Hoofs and Heroes
Skijoring Comes to the Kootenays
By Doug Pyper
By Doug Pyper
A recent 'Skijoring' event in the West Kootenay region of British Columbia may well have set in motion a new local tradition.
When Diane Kinrade, Program Director for The West Kootenay Therapeutic Riding Association, began brainstorming ideas for a fundraiser it almost seemed like a no brainer.
“I’d been a ski patrol for 15 years, and have been equestrian riding and instructing for 35 years. And I knew all about Skijoring, because I’m Norwegian and the sport originated in my homeland” she says.
What she didn’t realize was this would be the first recorded organized competition of its kind in western Canada.
Equestrian Skijoring is a variation of the canine powered sport, which is widespread in our country, especially as part of regional sled dog competitions. But one must cross the border to places like Montana and Colorado, where ranches and ski resorts share a common turf, to experience the hoofed version of the activity. With few exceptions Skijoring as a competitive sport in Canada has involved dogs, not horses. One such exception is the recently sanctioned NASJA races that began just two years ago at the Quebec Winter Carnival.
The use of horses adds more speed and excitement to the sport. Competitors use downhill skis and snowboards as opposed to Nordic skis used in canine events. And jump ramps, navigating through cones and speed are definitely part of the mix. This high energy contest is geared for those with plenty of fitness and skill mixed with a good measure of madness.
One might question why horse drawn Skijoring didn’t find a home here in the Kootenays years ago. It seems a perfect match. With a well spring of local riders and horses and an indigenous culture of adrenalin driven skiers and snowboarders that hang at Whitewater and Red Mountain Ski Resorts, it should have naturally evolved over time.
Well, it’s here to stay now as of March 11/2012. Plans are already in motion to make this an annual event in Nelson, BC. The Nelson Riding Club arena will be expanded next season to make the existing course longer and lines will be cast to draw competitors from a larger area. Hopes are high to bring the local ski resorts on board as marketing partners.
This inaugural event was rather small and intimate with mostly local entries. And first place honours went to snowboarder Josh Ross (21) pulled by Katarina Burkhardt (18) riding a Palomino quarter horse named 'Latte'. This should spur some friendly rivalry next year from all those on skis!
The WKTRA is a non-profit organization founded in 1999 whose purpose is to help challenged individuals with physical and mental disabilities. Diane Kinrade, who is also a registered nurse, explains “We offer a physical rehabilitation program, a mental health therapy program and a sport recreation program. We put people in the saddle and give them a program to help meet the challenges in their life”.
The fundraising from this event will help, over the years, to fulfill a dream of building an indoor riding arena for the WKTRA. Donations to the cause are welcomed at http://www.kootenayridingtherapy.org/
View 40 more images of this very special event here:http://dougpyper.photoshelter.com/gallery/Skijoring-Nelson-BC/G0000aPYm9anUnOM/