By Nia Williams
CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - A team from Montana won the indigenous riders relay race at the Calgary Stampede on Tuesday night, a bare back relay demonstration event cheered on by 17,000 spectators.
Calgary's Stampede - a 10-day extravaganza of rodeo, street parties and corporate events - takes place every year in Canada's oil capital, attracting cowboys from all over North America to compete in events with C$100,000 prize pots.
Organizers of the indigenous relay race demonstration hope the event will become an official part of the rodeo, on par with bull riding, saddle bronc and chuck wagon racing.
Known as one of the most exciting and risky types of horse racing, bare back relay involves one rider lapping the track three times on three different horses.
Races are won and lost on how quickly and smoothly the rider can leap off one horse and up onto the next without spooking the highly-strung thoroughbreds. The rider relies on three other team members - known as the exchange holder, backholder and mugger - keeping the horses calm.
The Carlson Relay team from Browning, Montana, part of the Blackfeet tribe, galloped to first place after two nimble changeovers from rider Chazz Racine, 29.
All four teams invited to take part are among the top relay racers in the United States and Canada, where the sport is growing rapidly in popularity, especially among indigenous youth.
"Hopefully some other natives will see this and it will get them into it," Racine said, speaking next to the rodeo ground's horse pens before the race. "It can open doors for you."
(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)