Woman On Horseback Crow Fair

                                  click image to enlarge

This is a portrait is of a woman on horseback in the Sunday morning parade held during Crow fair. The original photo was taken during the 2014 fair. It has been enhanced to appear as if it is a painting in the style of the old masters and was done to bring out the beauty and strength of the subject and to feature her regalia in the best possible light. Be sure to click on the image to see it full size on your monitor.

One of the highlights of the Crow Fair is the parade that is presented Sunday morning. To put it mildly it is spectacular and that is an understatement. Nearly everyone who has brought a horse to the fair enters the parade and is assigned to a category they wish to participate in. Categories included were “Women’s Old Time Saddle”, “Men’s War Shirt”, “Women’s Nez Perce”, Women’s Buckskin”, “Women’s Elk Tooth”, “Teen Boy’s Reservation Hat”, “Men’s War bonnet”, and many more. Each category shows off different aspects of traditional dress. The woman in the image above was entered in the “Women’s Buckskin” category.

Crow Fair, called the “Tipi Capital of the World,” is an annual event held the third weekend in August on the Crow Reservation at Crow Agency in Montana. It is one of the largest Native American events in North America and is run by a committee of the Crow tribe. There can be over a thousand teepees set up during the fair, along with parades, powwows, rodeos and other events too numerous to mention. To see more posts about Crow Fair simply type in CROW into the search box at the top of the page and hit enter. There are dozens of posts about Crow Fair with many pictures to show all aspects of the fair. Also be sure to visit our sister site http://www.OpenChutes.com to see more posts of Western Events. OpenChutes is a blog exclusively dedicated to Powwows, Rodeos, Cowboys, Indians, Indian Relay Races, Mountain Men, Rendezvous and any other western event that may occur in the Rocky Mountain West. Enjoy your visit.

Recollections of 2016 #1 The Trampling

Horses 1 – Photographers 0  


Some Horses Get Crazy and Trample People Just Because They Can

I was photographing the Indian Relay Races at Ft Hall, Idaho on  August 11, 2016. It was a day like all days with little warning that it was going to be an extraordinary day filled with head wounds, bruises and general unconsciousness unlike any I’d ever had before. It was warm with little to no breeze to cool one down. Shade was hard to come by out on the race track. It was one of those days where you just settled down, sweat and waited for the action to start.

I’ve done this photographing of horses, riders and races many times before in various parts of the country and have always had a good rapport with the horses involved in what I call Chaos on Four Hooves, or as they are really known, Indian Relay Races. As such I was not totally prepared to be run over and trampled unconscious by one of those horses for no other reason than I was there. In fact, as the day dawned I did not even think that such a beautiful and gracious creature could even harbor such maliciousness and spite, let alone act on it. I’ve always thought I was a pretty good judge of character in both Man or beast. After all I am a high school graduate and a veteran. I vote. I have been somewhat educated by our magnificent public education system. I have an I.Q. higher than a geranium but lower than a programmable oven that has served me well so far. I’m kind to puppies and little old ladies. Most of them anyway. I did not know this horse. I had not spoken to this horse. I had not slighted it in any way that I was aware of. The horse just decided that I was there so I should be trampled into a state of unconsciousness. And so that is what it did. And I’m told it appeared to enjoy it.

A little explanation for those who do not know what Indian Relay races are. It’s quite simple really. You get a bunch of horses divide them into groups of three, find a single rider for each group, then simply race around the track once, return to your starting place where you have your extra horses waiting, jump off your horse, run to the next one that your horse handlers are holding at the ready, leap on it, race around the track once more, return to your starting place, jump off your horse, leap onto another one, race off… well you get the picture. This is done until all the horses have been ridden and someone who has managed to stay alive and on top of his horse comes across the finish line before anyone else. Thus winning. This is the good part. Of course everyone goes gonzo nuts, yelling and screaming for their team and against all the others and a good time is had by all. Except unconscious photographers. They don’t have a clue what just happened. They don’t even know if they’ve been snake bit or struck by lightning.

How the race works sounds quite simple and in theory it is. What you don’t factor in until you’ve attended one of these races is the noise, the dust, the confusion, the energy, the horses who range from those silently waiting to those who have to be physically restrained by maybe biting its ear, until the rider returns and mounts it. There is the yelling of the crowd, the thunder of the hooves as they race by, the single-minded purpose of getting on your horses and winning this race at all costs, all this and more add to the general mayhem of Indian Relay Races.

