Rules of Skijoring | How it is Played?

If you know how much dogs are loved in Europe, this game won’t come as a surprise to you. Despite their apparent viciousness, they are one of the common pets kept at home in Europe. And in the game of Skijoring, these dogs play a cardinal role in your success. Though in some cases horses replace these dogs but the game of Skijoring is more popular with dogs than horses.

It is a winter sport in which a person is pulled by a horse or dog, or a motor vehicle can be used as well. It is considered to be a mode of winter travel, you must have seen yourself in movies, but now it is primarily a competitive sport.

Rules of Skijoring

One theory says that this game originated in China during the Yuan and Ming dynasties but it remains unclear yet where this game was actually developed because there are some other theories as well, contradicting the former one.

Object of Skijoring

Regardless of the fact whether you are using dogs, motor vehicles or horses for pulling people, the object of the game remains the same. You have to win the race by completing the course in the quickest time. The race area is often dotted with complexities and the racers have to overcome them in order to win the race.

The most exciting and popular form of this race is when the dogs pull people in which they have to work in harmony to win the race – which obviously requires a lot of training and professional handling during the race.

How to Play?

SKiJoring involves competitors being dragged by dogs, vehicles of horses on the racing course and the first one to reach the finish line wins the race. How you sit or stand depends upon which type of animal is dragging you, the series of competitors is determined by draw before the race.

Though SkiJoring looks simple and straightforward, but still, there are still some important rules to learn because failing to abide by them can even cause your disqualification from the race. Make sure you read all the rules mentioned below to remove any ambiguity from your mind regarding the game.

General Rules of Skijoring

  • Only selective breeds of dogs and horses can participate in the race.
  • One animal can compete in only one or 2 divisions per day. Skijoring events are held together but there are rules regarding how many races a horse or dog runs in one day.
  • The order of the competitors for the race is decided by a draw.
  • Skijoring teams can be pulled by 1-3 dogs.
  • In case of horse, only one horse is used to pull the rider/riders.
  • If the skier drops the rope before crossing the start line, he can restart the race. This can be allowed for 3 times max, then you’ll be disqualified from the race.
  • In case of any unfortunate incident during the race and the animal is declared unfit to continue the race, the race shall be halted for a few minutes until the track is cleared and then the race will continue.

Time Duration of a Skijoring Race

There is no time duration, average time taken by one competitor to finish the race depends upon the length of the race track and number of dogs used or the agility and power of the horse.

Playing Field

The game of Skijoring is played on ice and there are no such markings present on the playing field. There is only the starting line and the finish line, the first to get to the finishing line is declared winner.

Playing Equipment

For horses and vehicles, no such equipment is required because all you have to do is sit behind and steer your vehicle or control the horse. You can wear protective equipment like helmet and gloves to avoid injury in case of falling down and protect the hands from freezing.

In case of dogs, the skier wears a wide waistband which is clipped around the skier’s waist. This band may also include let loops to keep it in position. Rock climbing harnesses also are used by the skiers as skijoring belts. Special hitches or hooks are also used to unhook the dog’s lead rapidly in case they keep running after the race or go insane during the race.


Usually Skijoring races are unambiguous but to maintain order in the game and avoid any dispute in case of close finishes, an umpire stands on the field and supervises the professional Skijoring events

Famous Skijoring Venues

Skijoring venues are natural and scenic. Today, competitive skijoring races take place in eight different states of the US, mostly in the Rocky Mountain West, as well as in St. Moritz in Switzerland. These 2 are one of the most famous venues of this sport but they are not the only one, let me name a few more of them:

  • Alberta, Canada
  • Leadville, USA
  • Red Lodge, USA
  • French Alps, France

Famous Skijoring Events

    Numerous international and national level Skijoring races take place in France, USA, Canada and Switzerland. Let me name a few of them:

  • World Skijoring Championship
  • Extreme horse Skijoring
  • Flathead skijoring championship
  • Whitefish skijoring

Governing body

There is no one governing body but multiple governing bodies take care of the sports in their respective regions. However, more or less, the rules for the sport remain the same. The famous federations governing the game are Sleddog Central Skijoring Information and ISDRA – International Sled Dog Racing Association.