Steamboat Springs For some ranchers, possessing a chariot is sort of like having a boat or a motor home. Each provides some pleasure and enjoyment for its owner when times or business is slow.
For ranchers, those are the winter months, so to pass the hours and days, they picked up the idea of chariot racing in November and December. They already had the horses, so all they needed were the chariots.
Ed Duncan has been racing for 30 years. No, he doesn't wear the togas, bronze armor shields or ivy leaf crowns commonly associated with the early European spectacle of chariot racing. Participants in the events in Steamboat Springs wear protective headgear and compete in chariots that often weigh no more than 90 pounds.
"We pretty much hop in the chariot and go," Duncan said.
Though it isn't the Roman Coliseum, spectators will have a chance to view their own chariot races Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m. on the south track just outside Brent Romick Rodeo Arena.
Chariot racing is a popular event in the Yampa Valley, according to race volunteer Val Kiniston.
"But a lot of people don't know about it anymore," she said.
The idea behind Steamboat's races is similar to the spectacles many have read about or have seen in television movies. One racer is in the chariot and is pulled by two horses. Duncan said racers often wear certain colors that correspond with the hues on the horse and harness.
At the World Championships in Ogden, Utah, a prize is awarded for the most creative. In Steamboat it's done more for the show.
The races are done more for the show as well, but don't tell the horses.
Duncan said a majority of the horses used are too old for the racetrack, but their legs remember their younger years.
"We have a lot of retired race horses," Duncan said. "These are 9, 10 or 11 years old, but they are still race horses. I do it just for fun."
Duncan said the chariot races are important to the 15-20 teams that plan on competing over the Fourth of July weekend. Many of the participants are local, but he expected to see a couple teams from Wyoming and possibly one from Utah in town.
What once was a winter pastime has now become a year-round hobby.
"It's a pretty big deal," Duncan said.
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