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Billings Saddle Club begins 2024 O-Mok-See season, offers growth for all ages

Posted at 9:13 PM, May 05, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-06 08:10:49-04

BILLINGS — The Billings Saddle Club began its 2024 O-Mok-See season on Sunday.

“Riding on horseback, competing against others, going fast, it’s all good," said Kathey Adams, who was setting up the course for the day's events.

O-Mak-See comes from the Blackfoot language, meaning "riding big dance." The tradition is often referred to as "games on horses" or "pattern horse racing."

“(We are) just enjoying what amazing creatures God has blessed us with," said Dan Mortensen, a six-time world champion saddle bronc rider and a world champion all-around cowboy, who was out for a riding day with his family.

The games were started by the Blackfeet tribe as a pre-war ceremony, which became adopted into Western culture as a part of rodeo.

While the origins of the sport were not at the center of the day's events, many said their relationship with horseback riding remained personal.

“I love horses. I've loved ‘em since I was a little baby. I’ve tried to foster that and pass that on to my kids," said Mortensen.

Several club members noted that horseback riding is a great way for kids to build character and learn about responsibility.

“I like every horse for a different thing, but I like him ‘cause he’s really fast and I get to work with him," said Joy Mortensen, Dan's daughter, about her horse named Lightning.

Riders said they feel the most significant part of their passion is the relationships they build with their horses.

"We’re a little afraid of the camera," said Katie Keding, when asked to explain why her horse, Rachel, was kept at a distance for her interview, "Maybe, we’re both camera shy.”