S.D. woman competes in unique horse riding/snowboarding sport
KENNEBEC, S.D. — A unique sport has made its way to South Dakota, and a Kennebec resident is at the forefront of making it a success.
Less than a week removed from the only South Dakota skijoring event, Jessica Manger is preparing to travel to Wyoming next weekend to compete again — the last time this season.
Skijoring is a sport in which individuals on a snowboard or skis are pulled by a horse and maneuver through a course, collecting rings and navigating between gates and jumps. To make the course, Manger said event officials haul snow to the location, typically on the town's Main Street, and spread it in the desired layout.
Manger, an avid horse rider, has been competing for two years. She stumbled across skijoring while looking at a horse magazine.
"Last year, I saw in a horse magazine this event in Jackson Hole (Wyoming) I wanted to attend, but it was too far. So, I hunted around for a closer event and found the one in Deadwood, to my surprise, which was the first one ever in South Dakota."
Manger competed in the Deadwood event in 2017, and returned again Feb. 3, competing with fellow Kennebec resident Scott Thomas. Manger rode the horse while Thomas snowboarded. The pair took second place. Manger also competed with skier Dusten Ell of Lead, S.D.
Skiers and snowboarders seek out horse riders like Manger for the event, looking for an experienced equestrian to pull them through the course, Manger said.
That is how she met Ell in 2017. The two connected on Facebook and met at the race site in Deadwood the weekend of the competition. The match was a success, and the pair placed in the top 12 teams in both 2017 and 2018.
This year, Manger and Ell advanced to the final round of competition, but Manger felt the track was too dangerous, so they didn't compete in an effort to protect her horse.
"The last horse of the day did roll and get hurt, so I made a wise decision not to run," Manger said. "You have to be careful. It is a very dangerous event, and we have to sign a waiver that we could get killed or hurt."
Though a little-known sport now, Manger said she foresees it growing in the coming years due to its appeal to adrenaline seekers and for its notable major crashes.