Rider Raul Gary Nomee takes the last lap during the first heat of the Indian Horse Relay

Courtesy Kyndall Harkness, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Rider Raul Gary Nomee takes the last lap during the first heat of the Indian Horse Relay

Bareback Jockeys Shock and Awe at First Indian Horse Relays

Ride bareback for a quarter-mile (after traveling close to Kentucky-Derby-like speeds); jump off of the first horse, and then, jump on to a second horse. Take the quarter-mile lap again on the second horse, and then, jump off the second horse to mount a third. Then, after finishing the third quarter mile, do it all again for the fourth time. This is what Native jockeys did at Canterbury Park's first presentation of the Indian Horse Relays.

Indian horse relay racing dates back hundreds of years, to the Great Plains tribes. The sport developed after horses were introduced to the continent by Europeans. Dressed in tribal regalia, with their faces and bodies painted in bright tribal colors, the Native riders tackled daredevil-like moves in front of spectators during the horse races in Shakopee, Minnesota. “It’s cool. It’s entertaining,” said jockey Nik Goodwin, to CanterburyLive.com. Goodwin is an Ojibwe from Bemidji. “It’s nuts, it’s crazy. I love it,” said onlooker Patrice Trimble.

Nine of the top teams from across the U.S., all from different tribes, competed in the event, according to the Minneapolis StarTribune. Each team consisted of three horses and four warriors: one rider, one holder, one set-up man and a horse catcher. The teams competed in two heats per night. A group of Crow singers sang an ancient tribute to the riders before each race.

Josh Osborn, a member of the Sho-Ban Nation, won the first heat of the night, but failed to take the second heat. That was claimed by Ferlin Blacksmith. Blacksmith, a member of the Crow in Montana, was encouraged to ride by his cousins. He is competing for the first time in this event, but has previous experience in another arena.

“I rode bulls until I was 18,” he told CanterburyLive.com. “Yes, that helps some.”

“This was really cool,” Scott Stevens told CanterburyLive.com. “I was impressed at how fit the horses were, too.” 

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Bareback Jockeys Shock and Awe at First Indian Horse Relays

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