There are moments, events, people and places that fill an artist with transforming inspiration. Not merely ah-ha moments but big, bold epiphanies that occur when least expected. Ranging from stopped-in-your-tracks introspection to heart thumping excitement, they're rare and deeply welcomed.
Early one morning last week I channel surfed onto a PBS program called Independent Lens. The featured story was a documentary titled: Indian Relay. I was stretching through my usual yoga routine and, wow oh wow, did I sit up and take notice.
The title is aptly descriptive: a relay horse race belonging to the Indian Nation. Different tribes compete at various locations and through a process of elimination, the winners vie for final championship races in Billings, Montana during September.
It's three times around a track of varying distances, most being a half to five-eighths of a mile. The same rider races all three but must change horses twice. That's the relay part, three times around on three different horses. As the rider completes the first trip, he dismounts (at practically full gallop) as the "mugger" catches his horse and the rider jumps on the next. Now here's the thing: these horses are ridden bareback. No saddles. And the riders must swing up on the next horse with no help from the team handler. Crazy, huh? With the exception of a set of blinkers here and there, it's a simple bridle with no tongue tie, nose band, figure eight or any other racing equipment.
If a horse gets loose, the team is disqualified.
Training begins out on the open range when the weather breaks.
The riders are supreme athletes and possess the confidence and fearlessness of youth. Considered an extreme sport, the element of danger and risk is prevalent. It's pure adrenaline overdose. The timing is critical, the horses are intensely excited and the team stands poised to embark on a mid-air transfer that combines chaos and collision.
I felt elated after watching the documentary. Yes, there's danger but there's also respect, love, honor, devotion, cooperation, ritual and of course, bravery. Everything an artist could ask for. Speed and movement. It's the rhythmic bass of hoofbeats felt deep down in my solar plexus.
True fact: every night my dreams are of horses. Every...single...night. I still honor and obey the muse.