Irish duo win extreme winter sport event – pulled by horses on a sofa built on skis

Irish Duo Win Extreme Winter Sport Event – Pulled By Horses On A Sofa Built On Skis
Susan Oakes and Barry O'Brien Lynch won the 'Alpine Lounge' race at Skijordue festival in Canada. Photo: Danny James Hagan
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Louise Walsh

Irish friends who competed to defend their title at an extreme winter sport competition in Canada lost out on their bid but did win another unusual event.

Susan Oakes and her best friend Barry O'Brien Lynch failed to retain their sprint title at the Skijordue Festival in Calgary, but did win the Alpine Lounge race on Saturday. They also came second in the long jump event.


Skijoring is North America's fastest growing winter sport and consists of a horse pulling a skier over obstacles through the snow at speeds up to 65km per hour.

Their new accolade involved the pals both sitting on a couch, complete with table and a lamp, and being pulled across the snow at breakneck speed by two horses and riders.

Susan and Barry were the only team from Europe among up to 200 competitors from all over Canada and the US who took part.

The friends from Navan, Co Meath, shocked the skijoring world when they became the first Irish team ever to win the prestigious feature 2.5 furlong sprint race at the festival just before Covid-19 hit in 2020.


Barry (43) was even dubbed the 'Tractor guy' by competitors who marvelled at how the duo had trained without any snow with a tractor pulling Barry in a sledge along a roll of carpet. This time their no snow training technique consisted of Susan on horseback pulling Barry along on skis tied to skateboards.

The Alpine Lounge event sees competitors sitting on sofas, complete with tables and lamps, and being pulled across the snow at breakneck speed

The win was even more impressive considering that accomplished horsewoman Susan (39) was told by doctors in 2005 that she'd only have two years left of being able to ride a horse due to an autoimmune disease and that she made a remarkable recovery after a fall from a horse in 2016 left her with an acquired brain injury.

They entered the competition after Susan, who holds a Guinness world record for the highest jump side-saddle at six foot, eight inches, met Skijor event organiser Sam Mitchell while competing in Canada.


Sam then visited Ireland where she told Susan and Barry about Skijor while on a night out in their local pub in Navan, Co Meath, and the two friends jumped at the chance to take part.

Speaking from Calgary after the festival, Susan said: "We had the best time ever. We took part in everything and the lounge race was unbelievable. It's very hard to describe the kickback from the snow when you are being pulled over it so fast but it's like being bombarded by hailstones in your face multiplied by ten. Very sore but so much fun.

"The lounge race has to consist of a two-seater sofa, a coffee table and a lamp. We sat on the sofa, being pulled by two riders on two horses and all the furniture had to be intact at the end of the race.

"Overall we were much more competitive this year and we did really well in each event, even winning our heat in the relay race. Everyone was again so hospitable, and it was just great to see everyone.


"We returned to Calgary as reigning champions, no longer underdogs, so the other competitors really brought their best game, but I think all the training and hard work paid off."

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Skier Barry O'Brien Lynch said: "It was always going to be different this time around, we wiped a few eyes when we took the blue riband sprint race in 2020.

“Everyone is so supportive here and delighted to see us back, maybe just to put us in our place," he laughed.

"There's a massive following for this sport over here and it's a great spectacle with the high risk, high speed nature of the events – and it looks like this sport will continue to grow exponentially."

Skijor Canada formed as a volunteer organisation in 2017 in order to facilitate safe, consistent development of the sport on a national level with a goal of forming a race circuit culminating in a Canadian championship event in Calgary.

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