A manned horse rears up and moves in circles like a boxer gearing up for a fight. Meanwhile, a skier prepares feet away, stretching and ensuring their clothing is intact. The announcer puts on requisite 1990s sports stadium music, ”Eye of the Tiger,” “Jock Jams,” you know the kind. He hollers out the name of the rider, the horse, and the skier as we all stick our necks out over the rope separating us from the course. The skier picks up the rope now linking up with the horse and its rider.
The signal is given and they’re off! The horse is off like a shot and the skier expertly flies off and (most of the time) lands jumps, picks up rings, and weaves through the course all in under fifteen or so seconds. It’s thrilling! The crowd cheers with approval after a swift run and gives out a collective “Oh!” when the skier takes a tumble. In the words of the announcer This is some GOOD watchin’.
The Skijoring at Rebecca Farm event is as Montana as they come. Riders from across the state are decked out in fine “cowboy” garb. Spectators don layers and layers of clothing to withstand that 15 °F or so temperatures with a smile. Babies are in mini sleeping bags being pulled in sleds or else zipped up in a parent’s jacket. The warming huts are equipped with a never-ending supply of wood and coffee. The most popular concession stands dole out local beer and sausage sandwiches. All this takes place on a large farm surrounded by mountains in every direction. And I’m reminded by the announcer, in between riders, of something important: native Montanans never pass up the opportunity to acknowledge the privilege it is to live here.
Skijoring events are annual affairs and something that must be experienced at least once. Next time, I plan on packing a big picnic and thermos filled with something hot (perhaps a nice hot toddy batch). Oh, and a rubber mat to stand on as the regulars do.
A few to try if you find yourself in our neck of the woods:
Skijoring in Kalispell