This is the actual ‘photographer trampling horse’ on its way across the track to do the trampling. I, being  a trained observer, noticed its unexpected approach but thought little of it. I have to state here that this was a premeditated act on the part of the horse. You could see it in its eyes. It looked crazy. Demented. Homicidal. It looked like one of those people counting ballots in California late into the night or more like someone reading the election results that next morning. The rider was powerless at this point to stop the horse, turn it from its chosen path or to reason with it in any manner. If you look closely he is trying to talk the horse out of this unreasonable behavior but to no avail. That horse wouldn’t listen. It was driven. Its looks are deceiving as it appears in the photo as if it is ambling across the track in a leisurely manner, but in actuality it was at full gallop and coming across like a Burlington freight train and you’re stuck on the track like a stranded gasoline tanker. You just know there is going to be a fire, not to mention a lot of noise. This is mere moments from what is now known as TTP or ‘trample the photographer”. A day which will live in infamy.

Some of the things that go on as the race unfurls are crashes where one horse and rider will crash into another, either by accident or in some strategic hope of knocking the other guy out of the race, or just sheer exuberance in being in alive on such a beautiful day. This is all considered good fun and hardly anyone takes offence. Below is the aftermath of one of those events.

As you can see, the horse has most likely kicked this young man in the stomach. And stolen his shoes, plus probably created a small amount of trauma induced blindness causing him to use a special ‘kicked in the stomach’ stick to find his way off the race track before he gets trampled by the oncoming herd. That may not be the accurate explanation of events but since there was a lot going on it’ll do. Meanwhile back in the center of the track where there is a lot more mayhem happening, a rider is on his knees begging the horse to let him back on and of course the horse being a horse is having none of it. In fact it looks like the horse is trying to position itself so that it can kick him in the stomach too. Of course the crowd finds this all vastly entertaining and cheers loudly.

Here is the final almost actual happening of the trampling. The horse is breaking through the barrier. The photographer at risk, which in this case would be me, you can tell because I’m the one in the white hat with the red arrow pointing at me, doing my version of the moonwalk trying to get out of the area. I was prepared to Moonwalk clear to Boise if necessary. The horse apparently was wise to that ploy however and made an immediate right turn and trampled me. I, as a matter of self-preservation, immediately became unconscious and played dead, having heard this will often trick the attacking animal into leaving you alone. That part must have worked because as soon as it had its trampling done it turned and raced back on to the track in a vain attempt to win the race. It didn’t.

I awoke a short time later lying on the ground, looking up to find my self surrounded by EMT’s. One said “How you doing?” I asked if I was hurt. ” No.” He replied, ” you’re just old.” It was at that point I told him to do something anatomically impossible. They all laughed as if all of this was great fun and helped me up. Not badly mangled I returned to shoot the rest of the race.

Getting trampled by a great huge ugly horse filled with an unlimited amount of malice is not something I’d recommend to you. It’s really uncomfortable. But after the fact it becomes one of those things guys talk about where you have some bragging rights, kind of like someone who gets shot and lives to show off his bullet wounds. “Yeah, check this out, I got this in a drive by over on Cranston. Damn near killed me”  However once is enough. I am not a slow learner. The next time I shoot a race I’m going to have my giant telephoto lens and shoot the race from across the parking lot. On top of an RV. That ought to be safer. Let that crazy bastard try getting me up there.

So, Where You Been Then



“So, Where you been then.” That is just one of the questions we’ve been asked regarding our dearth of posting for the last month. In fact, pictured above, is Ms. Euclidia Hanson asking it again. “Where you been” she asked ” you don’t write, you don’t call, where you been? I didn’t pay good money to be treated like this.” and so on. (Note: In checking our records we found that Euclidia didn’t pay any money to us at all, and in fact owes us for service since the first of the year and all of last year. We’ll be contacting Ms. Hanson about that just as soon as the rut is over)

But regardless, we have a good answer. This summer has been the summer we have been hitting the powwow trail with a new event occurring almost every weekend. Starting back in April when we attended the Gathering of Nations, the largest inter-tribal powwow in the country, through the summer, and ending with the Crow Fair just last week.

