Three years ago, Tammy Sronce was a shooting star — literally.
She was a top-ranked cowgirl in the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association and held multiple national and world titles, a formidable force in one of the fastest-rising equestrian sports in the country.
Sronce could outride and outshoot the best of them.
And then her life took a hit.
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On Jan. 21, 2012, Sronce and a friend were on their way home from the Fort Worth Stock Show when they were involved in a two-car crash on Camp Bowie Boulevard. Sronce’s head slammed into the passenger-side window, causing a brain injury and a neurological condition that left her housebound and unable to ride for 11/2 years.
“I was so light- and sound-sensitive that I couldn’t leave the house,” said Sronce, 37, of Burleson. “I had migraines 20 out of 30 days of the month. It was just debilitating. When you put all your eggs in one basket and that basket breaks, it’s devastating.”
But now, Sronce is back — with guns a-blazin’.
On Wednesday, Sronce was a top contender in the Stock Show’s “Shootout,” the annual mounted-shooting competition in the Justin Arena. She placed in the top 10 in the Ladies Pro Division.
On her beloved 18-year-old horse, Handsome, Sronce was among 81 riders who participated in the all-day, high-energy competition, which is the work of LoneStar Productions, a local club affiliated with the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association.
Hitting bull’s-eye with fans
As usual, the event proved to be a crowd-pleaser.
“This is my third time to see mounted shooting,” said Paula Tillman, a self-proclaimed Stock Show “addict” who attends various events daily. “I came for the first time three years ago with my husband, and we just loved it.”
This time, Tillman brought her friend Nancy Kerr, who had never seen the sport.
“I really like it,” Kerr said. “I love seeing the horses and their speed.”
Mounted shooting is a fast-paced timed event in which contestants use two .45-caliber single-action revolvers, with black powder blanks, to shoot 10 balloon targets set in a pattern. The goal is to ride fast and shoot clean. The burning embers in the blank pop the balloon.
This is the fourth year the Stock Show has hosted the competition, which featured shooters this year ranging in age from 14 to 66. The top competitors split a $10,000 purse.
“It’s really a fantastic venue,” said Zane Chunn, 17, of Fort Smith, Ark., a competitor and the event announcer who placed first in the Men’s Pro Division.
“The energy surrounding the Stock Show and Rodeo makes it really exciting. Fort Worth is a great place to compete because of its Western heritage and the atmosphere.”
‘Just glad to be here’
For Sronce, competing at the Stock Show wasn’t about winning. It was about coming full circle.
“I’m just glad to be here,” said Sronce, a native of Australia. “So much has happened.”
In January 2013 — a year after the crash — Sronce underwent occipital neuralgia surgery in Houston. The operation relieved pressure on damaged nerves in her head, which had been causing migraines, sensitivity, slurred speech and short-term memory loss.
Two months later, she was cleared to ride for five minutes every two days. Eventually, she started going on walks and trail rides, which led her back to the competition arena.
“It was scary for me,” Sronce said. “I had to relearn my balance and my confidence.”
Wearing a helmet — instead of a cowboy hat — was also an adjustment, she said.
“It’s a Western sport and I thought everyone was going to look at me and laugh,” said Sronce, now a sponsor for Troxel helmets. “… Then I realized they didn’t care about the helmet; they cared that I was back. Once I understood that, it was much easier for me.”
‘Are you kidding me?’
Then Sronce had another setback.
In December 2013 — two months after she had a solid showing at the CMSA World Championship in Amarillo — her saddle broke while she was riding at her home. She fell on her gun and broke three ribs and punctured a lung.
“I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’” Sronce said. “I was just getting started.”
And so she started again.
Last year, finally feeling confident and strong, Sronce competed in more than 20 competitions and won numerous local, state and regional championships, including the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame Shootout in Fort Worth.
When she is not shooting guns on horseback, Sronce pursues her other passions: She’s the director of operations for Road to the Horse, a world championship colt-starting competition, and she serves on the committee of Freedom Horses, a nonprofit organization that uses equine therapy to help survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and other crimes.
Sronce accepts that some days are better than others. She still suffers from headaches and forgetfulness. But she’s just happy to be back on her horse — and on with her life.
“I don’t sweat the small stuff,” Sronce said. “I like to win, but now if I don’t win, it’s not the end of the world for me. I’m just grateful to wake up without a migraine. I think that makes me different than before.
“There are a lot of things that I can’t do, but I’m very grateful for the things that I can.”