By Melanie Mandell

When it comes to winter sports, skiing, snowboarding, hockey, and broomball seem to be the dominant forces on the Colorado College campus. Many students are unaware of some of the more extreme winter sports that people participate in, such as skijoring. Skijoring involves a skier, a horse, and a lot of nerve. Check out what Tessa Ganellen ’21 has to say about her experience skijoring.

Melanie Mandell: Can you explain to us what skijoring is? How do you set up the rig? How are competitions scored? What is the goal? 

Tessa Ganellen: You can imagine skijoring as water skiing on snow behind a horse. You reach speeds of up to 25 to 30 mph. It usually consists of a team of three: the skier, the horseback rider, and the horse. Courses usually involve a series of jumps ranging from two to seven feet, gates similar to ski racing gates, and rings skiers must catch on their arms. Points are awarded based on fastest times and time penalties are given if jumps are missed, rings are dropped, or gates are missed. The rope is attached straight to the saddle by a handy knot attached to the hardware of the saddle. Then the rope is attached to the saddle using a locking D carabiner. 

MM: How did you come to skijoring? 

TG: I love skiing and I love riding. My friend Ali and I have been talking about skijoring the last two years or so. This year we finally decided to give it a try. I volunteered to ski since I’m the only one that skis. And the rest is history.

MM: Describe your first-time skijoring.

TG: My first-time skijoring was interesting. I have skied since I was two and figured, how bad could it be? The key is not to allow any slack in the rope when you start out, as the sudden jerk can dislocate your shoulders; horses have a lot of power. We started pretty slow to get the horses used to it from a walk, to a trot, a lope, and eventually we moved into the gallop. The horses were amazing and didn’t seem to mind pulling me at all. We mainly skied on a plowed road with just enough snow to ski. The next training session was a couple of weeks later and we built a four-foot jump with the bobcat. That was really good practice. Being pulled off a jump is a little different than jumping off on your own. One, because you can’t control your own speed, and two, because the landing is flat. We again started pretty slow off the jump and slowly picked up speed. Flying off that jump at a full gallop was definitely an experience. I went about 25 feet out from the jump and landed it, but I was definitely pretty exhilarated. The landing was certainly a little rough on the knees and toes. Advice for anyone trying to skijor jump: tighten up your boots and bend those knees. 

MM: Have you ever competed? Do you have plans to compete again soon?

TG: We planned to compete in Saratoga, Wyo. a few weekends ago, but unfortunately couldn’t make it because the weather was so bad. We couldn’t drive the horse trailer up in all the snow. It was a real bummer. We are competing March 7 and 8 in Leadville and we are very excited.  

If you’re able, head up to Leadville to support Tessa and her team as they compete for the first time at the annual Skijoring and Carnival! No doubt it will be the experience of a lifetime. 

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