s not uncommon for riders to drop their gun while running a course, said Parmentier-Wilson, explaining that riders have to switch guns in the middle of the course — placing the spent revolver back in the holster after the first set of targets is complete and grabbing the fresh one for the second set.

That’s why practice becomes so critical, said Parmentier-Wilson, noting her husband, Stephen Wilson, who made a name for himself in mounted shooting competition but who now competes mainly in rodeo events, helps her train.

“We do lots of drills,” said Parmentier-Wilson, “not so much patterns, but lots of dry firing to practice muscle memory.

“I sit on the back of the mule (vehicle) shooting at paper plates.”

Preparing for any competition, however, is more about staying in the right frame of mind, Parmentier-Wilson stressed.

“Like anything, it’s 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical,” she remarked.

Parmentier-Wilson said she enters big shoots about once a month, but that she tries to go to as many as she can. The farthest she’s ever traveled is to Las Vegas.

She and her husband have a 2-year-old son, Westen, whom they leave behind in the care of close family friends.

Winning brings with it a cash prize, as well as prestige, but for Parmentier-Wilson, it’s more about achieving her goal.

“To me it’s more of the accomplishment,” she said. “I set goals and I want to be the best that I can be with my horse.

“I strive for that every time that I ride.”

Horse of Year

Parmentier-Wilson is quick to share credit for all of her wins with her horse, Sonny, who at 15 years old is still going strong. He actually was her husband’s horse first, but since he has moved more into rodeo competitions, he found Laura’s mare better for roping.

“Sonny’s just a good horse,” said Parmentier-Wilson. “He’s one of those that not everybody gets the privilege to own.”

His personality is what makes him special, she said.

“He’ll never quit on you and just has a winning heart,” she said, recalling one of Stephen’s competitions where he ran — unbeknownst to her husband — on a fractured leg.

“He will crawl across the finish line. He’s just a very good animal, a great personality.

“He appreciates the care you give him, and he’s always happy to see you.”

Several years ago, when Stephen was riding him in mounted shooting competitions, Sonny was ranked as one of the top 10 mounted shooting horses in the sport, said Parmentier-Wilson.

That’s based on times and wins.

And he’s been nominated for Mounted Shooting Horse of the Year again, said Parmentier-Wilson.