They control their horses with leg cues and their voices. They count on trust and a one-inch wide leather strap around the horse’s neck to stay mounted while performing breathtaking maneuvers over jumps and obstacles.
And although the result is an effortless display of grace, there are many hours invested to make it so.
The EhCapa Bareback Riders come in all shapes and sizes between the ages of 8 and 19 and they will return to perform during the Wagon Days Celebration for a twelfth crowd-pleasing year.
What makes a good horse great? Sweaty saddle blankets.
“Personal responsibility and teamwork far outweigh anything else that we do.”
“It’s the time spent building that relationship with an animal that tells it that you are there to take care of it and it will likewise take care of you,” said Mark Price, president of the EhCapa Bareback Riders, who will ride in the parade and offer a special exhibition in Festival Meadows at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 31.
The team from Nampa is the only one of its kind in the United States and performs regularly throughout the West.
The EhCapa Bareback Riders were created in 1956 as an inexpensive way for children to ride and enjoy their horses. They evolved into a family-oriented club for boys and girls.
Price has two daughters, a 20-year-old who got hooked on this style of riding after seeing a performance, and a 14-year-old who started when she was seven.
He’s hooked on the end result: kids with incredible strength and self-esteem after spending years cultivating the devotion of an animal that weighs over 1,000 pounds with nothing but time and commitment. Any horse that’s at least 13 hands tall can participate.
“These kids give up their entire summers to ride with the EhCapa team,” he said, adding that it is the only one of its kind in the United States and is called to perform regularly throughout the West. “I think it’s one of the few youth groups where, above all else, personal responsibility and teamwork far outweigh anything else that we do.”
The club’s style of riding is reminiscent of Native Americans. Its name is Apache spelled in reverse. The riders honor Native Americans by wearing their beautiful handmade clothing and painting their symbols on the horses.
This year’s queen is Makenna “Stevie” Lloyd, 17, and junior queen is Kelsi Tackitt, 13, whose great grandma Irene Wilson was recently the first woman to be inducted into the Idaho Cowboy Hall of Fame. She will travel to Ketchum with Tackitt and about two dozen others.
While the riding techniques are awe-inspiring, Price maintains that there is nothing more positive in a kids’ life than bonding with such a powerful animal.
“It’s the self-esteem that comes out of their time spent with the team that really distinguishes these kids,” Price said. “We’ve had vets, doctors, lawyers, all kinds come out of here, and I think that this foundation is part of their success.”
The team relies on donations and performance fees to perpetuate itself. After insurance, the trip up to the valley will net around $300.
“But we love coming out,” Price said. “The audiences have always been incredible to us and it’s a nice year ender.”
For more information, visit www.ehcapa.com