Shoshone Bannock Tribe competitors went head to head last night at the Ranch Rodeo in Blackfoot. The Indian Relay race was the final event of the evening, closing day 1 of the rodeo.
Indian relay racing has become a staple of this Blackfoot Ranch Rodeo and many others. However, what makes this event unlike anything else, is that it’s a tradition that dates back more than 500 years. To this day, tribal families are actively passing this legacy on to the younger generation.
The Indian Relay racing has been a part of the Shoshone and Bannock Tribal culture because the sport of Indian Relay racing originated here with the Shoshone and Bannock people. Many Tribal families continue these horse traditions and are actively passing this legacy on to younger generations. A Indian Relay team consists of three horses and four team members, a rider, a catcher (mugger) and two holders. Indian Relay Racing is increasing in popularity for fans, new teams from different tribes, and to a national venues.
Lagrand Coby, the president of the Indian Horse Racing Association has been a part of horse racing for more than 40 years. He says the race always draws a crowd.
“I talk to a lot of people, non-members, come from all over just to watch the relays here in Blackfoot,” Coby said.
It’s a dangerous sport and requires a lot of teamwork. Each team has four people and three horses. The rider makes three laps around the racetrack, switching to a new horse at the beginning of each lap. The horse transfer is one of the most challenging parts of the race but often the most entertaining to watch. Two holder wait for their lap, holding onto the next horse.
Xivier Big Hair, an Indian Relay Race competitor says he gets nervous before each race but, he loves continuing the family tradition. “It’s a lot of pressure because you got to put a lot of work into it. But it feels good to keep the racing going,” Big Hair said.