|Wild Horse Race. Photo by Angelica Ursula Dietrick, by permission of Mountain High Broncs & Bulls|
See one of the wildest races on earth at the Wallowa County Fairgrounds in Enterprise, Oregon, during the 14th Annual Mountain High Broncs & Bulls Rodeo coming up June 17. Wild Horse Racing is on the schedule with more familiar rodeo events like mutton busting, and bronc and bull riding. Wild Horse Racing has its roots back in the old cowboy days, when wild horses had to be captured and trained from herds that roamed the open range.
Teams of three men work together to subdue a horse so it can be saddled and ridden to the finish line. When the horses come out of the chutes, the shankman of each team holds the horse in a position that allows the mugger to move up the shank and grab the horse by the halter. The rider then sets the saddle on the horse, cinches it, mounts, and rides to the finish line. The process usually takes 30 to 40 seconds in arena races, but for some teams it may take the entire two-minute time limit.
The Wild Horse Race was a common part of early day rodeos, when ranch hands would team up to compete against other ranches. The event dwindled to a handful of local races by the late Sixties and it looked like wild horse racing might die out as a rodeo event. But in the early Seventies a group of cowboys at Cheyenne Frontier Days organized to revive the sport. The category was officially reborn in 1981, when the Professional Wild Horse Racers held their first National Finals at the NILE Indoor Arena in Billings, Montana. Today the Professional Wild Horse Racing Association has a well-staffed office in Madras, Oregon.
Getting to the Rodeo: The Wallowa County Fairgrounds at 668 NW 1st St. is an 8-minute drive from Mountain View Motel & RV Park. Follow OR-82 north and west through Enterprise. Turn north on (right) NW 1st St. for .3 mile and see fairgrounds on your left.