New skijoring event a success in Kalispell
Posted on 19 January 2018
The Event at Rebecca Farm turns to winter events
Fortunately Broussard, also the organizer of the world-class Event at Rebecca Farm, has vast experience overcoming the challenges that come with outdoor events. When snow started to fall shortly before Christmas, she drew a celebratory breath of relief and her team set to work prepping facility. But then Broussard’s relief turned to concern as ominous weather reports circulated; record snowfall and low temperatures were predicted for the New Year’s Eve weekend.
“After a dry December, the irony that there could, in fact, be too much snow or temperatures too cold for the horses? Well, that was a heavy weight. We wanted to have a great event but safety is the top priority. We were fighting for a way to have both,” Broussard related.
As the predicted winter storm barreled down on the Flathead Valley, Broussard’s team soldiered up. Through the frigid post-Christmas week, they were determined to make the inaugural run of Skijoring at Rebecca Farm a reality.
Simultaneously, Skijoring America board member and open division competitor, Richard Weber and his longtime teammate and travel partner, Tyler Smedsrud, were loading up five horses. The pair was preparing to make the eighteen-hour, twelve hundred mile trek from their home base in Ridgway, Colorado to Rebecca Farm, where they would lead preparations for the course. Weber and Smedsrud are some of the sport’s most visible and committed competitors; in addition to contending in the top division, the duo volunteers most of winter weekends building courses for events sanctioned by Skijoring America.
Weber believes that ensuring the appropriate blend of safety and challenge for sanctioned courses is an important part of skijoring’s future. It is that devotion, along with the adrenaline rush, that have had him trucking through winter storms, power outages, and significant detours over the last two years.
“After six years of skijoring locally, I decided to get serious. For three years, I’ve been on the circuit. I put 15,000 miles on last season; it was worth it. Those people out there on the skijoring road, they’re family. I’ve also learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t, and I want to help others,” Weber said.
Broussard, Weber, Smedsrud, and the scores of other hardy event volunteers would need all of that determination and more to face down the challenges headed their way: The evening of Friday, December 29, just one day prior to opening ceremonies, snow and high winds belted the Flathead Valley. As highway crews struggled to keep major roadways open, the newly created skijoring course, parking area, and roadways at Rebecca Farm were buried in layers and drifts of snow. And while most of the Flathead Valley battened down the hatches, skijoring crews fired up equipment and started working in the early hours of Saturday to make a way for the event.
“For me, Saturday was very challenging but there was a real sense of camaraderie with the crew. We had 10 rigs out moving snow, “ said Broussard. “Earlier, on Thursday and Friday, we needed water to reinforce the jumps, and our West Valley volunteer firefighters brought the fire trucks over and jumped in to help. It was crazy but that whole weekend really had a community feel to it. People helped out any way they could.”
In the end, the snow was cleared, and though festivities kicked off an hour late, happy spectators would say the event itself was a small miracle. Considering the “can-do” attitude of the participants and crew, though, the success of Skijoring at Rebecca Farm might well have been predictable.
“I love to see the sport growing with people just as stubborn as I am, that don’t let obstacles get in their way,” Weber laughed. “Come hell, heavy snow, or a four-hundred mile detour, we’re getting there.”
Weber was not alone. Both out-of-state and Montana horse trailers began to roll into Rebecca Farm early Saturday morning. In the end, despite the weather, approximately 80 teams ponied up and thousands of spectators braved the cold to partake in the fun.
“When it comes to these kinds of events, I always say that ‘it takes a valley.’ Skijoring at Rebecca is certainly no exception,” emphasizes Broussard. “The community, the sponsors, the local volunteers, the folks from Skijoring America – they were all incredible. They pulled together and made this event—which felt impossible at moments—possible.”
And Weber couldn’t agree more. “I’ve been to a lot of great events, but Rebecca Farm had an amazing group of volunteers – maybe the best I’ve ever seen.”
While held the last weekend of 2017, Skijoring at Rebecca Farm in fact served as the opening event for Skijoring America’s 2018 season.
Local racers scooped up several weekend honors and landed at the top of Skijoring America’s 2018 leader board for the Open and Sport Divisions. Scott Ping, the Whitefish resident affectionately called “The Grandaddy of Skijoring,” rode to first place in the open division rider standings, finishing with a total of 90 points. Ping’s trusty steed, “Kona Koffee,” led the field for open division horses with an overall score of 90 points. Open division skier, Toby MacIntosh of Columbia Falls, jumped his way to the top of Skijoring America’s rankings with a perfect score of 100 points.
In the sport division, Kalispell native, Kali Kitchen, headed the rider leaderboard with a total score of 48 points. Longtime skijoring competitor, Bart Slaney, matched Kitchen with 48 points of his own, landing the lead for skiers in sport. Topping sport scoring honors for horses with 24 points was Royaleigh, ridden by the Flathead Valley’s Jennifer Butler.
Eric Christianson, a Columbia Falls resident, aboard his mounts Charger and Cowboy, dominated the novice division, holding down the top three times. Christianson and Charger, partnered with skier Dane Ockerland, took first in novice with an overall time of 33.5 seconds. Christianson and Ockerland also teamed up for a second round with Christianson’s horse, Cowboy, securing a 36.01, second place finish in novice. Skier Matthew Stickney also teamed up with Christianson and Cowboy, to take third at 36.71. (Novice races, although fully incorporated into Skijoring at Rebecca Farm, are not used in Skijoring America’s national ranking system.)
Full open and sport division results for Skijoring at Rebecca Farm are available at http://www.skijoringamerica.
Skijoring at Rebecca Farm 2018 would not have been possible without the generous support of its sponsors: Hinds Aviation, Murdoch’s Ranch & Home Supply of Kalispell, Kalispell Chamber of Commerce, Kalispell Convention and Visitors Bureau, Glacier Bank, Brannigan’s Irish Pub, First Interstate Bank, West Shore Visitors Bureau, Flathead Beverage Company, Signs Now, Rivals Sport Bars, Sportsman & Ski Haus, The Lund Family, and Jay and Connie Olsen.
ABOUT MONTANA EQUESTRIAN EVENTS
Montana Equestrian Events is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization committed to furthering equestrian opportunities and education in the western United States. Headquartered in Whitefish, Montana, Montana Equestrian Events annually hosts one of North America’s largest equestrian triathlons, The Event at Rebecca Farm, as well as numerous other equestrian and community events at Rebecca Farm throughout the year. 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.###