Ivan Gandrud’s token move up dance involves a jig around his cowboy hat. [Photo: Lily Rodgers]

The cowboy mounted shooting discipline has many audience-engaging things to offer competitors and fans. Horses running at break-neck speeds, smoking gunfire, and incredible feats of horsemanship all combine into a thrilling event for everyone. But it’s what happens after the action that is unique to any other equestrian discipline out there – the move-up dance.

It matters not if a competitor has moves like a Latin ballroom dancer, can cut a rug with their Polka steps, or has two left feet. The move-up dance is an unwritten rule in the cowboy mounted shooting discipline that has everyone planning (or anguishing) over their next time in the spotlight.

“All in good nature, we demand a ‘dance’ of some sort. They have been done in very creative ways over the years. Some rather quiet people have surprised all of us with their boldness,” chuckled Jim Rodgers, founder of the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association and Chairman of the Board until 2020.

The Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association classifies competitors into six levels of skill and splits classes by gender. All mounted shooters begin as level one competitors and must demonstrate skill and ability development by achieving a designated number of class wins to move up to the next level.

Wins must be qualified or have the required number of competitors in that class to count towards the win. Taking level one, as an example, for a win to qualify toward a move-up, there shall be at least three level one competitors within the appropriate division in the match. The move-up dance is triggered once a competitor has garnered the required number of qualified wins.

When any competitor “moves up” to the next level of competition, they are celebrated through a move-up dance they perform in front of fellow competitors and fans during the award ceremony following the match.

“You literally want to jump and dance for joy,” said Rodgers, “Everyone wants you to publicly celebrate as you enter a new group and level of competitors.”

Beth Brown demonstrates a fancy knee-hand jive for her move up dance. [Photo: Lily Rodgers]

As one rumor has it, the move-up dance was born from a challenge tossed out between two competitors in the early days of the sport. These claims cannot be confirmed or denied. However, what is known is that the original move-up dance was a “Chapin” where competitors who moved up to a new competitor level were goodheartedly, “whooped with a pair of chaps, then it did evolve into the dance up,” said veteran mounted shooter Diana Olson.

The move-up dance is just one more example of the fun-loving, family-oriented, and encouraging atmosphere and culture that cowboy mounted shooting fosters and promotes.

“The spirit of the game is always kindness and sharing. This dance tradition is symbolic of the great family and loving atmosphere of mounted shooting events,” said Rodgers.

If you’re looking for something that will improve your horsemanship, grow your friend group, and leave you asking why you waited so long, check out North Dakota Mounted Shooters online at or search for North Dakota Mounted Shooters on Facebook. The organization and those who support the sport are continually providing learning opportunities for all skill levels beginners to world champions. 

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