By Johnna Espinoza
Fans of skilled and fast barrel racing horses know the equines often do more than run cloverleaf patterns. The magnificent animals are also sometimes used for roping cattle, trail riding and much more.
Some barrel racing horses even excel at skijoring. Yes, that’s right, skijoring. You may not have heard of it, but it turns out that the speed and athleticism of barrel racing actually translates well to skijoring.
Skijoring, pronounced ski-jor-ing, is a winter sport where a person on skis is pulled by a horse, a dog or a motor vehicle. It is derived from the Norwegian word skikjøring meaning ski driving.
Long-time WPRA member and past WPRA Board of Director Amber Bruce West and her daughter’s horse, Scooby, found out that they make a pretty good skijoring tandem, as long as they are accompanied by an experienced skier who doesn’t mind going really, really fast.
Scooby, whose registered name is VLS Mr. Clover, is among the stars on the West ranch, located in Hereford, S.D., which is 50 miles northeast of Rapid City. Scooby, an 11-year-old paint gelding, is owned by West’s daughter, Jaycie, 14. Scooby, along with the adorable name, is pretty much beloved by all and just a terrific horse.
“We team rope on him. I use him on the ranch. You can rope and doctor a cow off of him. He’s just one of those that is special and he will do anything,” West said of her top 1D barrel horse.
Scooby was a gift to Jaycie from her paternal great-grandmother Ardith Bruce, a name some barrel racing fans may recognize. Bruce, who resides in Fountain, Colo., qualified for the National Finals Rodeo seven times and won a barrel racing world championship in 1964. Bruce’s love of barrel racing and training horses certainly rubbed off on her granddaughter and great-granddaughter. Bruce selected Scooby for them.
“She just has a knack for looking at horses and telling if they are athletes,” West said. “She picked Scooby out of a sale when he was a yearling. I think she paid $300 for him and she gave him to Jaycie.”
Along with Scooby, West has used her mare, All Warm N Fuzzy, barn name, Brandi, for skijoring. West got into skijoring for the first time this winter. She learned about the event by watching videos and asking others who had competed previously. West competed in two skijoring events in February and it is fair to say she is hooked.
“It was a blast!” West said.
At the beginning of the month, she was named the champion rider at the skijoring event held at the Days of ’76 rodeo arena in Deadwood, S.D. West and her ski partner won buckles for first place and also posted the fastest time of the day. Scooby was named Top Equine Athlete. The event was a fundraiser for the Black Hills Ski Club.
Later in the month, West rode both Scooby and Brandi at the Sundance Winter Festival skijoring event in Sundance, Wyo. West didn’t finish first in Wyoming, but she received lots of positive comments and is looking forward to competing again.
West’s confidence in skijoring comes from having a lot of faith in her horses, despite being new to the event. She also has spent many years riding and training horses.
“The snow was really good. It had a good base,” West said about the event in Deadwood. “It was probably six to eight inches deep. They had worked it with a snow cat. It was kind of like running on dirt. Scooby was barefoot and he is the kind of horse that I could ride him across ice. He’s extremely smart and he knows where his feet are. He is one that I can trust and run on anything. He’s had steers roped off of him, so he is used to pulling, so that didn’t bother him.”
Along with training barrel horses, West stays busy helping with the family’s cattle ranch. She competes in Badlands Circuit rodeos and jackpots in the summer. Her mare, Brandi, is a futurity, derby and ProRodeo money winner. Brandi also is a WPRA PESI money winner and can be used for roping and other ranch work. You will find West, her husband, Zach, and son, Eastan, 13, along with Jaycie at youth rodeo events, too.
West gets a lot of her love of horses from Bruce, who she was able to spend a lot of time with while she was growing up.
“I lived with her from eighth grade until I graduated high school,” West said. “She hauled me all over the country and put me on all kinds of different horses. She taught me everything.”
Watch for West at future skijoring events and circuit rodeos.
“It was just a hoot and there was nothing to it because all you have to do is go fast,” West said.
Courtesy of WPRA