You probably can’t ride one, dismount one and literally jump on another with the nimbleness of a Blackfoot, a Sioux, a Sho-Ban or a Crow.
Even these daredevils frequently overshoot their intended targets and wind up on the other side of a moving, rearing or prancing horse – on the ground.
Nonetheless, they awed even the regular riders at Canterbury Park Thursday night, the jockeys, who en masse crowed the winner’s circle to watch the first of two heats in the Indian Relay Championships.
The winner of heat one was Josh Osborn, a member of the Sho-Ban Nation from Fort Hall, Idaho.
The awestruck were some of Canterbury’s regular riders. Who better than a jockey to appreciate bareback riders who appear part of their animals as they run.
“It’s cool. It’s entertaining,” said jockey Nik Goodwin, an Ojibwe from Bemidji.
Patrice Trimble had a somewhat different set of premises but a similar conclusion. “It’s nuts, it’s crazy. I love it,” she said.
Dressed in tribal regalia, their bodies and faces painted and their horses, too, the Indian riders in heat one hailed from Garry Owen, Mont., Eagle Butte, S.D., Browning, Mont. And, of course, Fort Hall.
“This was really cool,” said Scott Stevens. I was impressed at how fit the horses were, too.”
“Yeah, it really was,” said rider Jake Barton. Those guys can ride.”
Jockey Lori Keith got caught up in the action, too.
“That was really different. It was exciting,” she said.
Before each race, a group of Crow singers sang a tribal song, one of them an ancient, sacred tribute to young men.
“That was appropriate,” said Corky Oldhorn, a member of the group. “It was to honor young men as they give their all.” An ancient Crow song, Oldhorn could not prescribe years to it. “It has been with us from time immemorial,” he said.
That song preceded the second heat of the night, won by 21-year-old Ferlin Blacksmith, the rider for the Holds the Enemy team from the Crow Agency in Montana.
One of the group’s songs before the first race was an honor song as well. “It basically said that nothing lasts forever,” Oldhorn explained. “So make something happen with your generosity.”
A second song followed the first heat. “That was basically a pow wow song,” Oldhorn said. It was written about 30 years ago by Oldhorn’s brother, Sarge Oldhorn.
Blacksmith is competing for the first year, but has previous experience in another arena that has prepared him for the rodeo aspects of Indian Relay Racing.
“I rode bulls until I was 18,” he said. “Yes, that helps (with relay racing) some.”
He was encouraged to ride this year by his brothers, he said. “Well, they are actually my cousins,” Blacksmith added, “but they are my brothers, now.”
Canterbury Park Hall of Fame horseman Dan Mjolsness was impressed with Canterbury’s first presentation of relay racing.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “Those kids are really good riders.”
Jockey Pat Canchari enjoyed the presentation as well.
“It was a really good show. I like it,” he said.
His brother, Alex, who pulled within two wins of Dean Butler in the rider standings with wins in Thursday’s eighth and ninth races, had a succinct but apt appraisal of the show, the riders in particular:
“I’ll tell you what,” he said. “Those guys really have balls.”
THE MEET IS CLOSING FAST
Only two cards remain to the 2013 season, but the meet is coming to a close on an impressive note. Rusty Shaw rode a 50-1 winner in the sixth race, Clever Endeaver for trainer Red Rarick, a return of $109.40 on a two-dollar ticket. Israel Hernandez rode the winner of race five, Mischief Mo, who paid $89 to win.
This blog was written by Canterbury Staff Writer Jim Wells. Wells was a longtime sportswriter at the Pioneer Press and is a member of the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.