Two-dozen young people rode 20 miles on horseback from Ethete to Arapahoe over the weekend. This ride, meant to honor Domestic Violence Awareness month, was the latest in a series of healing rides hosted by the Wind River Reservation's Horse Culture program. Many of the riders painted red handprints across their faces, a symbol of solidarity with Missing and Murdered Indigenous People.
"All the people that passed away, we're riding for them," said 13-year old Jayden Iron Eyes.
This was the third healing ride Iron Eyes participated in this year, including last month's suicide prevention ride. He said he's learned a lot about horses, including how to gain their trust.
"You gotta be nice to the horses, 'cause they feel you and stuff. If you're mean to them, they're gonna be mean back. So, if you're gonna ride, you gotta be real brave," Iron Eyes said.
Both the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes have a deep cultural connection with horses. Elk Sage, who has helped lead the Horse Culture Program since 2014, said getting tribal youth on horseback helps them know themselves better.
"When we're teaching about horse culture, it's to help them with their confidence and their identity. We want them to be proud of their identity and know where they come from," Sade said.
In the long run, Sage said he hopes the program - which hosts weekly riding lessons as well as longer rides like this one - will help young people stay away from drugs, alcohol and toxic relationships.
The ride was co-sponsored by the Northern Arapaho Suicide Prevention Program, the White Buffalo Recovery Center, White Buffalo Youth Prevention, and the Fremont County Alliance Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.