Monday, February 28, 2011

Leadville Ski Joring

In just four days, March 5th and 6th, Leadville, Colorado will be hosting their non-sanctioned 62nd annual race.

As the Leadville legend goes, Tom Schroeder and “Mugs” Ossman brought ski joring to Leadville from Steamboat Springs in 1949. It was a case of “we can do it better”, when the two friends decided they could improve Steamboat Springs version by making it about speed. So that year, the Crystal Carnival exhibited Ski Joring Leadville-style and the two friends figured right. It has been a part of the annual winter activities ever since.

One guest to last year’s event posted on the website, “[I] thought it was the most awesome spectacle of skiing and horses that I had ever witnessed.” It sounds like an event to go watch!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

St. Moritz Skijoring Results

345 days until the next race boldly the banner across the home page of the White Turf racing website White Turf informs visitors.

Over the past three consecutive February Sundays, ultimate snow racing thrilled the crowds at the White Turf racing facilities in St. Moritz Switzerland. At these races, the skier drives the horse, and the horse has no rider.

On Sunday the 6th, nine competed. King George with his skier Broger Jakob placed first with a time of 3:14, followed by Gallardo with skier Luminati Leo, and Viva la Mama with skier Wolf Alfredo Lupo.

On Sunday the 13th, ten raced. The top three were Bergonzi/Moro Franco with a time of 13:11, followed by Luberon/Willy Andy, and then Gallardo/Luminati Leo.

On the third Sunday, the 20th, only six raced. Bergonzi /Moro Franco again came in first with a time of 13:14, King George/Broger Jakob came in second, followed by Gallardo/Luminati Leo third.

Go to the website and check out the photos from past years. What do you say? 2012 - St. Mortiz, ja? Jawohl!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Ski Joring in Wisdom Montana

While St. Moritz White Turf race is still underway with one more weekend (Feb. 19-20) of racing, and the last North American Ski Joring Association's last sanctioned event took place this last weekend (Feb 12-13) in Newport, N.H., Wisdom, Montana (located 78 miles southwest of Butte on Highway 243 or 65 miles north of Dillon on Highway 278) is getting ready for its annual Big Hole Valley Winterfest and Ski Joring weekend (Feb.26 -27). This non-sanctioned NASJA event is open to competitors of "all skill level". The race includes a "900ft course with skier going through eight gates and over three 3.5ft jumps". The racing will be at 12:30 on Saturday and Sunday.

Big Hole Valley 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ski Joring Dangers (part 1)

Ski joring is risky for the human and horse alike. For humans, ski joring, like any other horse sport, has the same inherent dangers associated with horses. Risks include being kicked, or dragged. It is also inherently risky for people as it involves the dangers of skiing and snow sports as well. Skis get can get caught and cause nasty falls or ligament tears. However, it is just as risky for horses.

There are a many areas of risk for the horse, but here, I'd like to highlight one particular area, the risk involving the horse's hooves.

An article by Christy West Link on the intricacies of the horse's hoof encourages consideration for how the horse's hooves are effected in any circumstance. Considering the extremeness of racing in snow, her article is even more poignant. She says, "Knowing how the hoof is built and what it is capable of can help you understand what it needs to stay healthy and recover if compromised."

Hoof with no traction devices.
When the horse is cantering, racing, or let out at top speed, he places all of his weight on his hooves with great impact. In West's article, Andrew Parks, MA, VetMB, MRCVS, Dipl. ACVS, professor of the Department of Large Animal Medicine at the University of Georgia comments, "It's impressive that a running thoroughbred racehorse can put more than twice his weight on a hoof that's only 5 inches in diameter."When ski-joring, the horse is racing over frozen ground covered with deep snow. In an e-mail interview, farrier Jim Duncan points out, "Racing on snow is risky business for the rider as well as the horse, regardless of the fun involved."

In the anatomy of the hoof, behind the hoof wall are layers of laminae. These layers attach the hoof to the bone. "This attachment is unbelievably strong when healthy, suspending the coffin bone and thereby the horse's weight even with about 2,000 pounds of force landing on each forefoot during a running stride," said West. "However, the laminae can become weakened by repetitive injury or disease, leading to the inflammation, pain, and potential coffin bone instability with laminitis." This needs to be considered by owners racing their horses over frozen, snow-covered ground. Duncan says, "I think running a horse on frozen ground is akin to racing on blacktop or concrete, all three have the same effect."

Another matter for consideration is the traction the horse will have while racing in the snow.  Farrier Mitch Taylor from the Kentucky Horseshoeing School says, "The important thing is traction, so that the horse does not fall down; so he doesn't slip and cut himself or cut the horses he racing against."

The Horse World link, A publication of Kentucky Equine Research, Inc, suggests that, "screw-in studs or borium patches applied to the horseshoes help the horses gain traction on the snowy raceways."

Farrier Jesse Kleintop says, "Traction on [a ski-joring] horse -- the best thing for that, instead of shoes with borium or permanent studs, is screw in studs, -- like for an eventing horse, only in lots of snow." He explanins that there are hundreds of stud sizes to choose from and the size of the stud needed depends on the surface conditions. "It's about what works for the horse," he says. Kleintop says he would put two studs in the heel of  each hoof and perhaps, a third in the hind hooves (on the outside, close to the front). Taylor recommends screw in calks of tungsten carbide [borium], and stud holes in each heel as well as one in the front of all four of the hooves.

Besides decreasing traction, snow build-up in the hooves causes bruising of the sole, great pain, and lameness. "You'll want a snowball pad so that the snow doesn't pack in the foot," says Kleintop. Snow packing into the hooves is not good for the legs. It is like standing on a high hill and then trying to run with that hill.

However, Duncan warns, "I have only found temproary solutions to keeping ice from 'balling up' in the shoe. Caulks, toe grabs, snow pads, lubricants, and other means of keeping snow out of shoes is at best a poor deterrent for 'balling', making running in snow unsafe."

Nevertheless, as in any horse sport, there are conflicting opinions. "It's not unsafe," assures Taylor. "Horses have evolved to deal with snow and winter weather. There is always a chance of injury, but no more than any other horse sport."