The Excitement of Indian Relay

As one of America’s oldest-known sporting competitions, Indian Relay is exploding in popularity, receiving long past-due recognition as one of the world’s most exciting extreme sports. Indian Relay dates back more than 400 years to when the horse was first re-introduced to the native cultures of the Americas. This exciting extreme sport is currently experiencing a surge in popularity, with tribal nations throughout Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota and beyond hosting relay teams in competitive events around the country.

Races include five teams consisting of three horses, one rider, one mugger and two holders. The rider races bareback around the track at full speed. Once around, the riders barely slow down as they leap from their horses to a second horse to continue the race. The teams’ muggers are tasked with catching their first powerful animal, as the holders retrain the other two horses until it is their turn to race with the rider. After a third chaotic changeover, the riders race toward the finish line, topping speeds of 40 miles per hour. 

Indian Relay may have developed independently within many Indian nations; different cultures have varying oral histories of its origin. For one tribe, the relay’s games simulated war trials; to another, a buffalo hunt; a third views it as a way to outrun the wild horses, enabling their capture. Whatever the origins of the relay, the importance of the horse to the Plains and Northwest tribes cannot be understated. The horse was considered sacred by many native cultures and revered by all. It was a major source of status and a most sought after prize. The Indian Relay provides the measure to test the horse, the rider and the team. 

The All Nations Indian Relay Championships is the culmination of 16 grueling competitions held June through September each year across Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota and Minnesota. Tribal nations throughout these states put up relay teams and risk it all for the pride of tradition and the glory of the win.

Visit Horse Nations Indian Relay for more information.

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Quick Facts

  • Relay locations: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota and Minnesota.
  • Spectators are welcome. Note that some events are standing room only, and most provide space for camping near the race track during the event.
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