Native Horse Nations Compete in Indian Relay

Native Horse Nations Compete in Indian Relay

Witness the intensely exciting rivalry between the Horse Nations as they battle for bragging rights at the All Nations Indian Relay Championships

BILLINGS, Mont. – Horses revolutionized Native life and became an integral part of tribal cultures, honored in art, objects, stories, songs, and ceremonies. Horses changed methods of hunting and warfare, modes of travel, lifestyles, and standards of wealth and prestige. The impact of the horse on Native American Tribes led to these tribes being collectively referred to as the “Horse Nations.”

The importance of this relationship has been handed down from generation to generation through oral history and, today, has developed into the most exciting and explosive competition between the Indian Nations of the Northern Plains – Indian Relay! Horse Nations intensely compete with each other throughout the summer months to earn their place at the All Nations Indian Relay Championships held in September each year.

Indian Relay, touted as “the most exciting five minutes in Indian Country” is a team competition. Each team consists of one rider, three horses, and three courageous teammates who hold, catch, and control the two extra horses as the rider leaps from one to another, making a single circuit of the track on each horse. This is an intense relay race where the rider is the baton!

Indian Relay appears to have developed independently in different tribes, leading to competitive relays between the nations and America’s first extreme sport. Today, Horse Nations compete against each other not in the spirit of warfare but for the native pride and "bragging rights" of the individual nations. The races are not only a demonstration of bravery, courage and amazing horsemanship but also an important connection to a historical and spiritual element of their culture.

Wearing traditional regalia, six Native American warriors ride bareback around the track at breathtaking speeds. After each lap, riders leap from one galloping horse to another, defying fear and gravity. With at least five teams in each heat working to execute these difficult bareback transfers, stopping horses from full gallop and starting others, all within a crowded stretch of track, Indian Relay can get chaotic but exciting! The “mugger” waits to catch the incoming horse as the rider dismounts, the “exchange man” readies the next excited horse, and the “back holder” calms and cares for the horse that just came in. During the exchange, horses may rear up, flip or getaway and the incoming horse may or may not stop – it often becomes a classic case of organized mayhem, where one minor error can drastically change the outcome of the race. Once spectators witness this, they feel an intense excitement they never get with any other sport; this is why Indian Relay fans come back year after year.

The Professional Indian Horse Racing Association (PIHRA) was founded to promote Indian Relay, horsemanship and safety. PIHRA has developed a season-long championship series, culminating with the All Nations Indian Relay Championships. There were 17 founding teams in 2013; two years later, PIHRA membership is expected to exceed 60 teams. Only the top 30 teams are selected to attend three days of qualifying rounds to determine the six teams that will advance to the finals. Those not in the top six will battle it out during the first, second and third consolation races prior to the championship race on the final day of the Championships.

This year, the All Nations Indian Relay Championships will be held Sept.17-20 at the historic MetraPark Grandstands in Billings, Mont. The top teams representing 15 Indian nations will compete at the 2015 All Nations Championships for more than $75,000 in money prizes, expenses and the coveted Champions’ Jackets and Belt Buckles. The teams come from Washington State, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Montana, South Dakota, and Canada. The tribes represented in relay include Oglala Lakota Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, Blackfeet, Crow, Shoshone-Bannock, Eastern Shoshone and the Colville Confederated Tribes and the Umatilla Confederated Tribes. The vision of the teams and the entire membership is for relay to become a viable cultural and economic entity on the reservations.

For more information about PIHRA and the All Nations Indian Relay Championships, visit, follow “Professional Indian Horse Racing Association” on Facebook or checkout Indian Relay videos on YouTube.

For reservations and tickets, contact the MetraPark Grandstands box office at 800-366-8538 or 406-256-2422 or go to
For press information and media kit, visit or call Nancy Harrison at 307-421-4473.
For event information and sponsorships contact Kris Keck 908-303-5137.

“Let’s Relay!”


Professional Indian Horse Racing Association 
CONTACT: Nancy Harrison
TEL: 307.421.4473

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