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MEEKER | What do Saint Moritz, Switzerland, Saratoga, Wyoming and Nadym, Russia have in common with Meeker, Colorado? A love of horses, lots of snow and on Feb. 22 of this year skijoring!
The name skijoring is derived from a Norwegian word which means ski driving. The sport has a storied history in North America. It is speculated that when World War II ended, men from the 10th Mountain Division returned home to the American west after seeing skijoring in countries such as France and Switzerland. To simplify the equipment cowboys simply attached a long rope to the saddle horn of a western saddle, added a water skiing tow handle, and the skier held on as the horse was ridden at a gallop down a long straightaway –usually an open field or a snow-covered roadway. Bobby Gutierrez, co-owner of Wendll’s, organized one such event for Meeker on Main Street in 1996.
This year Meeker joins numerous mountain towns in Colorado, Wyoming and Montana to produce races that put safety, fairness and integrity first in support of a common interest: celebrating skijoring’s responsible growth as a winter sport. The race will be held Feb. 22-23 at the Rio Blanco County Fairgrounds.
Seasoned skijor racehorses can reach speeds of up to 40 miles per hour, slightly slower than a typical downhill ski racer at 60 miles per hour. As the horse gallops on a straight course, the skier flies over jumps and spears rings set up along certain parts of the course. The race team is considered a team of three: horse, rider and skier. Teams can be a mix of ages and beginners are encouraged to come out and give skijoring a try. It’s mandatory that all participants bring their own horses and train them to pull objects before attempting to race.
Special to the Herald Times