Middlefield Horseback Rider Aims High

Kelly Sommers of Middlefield and her mare, Chyna, take horsemanship to a whole new level, as participate in the skill of cowboy mounted shooting.


Blues Chyna Girl is an American Quarter horse with a bit of an attitude. Nobody knows this better than her owner, Kelly Sommers of Middlefield, who has trained the horse since she acquired her at age two. 

Now, nine years later, Sommers and Chyna have become somewhat of a duo, seeking out and achieving new goals together. “While some are always seeking out the better horse, I’ve decided to stick it out with my crazy horse, I think it’s better this way.” 

Having always been a horse that loves to run, Chyna's participation in traditional horse show events seemed to leave the mare wanting more. Sommers took notice. She too was feeling a bit lost in the stressful world of horse showmanship.

About two years ago, Sommers' friend, Deb O’Donnell, introduced her to the world of cowboy mounted shooting. She recalls the nerves she had the day she earned her pistol license. The sport would prove to be no small challenge. She not only had to control her horse while running at a fast speed, but needed to be poised enough to shoot a 45 caliber pistol accurately. She would learn through trial and error and start participating in some events through the New England Six Shooters.

Mounted shooting contains many of the traits of an individual sport, but it becomes much more complex when you add in the factor of the galloping horse. Sommers admits that each competition brings on the challenge of doing her personal best.

“It’s a fine process of combining good shooting technique as well as good horsemanship skills.The elaborate costuming is part of the events allure. The events are clock-timed and 10 balloon targets are set up in differing patterns.

"You never really know the pattern until you get to the event," Sommers said.

When Sommers takes aim and shoots at the targets, gunpowder is dispersed from the pistol rather than an actual bullet. The ideal shot is taken from a ten to twelve foot range.

The six shooting world would prove to be a place where both Kelly and Chyna fit in. Kelly is drawn to its community of riders. It is here that both the horse and rider are thriving.

“The coolest thing is to harness all that energy I know she (Chyna) has and put it into a goal," Sommers said. 

Sommers' merits in the sport have quickly grown. In only a year and a half she has moved up the class ladder from beginner to a ladies level 3. Wearing her level one Connecticut State Champ belt, it probably wont be long before she finds her way to the sixth and highest level.

To get there, there will be a lot of traveling from Maine to New Hampshire and Ohio for training clinics and competitions. One of her favorite parts of the travel experience is the camp-out she has with her horse. She sometime’s travel with her parents, John and Debbie Sommers, who own Grace Meadows Farm and have been supportive since the start. They know the ropes from their years of horse experience.

Over the winter, she plans on building on her experience as a mounted shooter. In between her own training, she’s busy teaching horse lessons and doing dog grooming. Grace Meadow Farm leases and boards horses, runs a 4H and a Mini Mustang Club. Despite her daily bustle, she’s already looking forward to next year’s shooting season. Sommers realizes, “I am ready to commit and I plan on improving my skills”.

Sommers gives Chyna a treat and a pat for putting on a good show today as the sun begins to set on Grace Meadow Farm. It’s clear that this duo will be back for more adventure tomorrow.

Maria Nilson November 16, 2012 at 11:07 AM
Great article and great pictures! Kelly Sommers might become a new Annie Oakley, how exciting! And Chyna is BEAUTIFUL.


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