Skijoring (“ski driving” in Norwegian) might just be on its way to becoming one of the top horse sports in North America. The sport involves towing a skier (or rollerblader) with a water skiing handle behind a galloping horse. Both the horse and the skier must navigate an obstacle race course of sorts.
The sport can also be done behind skijoring dogs, mostly northern breeds, but Golden Retrievers and German Shorthaired Pointers have been known to compete. In the dog sledding sport the skier is usually cross-country skiing while skijoring behind a horse usually requires alpine ski gear.
Many courses involve jumps, and some include rings that the rider and skier must grab while passing by. Sometimes slalom gates are thrown in there. Skijoring is typically completed over snow, but a summertime version allows for rollerbladers and horses to travel over grass turf and jumps.
The video below includes runs performed at the 5th Annual Skijoring Competition in Silverton, Colorado, but the World Championship is normally held in Whitefish, Montana as part of the annual Winter Carnival. You can tell that the skijoring event is highly popular, and states which have lots of ski resorts are naturally set up to host these competitions.
Competitions can accommodate teams consisting of the beginner to the advanced competitor, and just about anyone can compete in this fun sport.
Want to give skijoring a try? Then you’ll need a steady, calm horse. The first step in preparing for this sport is to teach your horse to comfortably tow weight behind him. Start by pulling objects like feed sacks behind your horse. Don’t wrap your tow rope around your saddle horn initially; you’ll want to be able to drop it if your horse is spooked by the object you’re towing.
Gradually progress to towing heavier, larger, and scarier objects until your horse is fine with a strange shape bouncing around behind him.
Remember that it’s important to stay safe with this sport. It’s always advisable to wear a helmet while riding a horse, and the skier should definitely wear a helmet. Gloves are important for both the rider and the skier to help prevent rope burns, and it’s a good idea to find someone with experience in skijoring races to help safely introduce you to the sport.
Maybe one day the entertaining sport will be seen in the Winter Olympics! It was attempted as a demonstration sport during the 1928 games in St. Moritz, Switzerland, but never made it as an official sport. Maybe the athletic event will return!
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