Skijor and sled with horses at Routt County Horse Rescue
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Skijoring has long been a part of Steamboat Springs’ history. It’s a centerpiece and favorite at Winter Carnival, but the event is limited to just a few young skiers.
Michelle Somerville and her Routt County Horse Rescue are now the home of public skijoring. Somerville’s horses are used to pulling Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athletes down Lincoln Avenue for Winter Carnival and are now pulling skiers and sledders at the horse rescue.
Offering families another way to enjoy the winter, Somerville is offering by-appointment private sledding or skiing sessions on her hilly driveway. Instead of a lift bringing people back up the hill, she has horses.
“This is really part of the Steamboat dream,” Somerville said. “People come out and see it at Winter Carnival, but most people, unless you’re in Winter Sports Club, don’t get to actually do it. … It’s a big hit at Winter Carnival, why not have fun doing it the rest of the (winter).”
The activity is limited to one family or household group, and they can call Somerville at 970-457-7766 to set up a time. Depending on how many people attend, one or two horses will be ready to help get back up hill. Each session is about an hour and a half long and is $60 per person.
Somerville and her husband have been using the horses as uphill power for years, but this is the first year she’s made the activity available to the public.
Somerville said patrons can travel downhill on her long driveway, which she keeps “groomed” with a plow. She estimates it is about 1,500 feet long. The rest of her acreage is covered in fluffy snow that won’t allow for a zippy sled ride.
“They can race their sleds back down or ski back down. We have a little jump set up they can go off on their skis on the way down,” she said. “It’s pretty fun.”
She suggests people wear goggles and helmets, not necessarily for the downhill portion of the activity, but the uphill portion. The horses can kick up snow, which flies right toward the face of whoever they are pulling.
There are usually 10 or more horses at the rescue at one time but only a handful enjoy pulling.
Leo is a black quarterhouse and a frequent puller. He’s also the horse Somerville rides to compete in barrel racing in rodeos.
“He likes to carry flags, be in parades, do trail rides and is super thrilled to pull,” Somerville said. “He likes to go fast. If you want to get pulled fast, he’s your man.”
Zip and Lakota also are frequent pullers. When not towing skiers uphill, Lakota works in lessons, and Zip enjoys trail rides.
Coral, a grey horse, is another equine that loves to pull, but she does so a little more slowly.
“She doesn’t like to go too fast,” Somerville said. “So, she’s good for pulling for kids who don’t want to get going too quickly.”
The horse rescue has been around for about five years and brings in animals from abusive or life-threatening situations. Many are rehabilitated and adopted out to loving homes, but some are permanent residents.
Somerville teaches horseback riding lessons and has summer camps. Currently, she hosts what she calls “horse school,” where kids spend the day doing schoolwork in the morning and then go out on horseback in the afternoon.
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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