Two horses have been euthanized following two recent skijoring events in Colorado. The second death occurred last weekend at the 67th annual Leadville competition, when rider JJ Swirka’s horse Logan took a bad step on course, leading to a graphic crash witnessed by thousands of spectators. Swirka and competitor Duffy Counsell were uninjured, but Logan, a Quarter Horse gelding, broke his leg in the crash and was later euthanized in a trailer away from the scene.

This comes on the heels of another death at the Minturn Skijoring Event just a week prior, when rider Lenny Hay’s horse Pepper also took a misstep and was later euthanized after completing his run with skier Colin Cook. The fatality, which occurred on the last run of the day when many spectators were already packing up to leave, did not have the same impact as the Leadville crash, which took place earlier in the competition in full view of the crowd.



Unseasonably warm weather, which organizers say affected the footing at both competitions, is being blamed as a factor. Temperatures reached the low 50s in the afternoon, softening up the snow, and chunks of ice were reportedly loosened from the pavement in Leadville. After the tragic events of March 5th, organizers suspended competition for the rest of the day so the course could be repacked and refrozen. On Sunday, they moved up race times to earlier in the day to better contend with the warm weather.

According to Leadville organizer Paul Copper, a skijorer himself who’s been involved with the event for the last 40 years, Logan’s death was just the third horse on record to die at Leadville since the competition began in 1949. The last time a similar tragedy occurred was in the late 1980s (for comparison, more than 50 horses have been killed in Calgary stampede chuck wagon races since 1986).



Copper says that although safety is a chief priority for event organizers, some risks—to both horses and humans, alike—are inherent to skijoring, a sport where horses routinely reach speeds of 35 to 40 miles per hour galloping on the packed-snow course.

You can read the Summit Daily’s full story here, or see what skijoring is all about in this video from the 2015 Silverton Race, below.