There's now two teams from the Stoney Nakoda Nation in the fast and dangerous First Nations Relay Races that start Friday night at the Calgary Stampede.
Both Watson Kaquitts' team of Mini Thni Blue Feather and Ron Poucette's North Star team will be receiving their jackets tonight at 7 p.m. in the rodeo grounds infield.
The races start July 8 and continue until July 17 at 7:45 p.m. in advance of the grandstand show. Each race will be preceded by a Hoop Dancing performance featuring Dallas Arcand Jr. and includes drummers and traditional dancers.
Ron Poucette's North Star team joined the relay race in recent weeks after an entry from Browning, MT had to withdraw due to a death in the family.
Kimberly Big Crow says there's plenty to do before the races start Friday night. She's also helping prepare one of their team members for his appearance in Friday's Stampede parade.
Big Crow says the team had one exhibition race on the Stampede grounds in preparation for Friday.
The horse relay is a 300-year-old sport that has had a resurgence in popularity in recent years.
"It's a highly extreme sport," says Big Crow. "It's the most dangerous sport in the world. It's so unpredictable anything can happen."
Here's a basic outline of what's involved.
- Each team has four members and three high-powered thoroughbred race horses.
- Team members all have a role. There is one rider, two horse holders, and one ‘mugger’ who catches the horse during an exchange. All teams and their horses make their way onto the track at the same time and remain on the track for the entire race.
- Teams stand off to the side while the four riders prepare for a standing start.
- When the horn sounds, riders leap onto their horses bareback (without a saddle) and race a lap of the track.
- Once the first lap is completed, it’s time for the relay exchange. The rider jumps off his horse and passes it to the mugger. He then leaps onto a new horse and takes off for another lap.
- This cycle continues for three laps, where the fastest team wins.
There are two heats of racing per night, four teams per heat, with the two additional teams taking a rest day. Blue Feather will be competing Friday to Monday with a break on Tuesday, then Wednesday to Saturday.
There are now seven Canadian teams and three from the States.