So the wild west included cowboys and Indians! 

Can you remember watching an old cowboy and Indian movie where the cowboys were chased by a group of Indians riding full pelt?  Always bareback racing across the great plains? Sometimes you would see the early settlers horse wagon attacked by a band of native Indians.  

The cowboys and Indians of the early west had a profound respect for the horse. The native Indians used the horse in hunting for food and especially for Buffalo on the great plains. They also used horses for travelling from reservation to reservation. The cowboy also used the horse for transport and rounding up their cattle and herding them from place to place. The great horse culture of the American Indian and the cowboy forever binds them together, although not for the reasons Hollywood would have us always believe.  

 How did Indian relay races originate? 

The sport of Indian relay racing originates with the Plains native American Indian tribes stealing horses when they were at war with each other. Many native Indians used horses to travel to and from different reservations, some for hunting and to find food. Today the Indian relay races are particularly important in terms of cultural preservation to the Native American folk on whose land it is held. 

Who participates in Indian relay races? 

The teams consist of four people with one rider riding bareback, sometimes face-painted, with traditional garb and headdress. With three horses, two holders and a ‘mugger’ (horse catcher) compete for honour alongside cash and prizes. 

The rider starts by jumping onto the horse and rides bareback. After each lap, the rider must jump off the moving horse and jump onto a new one for a total of three laps. This can lead to a lot of chaos and excitement when switching horses.  As it is easy for another horse from another team to interfere or a rider could fall off his horse.  

Why is Indian relay racing so popular? 

Indian relay races have become immensely popular in the States due to the big prize money on offer.  The Indian relay race event is also helping to revive the rodeo and a big crowd pull. Some races require traditional Indian costumes by the participants and there are additional prizes for costuming.   

It is an extreme sport as there is no saddle and the competitors are riding at full speed which spectators find very gripping and at times heart-stopping. 

Where are these events held? 

Each July in Sheridan, Wyoming in the US, the local rodeo offers the hugely popular “World Championship Indian Relay Races”, including the usual rodeo offers of bronc and barrel racing etc.  Other celebrated contests are held at the Crow Fair in Billings, Montana, and the Championship of Champions at Walla Walla in Washington as well as many other venues across the states. 


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