First Nations athletes go neck and neck July 7 in Maskwacis during the Indian Horse Racing event held at the Panee Agriplex over two days. It’s a wild event that had attendees excited for more. Photo by Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye

Indian horse racing excites and delights in Maskwacis during the World Indigenous Nations Games

Athletes around the world converged on Alberta to take part in the World Indigenous Nations Games

When it comes to Indian Horse Racing the key is knowing you’ll be in for one wild ride.

Maskwacis shared the role of host for the World Indigenous Nations Games 2017, which were held in different areas of Alberta from July 1 to 9 and Indian Relay Horse Racing was among the many events.

The many sports included were: two person canoeing, swimming, soccer, basketball, bow and arrow, log race, spear throwing, tug of strength and lacrosse. Sporting demonstrations included the horse racing, Denesuline hand games, strongman games and Inuit games.

The week was a celebration of Indigenous cultures and sports from around the world and drew international press and acclaim.

On the horse racing side of things, the demonstration was hosted by the Canadian Indian Relay Racing Association July 7 and 8. The association hopes to garner further interest in the Indigenous sport.

President Dexter Bruisedhead said the event is starting to see growth in Canada and is fairly strong in the United States. “We’re pushing it a lot further north,” said Bruisedhead.

He was excited to share the sport with attendees pointing out that the relay races haven’t been this far north in many years. Indeed, the Calgary Stampede held an exhibition of the races this year, another aspect that Bruisedhead was pleased to see.

“Next year these very teams that have raced here, you may see those teams at the Calgary Stampede, competing there for who knows how much money,” said Bruisedhead.

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The horse races and relays are as real and wild as it gets with a team preparing a race horse for a rider. When that rider completes the track, they mount a fresh horse and run it again for a total of three runs.

The element of an excited crowd and spirited horses made it so some riders would be in the lead and when they got onto their next horse they would end up falling behind due to a variety of factors. Sometimes the horse would want to go in another direction or the rider would lose his grip on the reins.

This was just another addition that made the event an exciting one. It’s all about balance, skill and a love for horses, said Bruisedhead.

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“You’ve gotta really love horses and be able to ride well.”

His hope for the sport is to see riders competing for big dollars at the Calgary Stampede and to have enough athletes to make it a day long racing event. “What it does is it really brings back the culture.”

“If you’ve ever rode horses it is therapy,” he added.

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He feels there’s a few other rodeos, like the Ponoka Stampede that would be able to enhance their wild west experience with the relay races. Bruisedhead says the group is working on developing its website and Facebook page in the hopes of growing the sport in the area.

 

The Indian Horse Relay Racing held July 7 and 8 in Maskwacis was an exciting event as part of the World Indigenous Nations Games 2017. Here a team readies a spirited horse for their rider. Photos by Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye

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