Whitefish woman discovers competitive side in skijoring


The Daily Interlake | February 4, 2019

Jennifer Butler, 52, and Royal at her Whitefish home on Jan. 25. When Butler decided she wanted to go for gold, she found her winning ticket in Royal, a former race horse who brought the much-needed element speed to her skijoring team. (Kianna Gardner/Daily Inter Lake)

For Minnesota native Jennifer Butler, it took a few friends, a fast horse and 45 years before she found out she had a competitive side.

Not long after she moved to Whitefish in pursuit of the “true Montana lifestyle,” a group invited her to try her hand at skijoring, a winter sport that involves a person on skis being pulled by rope through an obstacle course, most often behind a horse.

Although her horse at the time, Sandy, was more accustomed to traipsing over mountain trails, she maneuvered the track well. And after that first run more than seven years ago now, Butler knew she wouldn’t soon forget the feeling of weaving through a course.

“I had never really had an activity I thought I really couldn’t go without until skijoring,” Butler said. “It brought out a competitive side in me because it’s incredibly challenging.”

For the first three years, Butler raced Sandy mostly for the pure joy of the sport. But once she got more comfortable with skijoring, her competitive nature outgrew her longtime trail horse.

She knew if she wanted to win races she needed two things: an even faster horse and a strong ski partner.

For the first, she found Royal, a former racehorse with a reputation for finishing like a freight train on the track. Before he landed at Jarba Farms in Kalispell, he had raced in California and Europe.

“Some friends at the farm called me one day and told me about this horse that had an amazing race career. They knew he wasn’t going to be a dressage or jumping horse, he just wanted to run,” Butler said. “I fell in love with him instantly.”

Standing over 16 hands tall, Royal was Butler’s winning ticket. After their first season together in 2015, the team’s winnings paid for the next two skijoring seasons.




Published on 7/17/2019 (321 days ago)

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