FORT HALL — One jockey, three horses and no saddles is the recipe for what has been called America’s first extreme sport: Indian relay racing.
The event will be featured at the Eastern Idaho State Fair in Blackfoot from Sunday through Saturday.
The sport originated on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation more than 100 years ago and has been passed down through the generations.
A relay team has four members — a jockey, two horse holders and a catcher/mugger — and three horses. Jockeys ride bareback, taking each horse one lap and then relaying to the next horse for another lap. Mounting and dismounting must be done without help.
It is a thrilling ride, for both jockeys and spectators.
Jockey Miaus Teton, 21, said racing is an adrenaline rush.
Teton is riding for the Tissidimit team this year and credits the influence of his grandfather, Leo Teton, in his decision to start racing.
“I like the intensity,” he said.
“Some people say we are crazy,” team owner/trainer Lance Tissidimit said. “It is dangerous.”
Teton broke his collarbone earlier this year when a horse fell on him, but has returned to competition.
“Gotta cowboy up,” he said.
The Fort Hall Indian Relay Association enforces rules to help keep human and equine athletes as safe as possible and teams train extensively to hone skills.
“Chaos can happen” when riders or horses are inexperienced, Tissidimit said.
Tissidimit’s team trains three to four times a week, Teton said.
Despite the danger, women are taking up the relay, although they compete on two horses instead of three. This is the first year a ladies relay will be run at the fair. Tissidimit’s daughter Brailey, 16, is expected to compete.
Also competing will be Tahliyah Appenay, 19, and her sister Rylee, 17. The daughters of Ernie and Thea Appenay started riding in kids races, riding Shetland ponies, then quarter horses before graduating to the thoroughbreds preferred by most teams.
The sisters have competed extensively in ladies races and this year added the ladies relay to the list. They ride for their father’s Bad Rock Warriors team.
Racing at events across the West, the duo sometimes compete against each other, but win or lose, exhibit great sportsmanship, according to their mother.
The teens have fallen off during races a few times, but have always remounted and finished the race.
In the championship races, the teams are competing for a $37,500 added purse. The relay association will end the season on Sept. 29 with a day of racing at the Fort Hall track.