Sheridan winter rodeo brings skijoring to town
Sheridan – Skijoring athletes and spectators from across Wyoming flocked to the first annual Sheridan Winter Rodeo held in the streets of downtown.
Event coordinator Bailey McLean boasted the event was the largest sanctioned Skijoring America race this year, with a whopping 107 teams entered.
“When we first started planning the event, we wanted to combine the western heritage of Wyoming with winter sports,” said McLean. “We had very modest goals since this was our first year for the event.”
McLean explained the planning team initially wanted to have 50 teams and 500 spectators, and they ended up doubling those goals.
“Our very first year ended up being the largest skijoring race of the year so far,” McLean said. “We couldn’t be any more excited and couldn’t have done it without the support of our community and sponsors.”
After this year’s success, McLean hopes to continue to grow the event to be regionally and nationally prominent.
“Next year we’re extending the event to two days instead of just one,” McLean said. “We want this to be an event competitors and spectators alike look forward to each year.”
“Skijoring combines the skills of a horse, rider and skier,” McLean explained. “The horse and rider pull the skier through a course consisting of various obstacles, jumps and rings.”
The sport is sanctioned by Skijoring America. The organization seeks to unify the sport, as well as draw spectators and host high-quality events across North America.
According to Tony Fox, an organization founder, the modern variation of the sport is thought to have begun in Colorado in 1950 by a quarter horse breeder and a “feisty Irish skier” with the belief no horse was fast enough to throw him off skis.
There are races held throughout the year to determine regional champions, as well as a national final held annually in Red Lodge, Mont.
Off to the races
“We kicked off the event with a local singer performing the national anthem,” says McLean. “We then recognized our sponsors who made the event possible. Our biggest sponsor was LJS Concrete and Excavation. They built the entire course free of charge.”
“We started the competition with the open division, which is the professionals,” McLean explained. “These teams travel all over the West competing, so it was a great, fast-paced way to start the event. Some of the open teams hit speeds up to 35 miles per hour.”
“The open division was followed by the sport division, which is a step below the open, and then novices and youth,” McLean said. “We only had a handful of youth teams, so we hope to grow the division next year.”
Once the competition was complete, teams were invited to the Blacktooth Brewery for the award ceremony, according to McLean.
“First place teams in each division were awarded a buckle, jacket and check, second place received a buckle and check, and third place received a check,” said McLean.
“We truly have one of the best communities in Wyoming,” said McLean. “Everyone was so supportive and receptive of this new event, which is very exciting for the future.”
Successful competitors were not the only ones to be rewarded at the event. Many local businesses reported their best day in months during the event.
“February can be a really rough time for some of our local businesses,” McLean explained. “This event brought spectators out to support our event, as well as the businesses in Sheridan.”
McLean added, “We hope by having an even larger event next year we will draw more spectators, overnight visitors and customers to enjoy skijoring and support local businesses in Sheridan.”
Callie Hanson is the assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.