A ride on the wild side

Veteran racers share their techniques

Navajo Times | Adron Gardner A horse rears as Nikolai White of Maricopa tethers during the   Wild Horse Race at the Dahozy Stampede Arena in Fort Defiance Saturday.

Navajo Times | Adron Gardner
A horse rears as Nikolai White of Maricopa tethers during the Wild Horse Race at the Dahozy Stampede Arena in Fort Defiance Saturday.


Working around an unbroken horse presents a lot of danger.

Those horses don’t exactly do what you want them to do, so the risks can be great.

Randy Stewart, Marshall Allen and Josh Lair know that all too well.

The veteran wild horse racers shared their knowledge and experience to 24 students at the Dahozy Stampede Arena in Fort Defiance at a one-day clinic on Saturday.

“What we are trying to teach them the most is how to do the job safely without getting hurt,” Lair said. “Some people go out there thinking it’s a manhandling job, but there are techniques involved. If you don’t use that technique there are chances that you will get hurt.”

As one of the most decorated jockeys, Lair drove in from Colorado Springs to help teach the basics and fundamentals of the sport.

“I’ve been doing this for 22 years and I have broken 27 bones,” said Lair, who has won four world titles and 14 regional titles. “I’m actually 42 years old and I am one of the fastest at what I do.”

Stewart and Allen have 26 years of combined experience with both earning titles within the southwest region.

“There is a lot more to saddling up a horse,” Stewart said. “There is technique and procedures involved.”

In his early years, Stewart remembers competing in the prestigious Prescott Frontier Days Rodeo with no experience.

“It was pretty intimidating and the horses there were bigger and we were competing against professionals,” he said. “A team from California watched us and they told us that we were approaching this the wrong way. They showed us the positions and we took their advice.”

By teaching it the right way, Allen is hoping to see more Natives out there competing, which is why they decided to put the school up.

“We’ve been racing locally for a good 12 years and at every event it’s just the same people all the time,” Allen said. “We want to get some new faces out there.”

In the past, Allen said he’s been approached by a lot of guys to run with them, but he declined their offer because they lacked experience.

“I felt bad turning them down so I figured if we show them how to do it the right way, then they can do it,” he said. “There are guys that I’ve seen try it for a couple of months but when they get hurt they disappear.”

“Hopefully we’ll see a lot of teams and help the sport grow on the Navajo reservation,” he added. “It’s a big crowd pleaser.”

As a mugger, Allen emphasized how to approach a horse correctly.

“You never face-up to a horse,” he said. “I have seen guys break their bones because of that. The safest way to approach the horse is to get on its shoulder.”

Ian Smith of Sells, Arizona, has aspirations of being like them.

“It’s a learning process for me,” he said. “I’m taking in as much as I can and my biggest goal right now is to find a team – a good shankman and a good rider. They need to be dependable so that we can have each other’s back and go out there and give it our best and win.”

With some new faces at the one-day clinic, Stewart said he was pleased with the turnout.

“This is pretty surprising because I thought we were only going to get 10 students,” Stewart said. “They are picking up new things and we showed them the basics.”

Stewart said the fundamentals they learned were pretty simple but he noted that it takes time to master them.

Lair agreed and he added that even though they put up a school, there are so many different scenarios that still can’t teach them.

“They have to pick it up as they go,” he said. “They have to remember what we taught them and make adjustments. It’s much better than them having their conscience kick in and them not knowing what to do.”

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Categories: Culture