What happens when you mix a horse, a pack of sled dogs, a car, and a pair of skis together?
You get Skijoring, that’s what!
Yes, this is a real exercise that people really do. The word comes from Norway, where it’s derived from a Norwegian word that means “ski driving.” When done with dogs, it’s actually a competitive sport across North America and Scandinavia. Skijoring is not new, and in fact it’s been around for well over a hundred years in Scandinavia. It was at first used to help people get from place to place faster through the snow with the help of sled dogs or horses, but now it’s also about the sport of it.
A Tough Sport
Essentially, Skijoring is cross-country dog skiing. Or horse skiing, depending on the form it takes. In the 1928 Olympics, this sport was included. That’s the only time that’s it’s ever made an appearance in the games, and in that version of the sport, horses were used.
It is an unusual sport, as the person is not the one doing the movement. Don’t let that fool you into thinking that this is easy. Not at all. Skijoring takes a tremendous amount of physical stamina and mental toughness. The conditions of the sport are icy and cold, which is even more challenging when you’re going fast on snow with the wind whipping in your face.
Controlling, or attempting to control, several animals while staying balanced on skis is no easy task. It requires a great deal of upper body strength, as well as core balance. Core balance is what this is all about as an exercise. At these speeds, a crash is going to be a major problem.
To participate in Skijoring, a skijoring belt is fastened around the waist. Rock climbing belts are often used as a substitute for the specialized belt.
How to Train for Skijoring
Like anything, the best way to train for this sport is by doing. Learning to command the animals is of first importance. Skijoring is centered on the relationship between the skier and the animal or animals. Standard dog sled commands are used with dog teams, but horses require more learning time as they are commanded a lot through the reins.
Learning how to pass and be passed by another skier is of particular importance, as the animals have a mind of their own and do not listen to their masters perfectly. Care for safety has to be taken first. Those participating in Skijoring do not wear any additional protective gear, so they have to be on the alert for their safety and for the safety of their animals.
Training extends to the same kinds of training as is used for cross-country skiing. Endurance, strength, and coordination are the most important skills to know in order to practice this sport. Cross-country skiers practice by putting as many miles under their skis as possible. This is one area where putting in the practice time is the only way to get it right, even without the horses and dogs!
Several kinds of Skijoring have been put together using other apparatuses, including with snowboards and even Skijoring on grass or behind a vehicle. This fun and unique sport challenges the body, the mind, and man’s friendship with other creatures.