What is Skijoring?

What originated in the Scandinavian countries as a form of winter transportation, the Western states have transformed skijoring into an action packed competition where a horse and rider pull a skier at a fast pace through a course that has gates, jumps, and rings. Modern skijoring combines Montana’s signature ski heritage with its cowboy roots into a wild, fast paced, spectacular event. Competitors race for cash and prizes based on the fastest combined times for the two day event as well as the fastest time each day. Above all, skijoring is just another reason to get outside during the winter in Montana, socialize, and support our local athletes and sponsors.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who competes and how can I get involved? 
Skijoring is an egalitarian event open to any and everyone who has a passion for horses or skiing or both. And if your love for these two also includes fast speeds and friendly competition, then skijoring may just be your calling. To get involved email gallatinvalleyskijoring@gmail.com or come to our Montana Classic race January 14-15, 2017. A full list of skijoring races can be found here

As a rider, do I need special tack or specific horseshoes?
Most riders use a western saddle to skijor. Although it is uncommon to see riders in the Rocky Mountains competing in an english saddle, competitors do use them in New England and Europe. A breast collar is a good idea to stabilize your saddle during the initial start. If you have never pulled before, once the skier is moving, there is actually not much pull on the saddle.

Different riders have different opinions regarding shoeing horses for skijoring. Many competitors chose to compete in borium-tipped horseshoes with a snow-pad inside of the shoe. However, most weekend competitors will successfully compete barefoot. It is highly recommended that horses be outfitted with bell and splint boots on each foot.

Ropes often are provided by the competitions, though most serious teams chose to bring their own preferred regulation rope. Ropes are to be 50 feet in length for curved courses or 33 feet in length for straight courses and 3/8 inches or larger in diameter. Handles on ropes are not permitted.

How do I attach the rope to my saddle?
The rope is attached to the saddle horn or behind the saddle. If the attachment is behind the saddle it must be secured to the primary rigging rings of the saddle via a narrow diameter, non elastic rope, so that pulling rope is within an approximate four (4) inches of the cantle, carabineer included. 

rigging 1
A quick release rigging option using a  Fusion Quick Release Snap Shackle

A quick release rigging option using a Fusion Quick Release Snap Shackle


As a skier, what kind of skies should I use?
That's a competitor secret — but some of the top skiers in the sport have years of ski-racing under their belt.

Advice for a first timer? 
If you've always been interested in trying skijoring but never had the opportunity, The Montana Classic is the perfect place to start. The Novice division is designed for beginners of all abilities and is an actual time competition with prize money and buckles. 

For beginners to skijoring, it is recommended that your horse be familiar with having a rope across their hind quarters, any exposure to ponying or having skiers behind them will be a good place to start. 

Where can I practice? 
GVSJA has no formal practices. Some competitors chose to build small courses in their pastures but it is more important to get your horse comfortable with towing a skier behind them. This should be done slowly unless your horse is already comfortable with ponying things behind them. 

What is a course like?
Courses vary greatly from event to event and can be a straight run, U-shaped course, or a single turn L-shaped course. Typically course length will be approximately 600-1000 feet from start gate to finish gate with an additional couple of hundred feet for horses to stop. Ski gates are typically breakaway style, where the skier goes right of the red gates and left of the blue gates. Ski jumps vary from three to six feet high. The course designs are unique to each location and are created by an experienced designer who may chose to include rings for either the skier or the rider to grab to provide an additional challenge. 

How is it scored?
Skijoring is a two day competition with each team running once per day. Scoring is timing based and the times from each run is combined for an overall score. Time penalties are added for missed gates (five seconds added) or dropped/missed rings (two seconds added) to the total score. Winnings are awarded for the three fast combined times over the two days in each division as well as "day money" for the fast single day time in each division.

What division should I compete in and how much money can you win? 
Please refer to the Competitor Information page. 

What is a Calcutta?
The Calcutta takes place on Saturday night after Day 1 of competition. Teams are auctioned off to raise money for a local non-profit. Spectators and participants essentially "buy" a team(s) based on the results posted from Day 1 in expectations of the team being a top three finisher for Day 2 results (winning times for the Calcutta will be based on the top three results from Day 2, not cumulative times from the weekend).  Once a team is bid on, the winning bidder can win back part of the Calcutta money based on how the team performs on Sunday. All money raised during the Calcutta is shared between the non-profit and the winning bidders for the top three fastest teams on Sunday in each division.

Can I volunteer?
Yes! Volunteers are crucial to running a successful event. If you are interested in volunteering, please email gallatinvalleyskijoring@gmail.com.


Please submit any additional questions you may have to gallatinvalleyskijoring@gmail.com

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