The 2016 PIHRA races are off to an exciting start, and even more exciting, the finals will be taking place in Billings, Montana, which is close enough for us to go, so it looks like we’ll be taking a week in September. Maybe two, if we make wacipi earlier in September. From Lakota Country Times:
According to the PIHRA website “Indian relay is America’s oldest sport. It dates back over 400 years to when the horse was first re-introduced to the native cultures of the America’s. Lakota culture insists that this was in fact the second coming of the horse and its reintroduction and in fact the relationship to the plains cultures and the horse is perhaps much older than that is realized. Archeology seems to support that view.”
The PIHRA would add, “It appears that Indian relay developed independently amongst the Indian nations. Different cultures have different oral histories of its origins and most likely they are all true representations. To one tribe relay was used as war games, to another a relay to hunt the buffalo, to another a way to outrun the wild horses to enable their capture,” said the PIHRA.
The Modern version of the sport is currently experiencing a time of rapid growth and has over 50 teams currently vying for one of thirty spots in this year’s World Championships set to be held in Billings, MT on September, 22, 2016.
During the relay portion of the race Riders and Holders line up and await a starting gunshot. After the start riders leap on horses and race three laps exchanging horses after each lap. Fifteen horses and 20 warriors are on the track at the same time working for that seamless exchange. Each team consists of a rider, an Exchange Holder who holds the horse the rider mounts, a Mugger who catches the horse the rider jumps off, and a Back Holder who’s job it is to secure the extra horse during horse rotation.
The PIHRA requires team members to be dressed in tribal theme oriented regalia or traditional ribbon shirts while the rider’s regalia will display moccasins, breechcloths and/or leggings. All horses will be marked with traditional tribal war paint and decorations in colors determined by team tradition which may include medicine and feathers and any distinguishing personal symbol, mark and color.
There’s much more to read and see at Professional Indian Horse Racing Association. Check the schedules, if you’re going to be in the areas this year, grab a ticket.