On Ben's Farm

Dashing Through the Snow

Ski-joring may be a largely forgotten sport in New Hampshire these days, but years ago skimming across the snow behind a horse galloping at full speed was a memorable form of winter horseplay for adventuresome UNH students.

Originally a Scandinavian form of transportation using reindeer, ski-joring was a new event at UNH's Winter Carnival in 1928. But when a Nor'easter hit that weekend, students improvised a variation. "Main Street literally swarmed with ski-jorers, frantically endeavoring to maintain a state of equilibrium behind speeding automobiles," reported the New Hampshire.

UNH students ski-joring at the 1928 Winter Carnival.

Decades later, physical education professor Evelyn Browne '62G, a pioneer in outdoor sports, taught herself to ski-jor single-handedly. Many early mornings, Browne would ski-jor behind her horse on Memorial Field, says Barbara Bridle Peyser '50: "She would go around and around, horse and skier totally enjoying it, their breath making mountains of steam."

It was at another Winter Carnival in the early 50s that a photographer caught Diane Cohen Caplan '53 on skis and Elizabeth "Libby" Zeitler Strang '54 riding Starlight (above) during a ski-joring demonstration at Memorial Field. The event was probably orchestrated by Browne, says Joan Steiner McGinley '56. "I had ridden a great deal, skied a great deal, but never skied behind a horse. It was terrific fun," she says. "There was a lot of noise and encouragement. Most of us had signed up not knowing just what to expect, but we were young and certainly foolish. You had to keep the ropes fairly even. It was embarrassing to fall over, plus snow is very unkind when you smack into it. Nevertheless, during ski-joring I fell over in practically every direction. The only thing I didn't do is fall off the horse."

In the absence of a horse, intrepid--or possibly foolhardy-- UNH students arranged for a tow behind a car or truck. Dick Bolduc '52 recalls ski-joring behind a Model T Ford from Dover to Durham. "It usually involved a couple of us holding on for dear life. The snow banks on either side prevented serious injury whenever we hit a bare spot and were sent flying off into space," he says. Later on, they hitched a type of bobsled called a double runner to the bumpers of unsuspecting motorists, Bolduc says. "We'd either end up in a ditch or looking like some abominable snowman. We had our 'X' games even back then."

Ski-joring is still a popular sport among western ranchers, and there is even a national championship, organized by the North American Ski Joring Association. But for UNHers lucky enough to give it a try, the memories are magical. "On a wild winter morning in a time long forgotten," says McGinley, "we had a lot of fun doing something that I have never heard of or done since."

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