(Sheridan, Wyo.) — As a spectator, the World Championship Indian Relay Races at the Sheridan WYO Rodeo are nerve-wracking, exhilarating and leave everyone in the grandstands on the edge of their seats.
And for Ashton Old Elk, who has been competing in relay races with his thoroughbred and quarter horses for several years now, watching others ride is more nerve-wracking than riding himself.
Old Elk will ride three of his horses in the relays tonight, though the event is so fast-moving it may be hard to tell.
"The horse, they can sense what you are feeling, what you are thinking," Old Elk says, adding that it isn't until after the relay races that it sets in: He has just jumped from horse to horse at top speed.
Old Elk and State Capitol.
Old Elk lives in Lodgegrass, Mont., has been training his team of six beautiful horses alongside Charine Whiteman for four years. He began preparing for this season in March, and has competed at events near and far, from the 2016 Crow Native Days Pow-wow and Rodeo to rodeos in Auburn, Wash.
Old Elk has four horses with him for the Sheridan WYO Rodeo: Torch Down, Wabi Sabi, State Capitol and Tiki Striking. Tonight, he plans to ride Torch Down, Wabi Sabi, State Capitol.
Thoroughbreds, you can gallop right up until race day, Old Elk says, but it is a good idea to rest your horses a bit before the big event. Just like people, they can get sore — and they also can pick up on all kinds of nuances around them.
"When my brothers are nearby, I tell them — no yelling around the horses," Old Elk says. "They better you treat them, the more training you give them, the better they will do for you."
Closest, see Old Elk's thoroughbred horse Wabi Sabi, who his uncle Luke Plenty Hawk rode to two World Championship titles in the Sheridan WYO Rodeo.