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Champion Indian horse relay race draws best of the best to Casper

The Carlson Relay team from the Blackfoot Reservation celebrate their big win at the "Championship of Champions" Indian horse relay races in Casper in late September.
Chazz Racine
The Carlson Relay team from the Blackfoot Reservation celebrate their big win at the "Championship of Champions" Indian horse relay races in Casper in late September.

The “Championship of Champions” Indian horse relay races took place in Casper at the end of September, bringing together all-star teams to compete in one of the biggest races in the game. Sixty-seven teams from across the country and Canada converged on the Central Wyoming Fairgrounds race track to participate in the high-adrenaline sport.

Indian horse racing takes teamwork, timing, and athleticism – and the transitions required can get very exciting. Each lap around the track, the jockey switches horses at top speed with the help of the rest of the four-person team, all while riding bareback.

The Carlson Relay team from the Blackfoot Reservation in Montana won the $20,000 top prize in the men’s relay race at the Central Wyoming Fairgrounds. The team’s jockey is thirty-five year-old Chazz Racine, who said his role is like that of a baton in this style of racing.

“You start out on the starting horse and you go around, you come in for the exchange, the mugger catches the horse and your holder holds it and you bail on to the next one – and it’s at full gallop,” he said.

Racine has been riding for twenty-three years and is following in the footsteps of both his father and grandfather.

“It's a big part of my life, it's just what we do,” he said. “We’ve just been doing it for years with the horses, the Indian horse way, and horse culture – it’s a big deal.”

Racine helps run a ranch with family, where they take care of cows and bison for the Blackfeet Tribe. He said winning the final race was a huge rush of gratitude and a great way to finish out the racing season.

“When I finally slowed down my horse to gather myself, it was just emotional, but it was emotional with happiness because it takes a lot of try to be able to do that,” he said. “We really tried hard for that, and when we're connected as a team and doing stuff right in our life, it feels good.”

The Timentwa Relay team, with jockey Talliya Timentwa from the Colville Tribe in Washington, took the top prize in the women’s relay division. The championships were sponsored by the Northern Arapaho Tribe and the Wind River Hotel and Casino.

The race was previously held in Casper in 2019, 2020, and 2021. Last fall, the event was held in Fort Pierre, South Dakota. At a press conference in Casper earlier this spring, general manager for the Central Wyoming Fair and Rodeo Tom Jones said the organization wants Casper to be the race’s “permanent home.”

Hannah Habermann is the rural and tribal reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. She has a degree in Environmental Studies and Non-Fiction Writing from Middlebury College and was the co-creator of the podcast Yonder Lies: Unpacking the Myths of Jackson Hole. Hannah also received the Pattie Layser Greater Yellowstone Creative Writing & Journalism Fellowship from the Wyoming Arts Council in 2021 and has taught backpacking and climbing courses throughout the West.

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