Skijöring: How To Combine Horse Racing & Skiing
Over the years, many sports advanced to a new form where they include similar elements from popular sports only uniquely designed to make them different and more exciting.
Such sport is Skijöring. This is a sport where people ride skies attached to horseback. This might be like a recipe for disaster, but at the end of the day, it is very exciting to watch or even try it out yourself.
In most cases, horses are used in the summer or spring season when the weather conditions are perfect. That is why most of TwinSpires horse racing events happen between May and June.
However, Scandinavians have found a way to use the abilities of a horse during the winter season, which led to the birth of a new sport – Equestrian Skijöring.
Skijöring Origins And How it Is Organized
Skijöring originated in Scandinavia, which is not surprising since the temperatures are colder and the winter season lasts much longer.
So, it is not common in mainstream skiing places like Vaujany and Alpe d’huez, but instead in countries like Norway, Sweden, and Finland.
Originally, sleds pulled by dogs and horses were used for transportation since vehicles couldn’t handle the tough weather conditions.
This soon led to a competitive sport where participants will attach skies and be pulled by horses. Skijöring is very popular in the northern part of Europe, where it is considered serious competition. Horses wear special winter shoes that will help them get more traction on the snowy track, and the participants are pulled at remarkable speed.
North America also has its own version of Skijöring, and it includes a rider on the horse, while the skijorer holds a line attached to the saddle horn. This makes the sport safer since the rider controls the pace of the horse.
Since this sport is not at the same level as other more professional sports, it is common to see a lot of different ways people organize Skijöring races. However, there are two most common types of racecourses.
- Straight course
- Horseshoe-shaped course
The straight course allows the horse to achieve its top speed, while the skier is navigating slalom gates and jumps ranging from three to nine feet high that are set on either side of the track. Some Skijöring events even include rings that every skier must grab along the track, just to make it more challenging for the rider, as if wasn’t already challenging.
On the other hand, the horseshoe track, allows the horse to run on the inside of the track, while the skier navigates through obstacles and jumps on snow ramps. This course is at a slower pace, but it is very difficult since the skier has to turn constantly.
Despite the low popularity of the sport, there is a World Skijöring Championship race that take place in Whitefish, Montana since 2009. This carnival usually is organized on the last weekend of January on a 750 to 800 feet course. The only rule that the organizers have is that the horse cannot run more than twice a day.
What Do You Need in Order to Organize Such Race
To be honest, not much. Skijöring isn’t a sport that requires expensive equipment or high-end technology. The most necessary part of the sport is the snow. So, if you live in a country where there is a snowy season, this might be the perfect activity during the cold days.
In order to organize a Skijöring race, you’ll need a horse, horseshoe covers, rider, and skier that will grab the rope attached to the saddle of the horse.
If you are not an adrenaline junkie, you can also enjoy this sport at a slower pace. Grabbing a pair of skies and attaching a rope to a horse in the winter season while the horse is moving slowly is the perfect way to enjoy some scenery.
The surprising fact is that Skijöring as a niche winter sport was actually made in the 1928 Winter Games in St. Moritz, Switzerland. However, the glory of the sport was short-lived as it wasn’t included in any Olympic games since.
With that said, it is still an exciting sport that will pump you up with adrenaline even if you are not participating in the actual race. It is definitely slightly different from skiing and not the most recommended sport if you are still an amateur at both skiing and or horse riding. Make sure to read a lot about it and maybe take a trip to watch some Skijöring competitions, which are very entertaining.