When the winter temperatures dip below the freezing point, exploring the outdoors may appear challenging. However, if you and your horse or dogs feel cooped up, you can try skijoring.
While this sport has been growing in popularity among skiers usually trapped in sleepy winter towns, not many people know what is skijoring. To change this, we will be taking a deeper look at skijoring.
The term skijoring originates from the Norwegian skikjøring, or “ski driving”. Simply defined, skijoring refers to the art of skiing where the skier gets towed by rope at breakneck speed by dog or horse.
You will be standing on your all-mountain skis (some people prefer cross-country skis), holding a rope. The other end of the rope is usually attached to a single dog, a couple of dogs, or a horse. In a less traditional setting, you can even attach the rope to a car after donning your cross-country ski clothing.
Getting Started with Skijoring
Now that you know what is skijoring, chances are, you may want to try the winter sport. If a skijoring horse is not an option, you can use your dog you can use any dog breed.
If you decide to use a dog, make sure that the dog is at least a year old, in good health, and weighs at least 30 pounds. While some small dogs could have the will to pull you through the snow after you put on your ski jacket, you could end up putting undue pressure on their bodies.
Before packing your cross-country skiing equipment and heading to the skiing tracks, consider the health and fitness of the skijoring horse or dog. If necessary, check-in with the vet first.
You will also need to take your physical condition into account too. Skijoring can be extremely demanding on the lower back and the knees.
If you have not been wearing your ski pants for a long time, meaning skiing is a new sport to you, consider locating a Nordic center and taking a couple of cross-country lessons. Learning the basics will help you have an easier time on the tracks.
If you are after speed, you will need to locate flat, wide, and groomed trails. Since you will have to use a technique known as skate skiing, focus on learning and understanding this type of skiing. When skate skiing, you will need to keep the tips apart and the tails closer together – you will get the kick by alternately pushing off your skis’ inside edges – much like ice skating. Look for short, stiff skis featuring almost zero turn-ups at the front.
Before heading to the tracks with your skijoring horse or dog, ensure that your skis are waxed. Using glide wax on the skis will make it easier for you to move over the snow. Be sure to choose the wax that fits the conditions in which you will be skiing.
Learn how to stop before getting into serious skijoring. The first method you can use is the snowplow, where you will point the ski tips toward each other and dig deep into the snow with the heels. Another quick way of stopping is falling. Put your skis on and start practicing how to fall and get up before you can attempt skijoring.
Similar to other snow sports, skijoring does feature dangers – people, horses, and dogs can get hurt. While understanding what is skijoring is important, this may not keep you safe. However, a couple of simple safety tips and common sense can go a long way in ensuring that accidents do not occur.
The safety tips below should help you stay safe:
- Warm-up – Consider using a brisk walk featuring some quick turns to warm up.
- Know your ability – Be sure to stick to trails featuring the right length and difficulty for your skills. Also, ensure that the skijoring horse or dog skills are ideal for the trail you decide to explore.
- Protect your head – Invest in a ski helmet that fits. Be sure to wear it.
- Invest in obedience training – This is for your dog. If communicating with your dog is easy, your outing should be fun and much safer.
- Practice – You should practice with your skijoring dog. Put the dog in a skijoring harness and head out for a walk. Ensure that the dog understands the basics of how to behave when in the harness.
If you are getting started with skijoring, chances are, you are yet to invest in the skijoring gear. Below, we have a list of the equipment you may need:
- Harness – A pulling harness is extremely important. If you are using a dog, avoid a neck collar – this could injure the dog.
- Tether – This is the line from the harness to your waist. A 9 feet tether should be ideal for skiing.
- Waist belt – This should be wide enough to cover several of the vertebrae present on your back.
- Standard ski equipment – If you have been skiing in the past, you should already have the general ski gear, including boots, ski goggles, ski clothing, ski knee braces, etc.
Skijoring Basic Commands
When skijoring with your dog, it may be a good idea to make sure that the dog is familiar with the following commands:
- Let’s Go or Hike – This means “start running”.
- Whoa – This command tells the dog to stop.
- Gee – This tells your dog to turn right.
- Haw – The command tells your dog to turn left.
- Easy – This means “slow down”.
- On-By – This means “run by another team”.
- Line Out – This tells the dog to stand still.
Keep in mind that the above commands will work much better if the trail you will be exploring will not have a lot of people using the same commands. If other people are using the same commands, your dog may get confused.
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For someone who is just learning what is skijoring, the sport may appear quite complicated. With practice, however, you may be able to enjoy the sport with your skijoring horse or dog.
When skijoring, put safety first. Training your dog or horse and wearing the right safety equipment can go a long way in ensuring that you are safe.
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