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THE UNBRIDLED SPIRIT OF THE EHCAPA RIDERS
Riding Style is a tribute to Native Americans
These young riders are much more than just a bareback drill team spicing up the Wagon Days Festival. When they ride through Ketchum each fall as part of the Big Hitch Parade be sure to follow them to the rodeo grounds afterwards, where they perform amazing feats without the use of saddles or bridles. You can watch them perform intricate patterns, formations and battle charges; maneuvering their horses through lines and circles and even over show stopping jumps with what looks like nothing between them and their horses.
The EhCapa riders control their horses with a simple leather band around the neck, called a tack rein, and subtle cues from their legs, weight and voices.
Their style of riding and handmade costumes are a tribute to regional Native American tribes and their master horsemanship. Friends and family decorate the costumes with beads and fringe the horses with feathers and hand-painted Native American symbols. Every horse has a signature pair of yellow and red handprints on its rump.
Wayne Stear, a member of the Ada County Sheriff’s Posse, founded EhCapa in 1956. His original goal was to provide an opportunity for kids to learn horsemanship without great expense. He and his fellow founding members decided to ride bareback with only the use of a tack rein, taking an idea from one of his Sheriff’s posse drills. The club name, EhCapa, came from the backwards spelling of one of Stear’s horses, “Apache.”
As an EhCapa rider, goals are made and achieved individually but are cultivated as a group. The members truly become one with their horses. To become part of the club’s royalty program, members must completely commit to the team, since rising through the ranks of royalty is rarely achieved alone.
As the EhCapa team program explains: “EhCapa believes that when youngsters learn to build trust in the horses they love, the results can be remarkable. The program is built on commitment, patience with self, consistent practice, active team participation and mentoring others.”
The EhCapa team has performed in Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, Ohio and British Columbia. Becoming an EhCapa rider is a commitment for the entire family. Parents are required to attend each practice, as well as travel with the group. For this group of boys and girls it is an honor and a way of life that carries through for the rest of their lives.
EhCapa now consists of nearly 50 riders between the ages of 8 and 19. Their horses are of every breed, size and color, ranging from Appaloosas to wild mustangs. The team is taught core horsemanship and how to work as one with their mounts through difficulty and triumph, resulting in the ultimate bond between rider and horse.
As riders progress and become more disciplined, skilled and patient in their training, they grow more self-confident and develop a greater sense of pride.-Nancy Glick