Latest News – March 6

Ski Joring Horse Crashes, Put Down for Broken Leg

By Kathy Bedell © Leadville Today

Tragedy struck on Saturday’s Leadville Ski Joring (LSJ ) course as one of the competing horse slipped and went down on the course, breaking its leg.

“It was a tough day, for sure,” stated Jason Dahl, one of the LSJ organizers, expressing sentiments across the board as the injury led to the horse having to be put down.

Saturday's race course action was fast and challenging at Leadville Ski Joring competition. Photo: Brennan Ruegg

Saturday’s race course action was fast and challenging at Leadville Ski Joring competition. Photo: Brennan Ruegg

It was half way through the Sport Division when rider JJ Swirka and her horse Logan were pulling veteran competitor Duffy Counsell through the snow-laden course down Leadville’s main street. As the team approached the finish line near the intersection of Harrison Avenue and 5th Street, Logan lost his footing and went down. The fall broke the horse’s leg, although neither rider Swirka nor skier Counsell were seriously injured in the crash.

“We immediately tended to the horse, administering pain medication while he was still down on the Avenue,” said Dahl, referring to the veterinarian the annual event has on site during the two day competition.  

JJ Swirka says goodbye to her beloved horse Logan after their crash in Saturday's Leadville Ski Joring competition in Leadville. The accident led to a broken leg for the horse and sadly the animal had to be put down. Photo published on Leadville Today courtesy of © Kurt Brewer

JJ Swirka says goodbye to her beloved horse Logan after their crash in Saturday’s Leadville Ski Joring competition in Leadville. The accident led to a broken leg for the horse and sadly the animal had to be put down. Photo published on Leadville Today courtesy of © Kurt Brewer

The animal was taken off the course and loaded into a nearby trailer, where the owners and others dear to Logan said their good-byes before the animal was put down. For horses, a broken leg is a death sentence as their fragile bones do not have the capacity to heal themselves like human bones do.

The crash was witnessed by thousands of spectators in town to cheer on competitors in this growing sport of horse, rider and skier. Reactions via the Leadville Ski Joring Facebook Page expressed a great deal of sadness for the loss of horse Logan, as well as concerns about the race course conditions and the overall safety of the sport.

Jody Manly has been building Leadville Ski Joring courses with the horses safety in mind for decades.

Jody Manly has been building Leadville Ski Joring courses with the horses safety in mind for decades.

Safety is the first priority, explained Dahl. The course is inspected daily and throughout the competition when rising or falling temperatures and snow consistency can fluxuate through the day.

“We inspect the course regularly and also go over conditions with riders and skiers throughout the day,” stated Dahl. In fact, course designer Jody Manly is adamant about building the course with the safety of the horse, not the skier in mind.

After the crash and meeting with competitors and horse owners, organizers decided to suspend Saturday’s races,  even though there were more than a dozen runs still on slate for the Sport Division and the Open Division had not even began. This is the first crash that ended in the death of a horse in more than 20 years.

Perhaps LSJ spectator Lynne Berean Lombard said it best on her post to Facebook:

It is easy to be a Monday morning quarterback. That is something I am not going to do. I am glad they suspended the event. I am devastated by what I saw. As I said, I have watched it consistently for 14 years and nothing horrible occurred. Sometimes in sporting events, bad things happen, usually to people, not animals. When you mix winter, speed, snow, ice, slush. Injuries and death can happen. Should we close Breckenridge because 2 people died there on Tuesday. I was there, the weather and the conditions were not pristine to say the least.

Today’s competition will continue today, albeit under a slightly different manner and schedule. Organizers will meet with competitors after registration wraps up this morning at 10 a.m. Once any concerns have been vetted the event, it was determined that organizers will by-pass the Calcutta today and go directly into competition, hoping to stay ahead of warming temperatures forecasted for today.

Who will win this year's coveted Leadville Ski Joring Championship jacket? Stay Tuned.

Who will win this year’s coveted Leadville Ski Joring Championship jacket? Stay Tuned.

“The course was re-groomed last night and it was determined that depth was not a contributor to the crash,” said Dahl. Some theories point to slabs of ice pulling away from the pavement underneath the snow that shifted under the weight of the animal and rider, causing more than one horse to go down during Saturday’s competition.

Today’s Sport and Open Division will be a “winner-take-all”  for the 67th Annual Leadville Ski Joring competition. The Open Division that was scheduled for yesterday will run today. As for the Sport Division, yesterday’s purses were paid out and refunds issued for those not able to take their turn on the race course. As a result, Sunday’s Sport and Open Division races will determine the overall 2016 LSJ Champion. The award ceremony will take place at The Elks Lodge after today’s competition wraps up.Spac_50

“Home On The Range,” In The ‘Ville, During Ski Joring

In The Ville Head ShotThe original song “Home on the Range,” has a true Leadville beginning. It was 1885 and a group of young miners were trying to make ends meet by writing and playing music at some Leadville saloons. The foursome lived in a small cabin on the outskirts of town which they referred to as the “Junk Lane Hotel.”

Bob, Bill, Bingham and Jim penned the song “Colorado Home,” which went on to be known as the popular “Home on the Range.” In fact, on November 19, 1945, the Leadville origins of this well-known song were recognized and inserted into the Congressional Record.

Once you read these less commonly-known verses, you can better understand the song’s Leadville connection:

 

Oh, give me the hill and the ring of the drill,

In the rich silver ore in the ground;

And give me the gulch where the miners can sluice,

And the bright yellow gold can be found.

 

Oh, show me the camp

Where the prospectors tramp,

And business is always alive;

Where dance halls come first

And faro banks burst,

And every saloon is a dive.

 

A Ski Joring tribute (Sung to the tune of “Home on the Range”)

 

Oh give me a horse

And a rider of course,

Then put some snow down on the street.

Grab a person with skis,

And really good knees,

Harrison Avenue is where we will meet.

Many consider Leadville Ski Joring one of Colorado's True Wild West event held in downtown's historic Harrison Avenue. Photo: Robert Myer.

Many consider Leadville Ski Joring one of Colorado’s True Wild West event held in downtown’s historic Harrison Avenue. Photo: Robert Myer.

 

Chorus:

Ski, ski down the street,

Where the jorer and horses do meet.

Where never is heard,

 A discouraging word,

We just hope that they land on their feet.

 

Oh give me a hill and

The skiers to thrill,

Over jumps as they fly through the air.

The horses are quick

And the course can be slick,

No other event can compare. 

Chorus:

Oh give me a place,

Where a race is a race,

And the best Joring team gets the win,

We think we’re the best, so to heck with the rest,

Remember: “Don’t fence me in!”

Huge crowds and big jumps is what Leadville's Downtown Winter Celebration is all about ! Photo: Verl Luppes.

Huge crowds and big jumps is what Leadville’s Downtown Winter Celebration is all about ! Photo: Verl Luppes.

 

Chorus:

Oh give me your bet

And you’ll never regret,

The investment you

Make in a team.

As they pick up a ring,

Hear the money – ka-ching!

It’s like living the lottery dream.

 

Chorus:

And later at night, when the heavens are bright,

Cold beer and good whiskey will flow.

So put on your pants

And get ready to dance,

Just perhaps it will

Bring on more snow!

 

Chorus:

Ski, ski down the street,

Where the jorer and horses do meet.

Where never is heard,

 A discouraging word,

We just hope that they land on their feet.

Spac_50Sunday Ski Joring

 

 

 

 

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