Andy Begin catches air off a jump. He and teammate Jessica Paquette won the novice division with a time of 31.9 seconds Saturday at the equestrian skijoring competition in Topsham. John Terhune / The Forecaster

Equestrian skijoring may be the Midcoast’s newest winter sport, but it’s already a can’t-miss event.

About 1,200 spectators packed the grandstand and lined the fences of the Topsham Fair last Saturday to watch charging horses tow skiers and snowboarders through a course of jumps and gates.

Still more fans came out to see the inaugural competition but failed to find parking, according to event organizer Janice Hill.

Sarah Buckley, left, and Stephanie Buckley navigate a gate. John Terhune / The Forecaster

“We had to turn people away in droves,” said Hill, who added organizers had expected a turnout of only 500. “I guarantee you, next year we will have more parking.”

Twenty-two teams competed in three divisions. Each team featured a horse and rider towing a skier or snowboarder along the roughly 800-foot track.

Despite some challenges, including 45-degree weather that softened much of the course and occasional confusion about the sport’s rules, fans and organizers enjoyed the morning of high-speed thrills and spills.


“We couldn’t have begged for a better day,” Hill said. “That was over-the-top.”

Rider Grace Hilmer of Athens and her horse Hildi teamed with former Madison High classmate George Yodice to win the professional division with a best-run time of 26.1 seconds. The team’s other run of 27.3 seconds was also faster than any other pair managed.

Fans fill the grandstand to watch Topsham’s first skijoring competition. John Terhune / The Forecaster

“It was great,” said Hilmer, who only managed to practice with Yodice once since the team first competed at Skowhegan’s skijoring competition last year. “It was super fun.”

Though other teams struggled to adjust to the warm conditions, Yodice didn’t mind the slop.

“If you learned to ski the East, this is it,” he said. “This is nothing different than a regular ski day, really.”

The top competitors in each division took home horse grooming gear and cash prizes, which ranged from $400 for the winners of the professional bracket to $60 for the second-place junior competitors. The slowest entry brought home the $30 “turtle prize.”


Friends Addie Milliken, center left, and Addi Clukey, center right, celebrate with their families after winning the junior division. John Terhune / The Forecaster

Andy Begin and Jessica Paquette won the novice division with a time of 31.9 seconds. Novice teams were not required to go over the course’s four jumps, though many competitors, including Begin, chose to anyway.

Four teams competed in the junior division, which featured racers aged 10-17. Old Town residents Addi Clukey and her horse Griz pulled Addie Milliken to victory with a time of 28.2 seconds, a full 7 seconds ahead of the second-place finishers.

“We’ve been best friends for a while,” Clukey said of Milliken. “She’s been skiing all her life, and I’ve been riding horses all my life, so we kind of just put it together.”

Many members of the Topsham field will compete on Feb. 26 in Skowhegan, Maine’s first and only other equestrian skijoring event.

But will they return to the Midcoast next year for an event that organizers say will only get bigger and better? For the champions, the answer is a resounding yes.

“For sure,” Hilmer said. “One hundred percent.”

Yodice agreed, with an addendum: “To win again.”

Comments are not available on this story.