Tyrell McGilvery, 14, just finished another successful season in Indian Horse Relay. (Submitted by Tyrell McGilvery) After a second successful season as an Indian Relay racer, 14-year-old Tyrell McGilvery can’t wait to get back on the horse and do it all over again.
McGilvery, from Goodfish Lake First Nation about 150 km northeast of Edmonton, capped off his 2018 season by winning the Canadian Indian Relay Racing Association season championship and placing ninth out of 38 teams in the Championship of Champions tournament in Walla Walla, Wash.
The sport is relatively new to Canada, but has been popular in the U.S. for years. It was introduced at the North American Indigenous Games and the Calgary Stampede in 2017. Jockeys ride bareback, with no helmets, around a racetrack. Riders run three laps around the track while switching horses after each lap.
McGilvery’s new team, River Cree, won the Chief Race at the Walla Walla tournament, earning McGilvery the Chief’s Buckle.
This all despite practising with his new teammates for only three weeks. McGilvery holds the chief’s buckle he received for winning the Chief Race in a tournament at Walla Walla, Wash. (Submitted by Tyrell McGilvery) "It didn’t bother me that I switched on to a different team, I just wanted to race," McGilvery said.
He had been racing with his uncle’s team, called Northern Cree Express, after one of their members was injured. Once the injured teammate was set to return, McGilvery gave his spot up happily and found a new team.
His uncle’s team placed seventh in the Walla Walla races, two spots ahead of McGilvery’s new team, but at the end of the day, seeing his family succeed is just as important to him as doing well himself.
"It’s all my family that makes it fun," he said.
"They make me go further and make me want to achieve my goals."
His family first taught him to race horses at age seven. Since then, McGilvery said, you couldn’t keep him away from the horses.
"I was always with my horse 24/7, riding it bareback, no shirt — just riding it like the good old days," he said.
"When I look into the horse’s eyes, it makes me feel like I’m safe with them. Makes me feel more comfortable. Makes me feel like I’m at home." McGilvery was racing horses as early as age seven, and was riding ponies even earlier than that. (Submitted by Tyrell McGilvery) McGilvery used to ride junior bulls, but it simply didn’t compare to relay racing.
"That didn’t give the adrenaline relay gives me. I just want to do it again," he said.
With the season over now, McGilvery is focused on other sports like hockey and basketball. But he’s set to start running and hitting the gym, too — preparing for next year’s relay race season.
"Next year, when the Indian Relay comes, I’m just hoping to do my best, do my job, be around family and have fun," he said.
"I’m going to try to win every championship there this upcoming season."
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