By Matt Kroschel

LEADVILLE, Colo. (CBS4) – As thousands of spectators watched a skijoring team participating in the annual event in Leadville Saturday wreck which resulted in the horse having to be put down.

According to witnesses and race organizers, the rider and skier were not injured but the horse broke its leg and had to be euthanized.

Organizers suspended the event Saturday following the incident but say it resumed Sunday.

(credit: John Simmons)

(credit: John Simmons)

Skijoring is part rodeo and part ski race.

“Racing down the 835-foot course on ski behind … a quarter horse with a 36-foot rope,”

CBS4 has heard from several of people on social media asking about animal safety during the event.

“It’s a tragedy but it’s part of going down the race course. We’ve never had this happen up here,” said Tim McCarthy, Skijoring America board member.


Before the event resumed on Sunday race officials checked the snow to make sure it wasn’t too soft.

“Yesterday it got a little soft at the end and I closed the race after that horse fell,” McCarthy said. “I’m not blaming it on the track, I’m not blaming it on the horse. I think there are a couple multipliers in here that we can look at.”

There were no major problems on Sunday but one competitor broke his nose.

On Monday a post on the Leadville Skijoring Facebook page said $2,000 was raised at the event’s award ceremony for the horse’s owner, JJ Swirka, A photo in the post shows Swirka tearfully saying goodbye to her horse, Logan. The post said Swirka was “sore but on the mend with no serious injuries from Saturday’s crash.”

According to Courtney Diehl, a veterinarian from Steamboat Springs, a horse also had to be put down at a skijoring event in Minturn on Feb. 27. It was the last horse of the day and was slowing to a trot from a canter. The skier had already let go and the horse took a “freak step” on slushy footing. The horse fell and suffered a compound fracture of left hind leg and had to be euthanized.

LINK: Skijoring

Matt Kroschel covers news throughout Colorado working from the CBS4 Mountain Newsroom. Send story ideas to and connect with him on Twitter @Matt_Kroschel.


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