We are working on an exciting new project that we’ll be announcing in the near future that requires lots of photography of the people and events in the powwows that occur throughout the summer. This has produced literally thousands of photographs that have to be processed and evaluated for inclusion in this exciting new project. More on that as we get closer to our release date.

When we are out in the field we run into several problems with posting to the blog. Most notably a lack of decent wi-fi in the areas where the powwows are held. Since that unfortunate incident where our satellite truck went over both the Upper and Lower Yellowstone falls and bent the roof dish all to hell and back and the generator had a total meltdown due to embarrassment or something, leaving us with nothing but an iPhone with a cracked screen, we have not been able to reliably send our posts back to *The Institute for reissuing to the world at large.

Plus now the Park Service is all cheesed off about satellite truck pieces scattered up and down in the Yellowstone river and has made us send people up there in hip waders collecting those parts for reassembly, kind of like they do with plane crashes, to determine how much they want to fine us. I’m not even getting into dealing with the satellite truck rental people, especially after the intern we sent to pick it up didn’t sign the insurance papers for it. He said he saved us $51.00 a day by not taking it. The satellite truck with all the equipment in it was only worth about $750,000.00 so he’s lucky that we can’t get into his hospital room. We’d rearrange his traction equipment for him.

Aside from that it was a great trip. We got incredible images of the different events, even with The Director getting run over by a stampeding horse and knocked tail over tea kettle in the Indian Relay Races at Ft. Hall, Id at the Western Shoshone/ Bannock rodeo. More about that in a separate post coming soon to a monitor near you.

So briefly that was why there were very few posts last month. Sorry. But! and it’s a big one. Watch for postings covering the various powwows and western events we attended this summer. They’re going to be great.

*Note: For those of you unfamiliar with The Institute and what it does, please see the page labeled The Institute on the Menu Bar above. That should explain everything. You shouldn’t have one single question remaining regarding The Institute after reading it. None. For those of you favored few who already know about the Institute, Nevermind.

Sweet Nothings

This post has been moved to OpenChutes.com. All future postings of Powwows, Indian Relay Races, Rodeos and Rendezvous will be posted there from now on exclusively. So if you’re looking for new images and posts for all those events attended this year, plus all the old posts posted on BigShotsNow.com check out OpenChutes.com. See you there!


The highlight of any Indian rodeo is the Indian Relay Races. That event alone is worth traveling just about any distance to see. These races must be held out doors as the excitement generated at one of these races will simply blow the roof off any building you try to hold them in. I know, these are bold statements, but once you see one of these races you’ll be a convert. To see more about these races visit this post http://www.bigshotsnow.com/crow-fair-2015-indian-relay-races/ to see it in action.

The intensity of the races builds to a fever pitch with horses, riders and even those in the grandstand filled to the brim with frenetic energy. Sometimes the excitement gets to the point where the horse loses control and begins to act up because it wants to be out on that racetrack running its heart out. But it isn’t its time yet. It has to remain here in position so that when the relay rider comes in, it is ready for him to mount and race away, hopefully winning the race.

What you see here is a brief moment in time where the handler has an intimate quiet discussion with the horse explaining to it that it needs to remain calm. If it does it will have its chance in a second and that if it just stays calm a little longer it’ll be out on that track running like the wind and it will be the winner. A horse among horses. King of the stables. Or something like that. It was hard to hear over all the screaming from the grandstands.

Surprisingly the horse calmed right down and patiently waited for the rider to come in and make the exchange. We’d like to report that this horse and rider did win the race but unfortunately that didn’t happen. He came in second. There is only one winner in a horse race and this wasn’t this horse’s day. But there’s always the next race, the next rodeo, the next chance to be a winner. They’ll be back.

Crow Fair 2015 Indian Relay Races

This post has been moved to OpenChutes.com. All future postings of Powwows, Indian Relay Races, Rodeos and Rendezvous will be posted there from now on exclusively. So if you’re looking for new images and posts for all those events attended this year, plus all the old posts posted on BigShotsNow.com check out OpenChutes.com. See you there!


Indian Relay Races, it is one of the most exciting horse races you will ever see. It could just have easily been called a Demolition Derby on Four Hooves. The premise is simple you start with four teams of horses assigned to their own space along the fence of the grandstand. Each team has only one rider. They begin the race like any other with the four riders racing away from the starting line, but then that’s when things go different.

