The world of Indian relay racing has gone from a dream to a reality for a Waterhen/Canoe Lake First Nation couple.
Dave Fiddler and Priscilla Opikokew started their own racing outfit this season and, so far, they say the experience has been interesting to say the least.
“We just got started this year,” Fiddler said. “We looked at getting into it a couple years ago, but we weren’t as serious about it… This is our first year on the circuit, so it’s more of a learning experience for us.”
Opikokew said it only made sense to become involved in the sport now.
“We kept buying horses, and one day I asked ‘What are we going to do with all these horses?,’” she said. “The answer was easy – Indian relay. It’s a fun sport and is really bringing us together as family. We are the only ones from our area doing something like this, so, hopefully, it will grow from here. We’re taking baby steps for now.”
Fiddler did note, however, his team has had some good runs.
“We started training our own riders – picking them up from different areas,” he said. “Because you often have to use different riders at different meets, it’s tough to get riders. We are looking for riders who are in shape, real good condition, and who are drug-free… To race you need to be focused. Any little mistake will cost you, especially during the exchange.”
There are three different types of races the team competes in – the chief’s race, which is a flat race held in honour of the local chief, a warrior races, which sees the rider run about 15 yards to the horse before taking off, and the traditional relay race that sees one rider round the track using three different horses in a typical relay race format.
“Again, this is all a learning experience this first year for us,” Fiddler said. “We’re picking it up here and there, learning as we go and knowing what to expect come the next race.”
Opikokew echoed this, stating things have improved overall since the first race of the season July 1, also at Poundmaker.
“The crowd reaction has been pretty good too,” she said.
by Phil Ambroziak