Wild Horse Race Country

Wild Horse Racing Champions Carlos Estrada, Koedy Florendo and Preston Stevens. They won the top prize buckles at the recent PWHRA competition. Photo: Dave McMechan/Spilyay.

The Warm Springs Reservation is Wild Horse Race Country. A recent example:

Two generations of Warm Springs horse racers each won Championships at the March competition of the Professional Wild Horse Racers Association.

The Jason Smith Team won the over 18 division. This was to be expected, as the Jason Smith Team is best Wild Horse Racing team in the nation, and has been for several years.

The winner of the 13-18 year division was the newly-formed Florendo Team of Warm Springs, with team members Preston Stevens, Cody Florendo and Carlos Estrada.

A Professional Wild Horse Race Team consists of three people, known as the shankman, the mugger and the rider. The equipment used is a lead shank, halter and saddle.

All of the positions are equally difficult and physical. On the Florendo Team, Cody is the shankman, Carlos is the mugger, and Preston the rider.

A Professional Wild Horse Race happens fast, and can be dangerous, as the animals are wild. The action happens in a rodeo arena with eight teams competing against each other.

When the whistle blows the muggers open the gates and the horses come running and bucking out of the chutes.

The shankman has to stop his team’s animal. The shankman holds the horse in a position so the mugger can move up the shank and grab the horse by the halter.

The next moment the rider sets the saddle on the horse and sec(ures it by the quick cinch.
The cinch has a quick release built in so that it may be quickly removed if a problem occurs.

The rider then climbs on the horse while the shankman and mugger haze the animal past the finish line. The first team across wins.

On the young Warm Springs team, Cody and Preston have a few years of professional competition experience at Wild Horse Racing. Carlos joined this year. The teammates know each other from high school.

Success came quick for the team, with their top finish at the PWHRA-sanctioned competition, held at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds rodeo arena. “We go through a lot of practice to be on the same page and act as a team,” Preston says.

They stay in shape by doing cowboy and ranch work. They mention, for instance, post-hole digging as a way to stay in shape.

The team learned wild horse racing from the older racers, like Jason Smith and teammates, and Cody’s dad Joel.

The ranch work, being around horses a lot of the time, and family tradition all help explain why teams from Warm Springs have come to dominate wild horse racing.