In skijoring, skiers are pulled behind horse and rider teams at speeds up to and above 40 miles per hour, while hitting jumps as high as six feet, threading gates, and grabbing rings strategically positioned along the course. Fastest times and fewest penalties for missed gates and rings, lead to winning scores.
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Competitors, like rider Jennifer Butler, return to Rebecca Farm season after season. Butler has been part of the skijoring circuit for the last nine years.
“I first saw the sport in Red Lodge, and after moving to the Valley some friends invited me to try it out,” Butler said. “I was hooked.”
Skijoring is a family affair for Butler, whose son David makes up the skier on her team. Her son Nathan has also competed but is taking time off after an injury last year.
“I love getting to spend time with my kids - most parents don’t have this kind of opportunity with their adult children,” she said.
Her 14-year-old niece Ruby will also be competing for the first time in the Costume Class, and possibly the Novice Class this year.
Completing Butler’s team is Royal, a retired racehorse that she has been riding for the last five years. After his racing career ended, Royal ended up at a rescue where a trainer purchased him, but eventing wasn’t his sport.
“He sort of flunked out of dressage and jumping, so when he became available I went and looked at him and fell in love," Butler says. "He trips and plods a bit on the trail, but not when he’s running. While racing, he’s wicked fast and sure- footed, that’s why I trust him.”
Teams at Rebecca Farm will compete in Novice, Sport and Open classes, with the Costume class providing entertainment. At stake is a total prize purse in excess of $10,000.
Butler and her team race in the Sport Class and are looking forward to not only the competition, but the community.
“This is such a close-knit group of people who help each other out,” she says. “Even if I didn’t compete, I’d volunteer, or do anything really, to be part of Skijoring at Rebecca Farm. It’s such a well-run event.”
Despite needing to reschedule last year’s event due to weather, a successful competition was held in March 2019. If cancelled this year due to inclement weather, including lack of snow or temperatures below 10 degrees Fahrenheit, the event will not be rescheduled.
“Weather here is unpredictable, and the safety of the competitors and spectators is our top priority,” says event organizer Sarah Broussard.
The opening ceremony is slated to kick-off at noon on both Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 28 and 29. In addition to watching the adrenaline-pumping competition, spectators can enjoy food and beverages available for purchase from popular local vendors.
Skijoring is a family-friendly event and admission is $5 per person, with no cost for kids under 13. Prime viewing is available right along the course and well- behaved, four-legged friends are welcome on a leash.
If you’re interested in having an inside look at the action and helping the event run smoothly, sign up to volunteer at www.rebeccafarm.org/skijoring or contact Heidi at 406-270-3889 or RFdressageHeidi@gmail.com. Volunteers help with warm-up, course maintenance, starting gate, gatekeeping, back-up timing and a few other areas.
For competitors, individual registration costs are $100 for Open, $75 for Sport,
$50 for Novice and $50 for the Costume class. Competitors must register in- person on Friday, Dec. 27, from 5-8 p.m. at The Brass Tap located at 85 Treeline Road in Kalispell. This registration event is mandatory for all who wish to compete. Competition will be limited to a maximum of 100 teams across all classes.
Rebecca Farm is located just west of Kalispell at 1010 W. Springcreek Road. From Kalispell U.S. Highways 93 and 2, drive two miles north on Highway 93 Alternate to exit 7 Old Reserve and turn left to head west for two miles.
Spectators will then turn left on W. Springcreek Road and travel three-quarters of a mile to the Farm entrance on their right. Competitors will continue on Old Reserve, turning left into the Farm just past the Solid Rock Bible Church.
For more information about the event, please visit www.rebeccafarm.org/skijoring.
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ABOUT MONTANA EQUESTRIAN EVENTS
Montana Equestrian Events, Inc. (MEE) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit established in May of 2002 to present the annual Event at Rebecca Farm each July. MEE also holds several hunter jumper and dressage shows, and equestrian clinics, as well as new winter event, Skijoring at Rebecca Farm launched in 2017.
The mission of MEE is to provide a World Class venue in the Northwest for competitive and educational Equestrian events and community activities, while generating an economic and charitable impact on the Flathead Valley.
Montana Equestrian Events is also the primary fundraising entity for Halt Cancer at X, an initiative started by Sarah Broussard to raise money for breast cancer research and support services for those with cancer and their families. For more information about Montana Equestrian Events, Rebecca Farm, and Halt Cancer at X, please visit www.rebeccafarm.org.