October 07, 2008

Zuni human/horse race

Honoring the Ancient Way

16 teams compete in Zuni Human/Horse relayThe beautiful Dowa Yalanne mesa—sacred to the Zuni people—was the site of an unusual race on Saturday that has its roots in Zuni history.

Sixteen Native American horseback riders, sixteen runners, and 16 horses teamed up for the Human/Horse Relay Race at Zuni Pueblo. The event, which was hosted by the Zuni Horse Racing Committee, was held on DY Springs Road, by the base of Dowa Yalanne. The riders and their horses competed in the first leg of the relay by racing 5.5 miles of rugged, rocky, and often steep terrain. The runners finished the final leg of the race by running a 4-mile course.
Some background on the race:Although the relay race is a new event, committee President Elton Mahkee said the idea behind the race has its origins in Zuni culture. “This was a tradition way before our fathers’ time,” he said.

Mahkee explained that hundreds of years ago Zuni people delivered messages to other tribes through the use of relay systems involving runners and sometimes riders and horses. Such relays would use established trails that led to other Pueblos like those at Acoma, Jemez, and Hopi, he said. Zunis also had traditional games and competitions, he added, and some involved relay races where participants would run for distances of 20 miles or more.

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