They race around the track and as they approach their team of horse handlers they skid to a stop, jump off the horse they’ve been riding, jump on a new one and take off for another lap around the track. They repeat this once more, racing in, jumping off, jumping onto a new horse, take another lap and the first one across the finish line is the winner.

That’s how it works in theory. And the race does follow those rules exactly but you have to remember you’re dealing with horses that are crazy wild to run, riders willing to do nearly anything to get on that next horse, and handlers that have to control several other horses in close proximity with the team next door, whose horses and riders are also just as determined on winning as you are, and what you have is Chaos, plain and simple. Things do not happen as planned. Riders with big leads may have trouble getting on the next horse and another rider takes the lead. This may happen on every lap.There is no sure thing in Indian Relay Races, other than something really, really exciting is going to happen.

In the animation above you can get a sense of how fast-paced and chaotic it is when the riders begin to change horses. If you notice the Blue team as they begin their switch, the horse handler is applying an old trick to manage an unruly horse. This horse had been rearing up and trying to break loose, and it was close to becoming unmanageable until the handler reached up and bit his ear, just like Mike Tyson might, biting down and hanging on until the rider could mount and be off again. Like I said Indian Relay Races are different.


In another part of the race a rider rode in fast, sometimes these horses can be going close to 30 miles per hour when they are entering into the changing area, mis-stepped as he dismounted, and got run over by his horse. Operating on sheer adrenalin he leapt up and mounted his last horse and continued the race. Unfortunately his mis-step put this lap leader into last place.

Indian Relay Races are exciting, chaotic, addicting. And in Montana you can legally bet on them if you want to lose your money. This is a cheap heart test for those of you who need to check it every so often, and it’s included free in the price of admission. If you crave excitement you will love Indian Relay Racing.


North American Indian Days 2015

This post has been moved to OpenChutes.com. All future postings of Powwows, Indian Relay Races, Rodeos and Rendezvous will be posted there from now on exclusively. So if you’re looking for new images and posts for all those events attended this year, plus all the old posts posted on BigShotsNow.com check out OpenChutes.com. See you there!


Last week, July 9th thru the 12th, The Blackfeet tribe put on its 64th annual North American Indian days (or NAID) on its reservation at Browning, Montana. It was 4 solid days of Dancing, singing, fellowship, and socializing amongst one of the largest gathering of Indian tribes in the United States and Canada.

Every event held throughout the celebration began with the Grand Entrance where the color guard, made up of military veterans from the various tribes, brought in the colors. These included our American flag, Canada’s flag, the Blackfeet tribe’s flag, and others to be presented with respect to everyone assembled. Many men and women of the tribes served in the armed forces and this is a very important part of the ceremony. To participate in this honor, with drums sounding out their deep resonance, singers celebrating with their voices, joining the gathering of hundreds of spectators, the sun beating down and the hot wind blowing through the presentation arbor, this is an experience that will remain with you for a very long time.

When you attend this event one of the first things you notice is the riot of color around you. The regalia, the decorations, the site itself is full of every hue of color imaginable, from the earth tones of the arbor and dancing area to the manmade colors of some regalia, and the natural shades of the surrounding area. The natural light of the far northern part of our country has its own unique look and feel also, and being just a little more than 12 miles from the eastern entrance to Glacier National Park adds to the overall effect with mountains in the background and of course amazing sunsets.

The sounds are the next thing you notice as the deep rhythmic notes of the many drums and songs work their way into your senses. Drums and drummers from many places around the country, the singers joining in, the sounds of the calls made by the various participants as they dance around the arbor, are nearly overwhelming. You are immersed in the experience completely. They draw you in and mesmerize you even if you don’t understand the words. It is easy to get lost in the sound and action and swirling colors, but that is part of the experience of being here. And it feels good.

Over the next few days we will be bringing you the sights of this incredible experience, the regalia , the dances, along with the other events such as the rodeos and Indian Relay Races, plus some of the views of the countryside around the events themselves. It was a spectacular experience. If you can, go to the next one, it is worth every second you spend there. The Blackfeet welcome all guests and you’ll never forget the time you spent at The North American Indian Days celebration.