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About Indian Relay Racing

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The Riders & The Horses

Indian Relay participants are fearless, agile athletes with amazing balance, stamina, and strength.
Indian Relay is a tradition that dates back to Buffalo hunting days.

 The horse is considered sacred by many native cultures and revered by all. It is 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.

As AMERICA’S OLDEST EXTREME SPORT, Indian Relay Horse Racing is currently growing in popularity, receiving long, past-due recognition as one of the country’s most exciting extreme sports. Races begin with six athletes riding bareback around a ½ mile track at full speed. There are 3 horses for each rider with 2 exchanges. In the sport of Indian Relay, the rider is both the commander and the baton.

Team members

Each Indian Relay Horse Racing team consists of four members; the Rider, Mugger, Set-Up Man and the Back Holder.


The rider makes three laps around the track, jumping off one horse on to a another horse after each lap. This exchange is known as the “STORM”. When riders and horses come in all at once to exchange horses this is the most exciting time of the race. With the crowd screaming and cheering on their favorite team it creates a THUNDEROUS noise and ELECTRIC Energy that is felt by the Horses, Riders and Team members. Only those teams that can remain focused and calm with a clean, smooth exchange will prevail over the intensity of the “STORM”.


Risking being RUN OVER by the incoming horse The Mugger waves down the rider, as he gallops in for the exchange and catches the horse as the rider dismounts. Sometimes having to use his body as a wall to STOP A HALF TON ANIMAL.

Set-up Man:

The set man must keep the awaiting HIGH SPIRITED HORSE calm. He will hold the fresh horse until the rider mounts. This crucial position requires split second timing and skill at positioning the exchange horse so that the rider can have a clean set up and jump on to the horse.  A clean, smooth exchange can make a last place team jump right into the lead. This team position demands a CLEAR MIND and CALM SPIRIT.

Back Holder:

“HORSE WHISPERER” With his calm spirit and soothing words and sometimes a traditional song the BACK HOLDER keeps the third horse calm through the “storm”. Then Hands him over to the Set-up Man. This position requires a focus and connection of trust with the horse only years of training can one attain this skill.

After the “Storm” has calmed, the back holder hands the fresh horse to the Set-up Man, while the catcher passes the horse he’s just caught to the Back Holder and prepare for the coming of the 2nd STORM.

The Guiding Principles

  • Safety for the Horses and Riders,
  • Promoting the sport of Indian Relay Horse Racing
  • Providing economic opportunity for Native communities
  • Encourage a healthy family life style through traditional tribal horse culture