Known as the “granddaddy of Montana rodeos,” Wolf Point’s Wild Horse Stampede has charmed fans since 1921. With its PRCA events, street dances, and famous Catholic Burger Stand, the Stampede has much to offer even the most casual of rodeo enthusiasts. Many aspects of the Stampede make it unique and what truly sets it apart from other rodeos is its Wild Horse Race.
In the Wild Horse Race, eight 3-man teams compete to saddle, ride, and dismount a horse. While the eight horses are not truly “wild,” they aren’t halter-broke either, which makes them incredibly difficult to control. And the pressure of a three minute time limit doesn’t help either.
“It’s chaos,” laughs Clint Long, Chairman of the Wolf Point Stampede Committee.
Once the race starts, each team must wrestle a saddle onto their horse and get their rider mounted. The rider then must race the horse around the arena, dismount, take the horse’s saddle off, and return the saddle to the chute.
While there are various wild horse races in the country, this last portion of Wolf Point’s Wild Horse Race makes it unlike the others. “Bringing the saddle back to the chutes is one of the reasons it’s a little wilder,” says Long. “At other races you just need to cross a designated point. Taking off the saddle and running it back makes it a foot race. It’s more exciting and rather unique.”
Another distinct feature of this race is that it takes place in an arena as opposed to other wild horse races on tracks. “It’s very crowded,” says Long. “You don’t worry about your own horse as much as all the others.”
Because the arena is crowded with eight wild horses and 24 participants, accidents are bound to happen. Almost every performance, someone gets injured but that’s the risk these cowboys are willing to take for the glory of winning the Wild Horse Race. It is a beloved tradition and some families have participated in it for as many as three generations.
To a certain extent, this can be linked to Native American heritage. Wolf Point rests on the Fort Peck Reservation and when the Wild Horse Race was created it was predominantly a Native American event. Sons who watched their fathers and grandfathers participate have grown to take part in the Wild Horse Race as well. Today more than half the contestants are Native American, but cowboys of other ethnicities participate as well. No one is excluded from the mayhem.
When the Wild Horse Race is about to begin, the stands are full and everyone stops to watch, including the PRCA riders. “There’s no one at the beer stand when the race starts,” says Long. “It’s a great event. You have to see it. Explaining it just doesn’t do it justice.”
Wolf Point’s Wild Horse Stampede takes place each year, Thursday-Saturday on the second weekend of July.
For more information, call (406) 650-7142 or visit wolfpointchamber.com.