LETHBRIDGE – The first sport ever in North America, some 400 years old depending who you ask, is coming back to the Rocky Mountain Turf Club this weekend.
The Indian Relay Races Invitational will be taking place on Saturday, Sept. 22 and Sunday, Sept. 23 beginning at 1 p.m. each day.
Back in June, the Rocky Mountain Turf Club hosted the Indian Relay Race Invitational and CEO Max Gibb revealed it was the most successful event they've had in terms of bets received.
That played a factor in planning another event just a few months later, and Gibb says he could see them hosting two or three events a year going forward.
“But not taking away from any existing venues. They’re doing events at Kainai, Standoff, Peigan, Brocket and across the Blackfoot and Cree territories. We want to be a filler and we know we have the ideal facility. You can see the whole half-mile track and the grandstand suits it phenomenally,” Gibb said, adding they want to support it because they believe it’s a way for people to come to understand their Blackfoot brothers.
An Indian Relay Race consists of a team with three horses, one rider, one catcher, one exchange holder and one back holder.
At the start, the rider will have both feet on the ground while the catcher holders onto the horse and the rest of the teams will be in designated boxes located in front of the grandstand.
A team's rider makes three one-half mile laps around the track, changing to a new horse at the beginning of each lap.
Two teammates stand at the edge of the track holding and calming the waiting horses for the incoming rider.
The fourth teammate's job is to catch the arriving horse while the rider dismounts and leaps onto the next horse. The exchanges are the sport's signature action, while the riders are dressed in full regalia.
Gibb is passionate about his support for Indian Relay Races because of the history first nations participation with the horse.
“I don’t know if people understand how close the relationship of the horse and people was. The sport developed as a sport after it was used originally for Buffalo hunting, they would relay horses to get the Buffalo going in the right direction. At war with their enemies, with catching wild horses they used the relay process and then it became competitive.”
The sport was lost for a little bit but now it’s making a humongous comeback.
Gibb says he personally believes it’s the most extreme sport in North America.
“There are contests all over, and we have some of the best competitors coming from Montana and Alberta,” Gibb continued. “They’re as good as anyone in the world and are competing at a high level.”
He’s encouraging people to come out and experience it for themselves firsthand this weekend if they haven’t seen the races before.
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