Go … Wife Carrying?

Three-day eventing has often been described as an equestrian triathlon. In that vein, I wanted to find a human analogue for everyone’s favorite cross-country phase. Considering recent EN stalkerazzi interest in husband and wife eventers such as Marley Stone and Timothy Bourke and Evention’s Dom and Jimmie Schramm, wouldn’t it be awesome if there were a “human cross-country” sport to showcase the athleticism and trust between significant others?

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you … the Finnish sport of wife carrying.

What the...? Photo from Wikimedia Commons

What the…? Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Yes, you read that correctly. Check it out:

At first glance, this seems like some kind of ridiculous farce of Stone Age masculinity — running through an obstacle course while carrying a woman upside-down like a living backpack. But upon further reflection, the “wife’s” role isn’t passive at all; imagine the physical strength it takes to cling to the back of a running, jumping, heaving man. And to do it all upside-down? Coming from someone who has suddenly found herself upside-down and facing the rear end of a galloping horse more times than I’d like to admit, this isn’t exactly an enviable — or easy — position to be in.

I did some research on this particularly hilarious brand of insanity in the middle. Apparently, wife carrying involves having male competitors run through a course approximately 250 yards long while lugging a female teammate on their backs (“piggyback” style), over a shoulder (“firemen’s” style), or the more popular upside-down and backwards method (dare I ask how the “Estonian” style got its name?).

Here are some of the official rules set forth by the International Wife Carrying Competition Rules Committee (is this analogous to the FEI?):

  • The length of the official track is 253.5 meters and surface of the track is sand.
  • The track has two dry obstacles and one water obstacle, about a meter deep.
  • The wife to be carried may be your own, the neighbor’s, or you may have found her farther ahead; she must, however, be over 17 years of age.
  • The minimum weight of the wife to be carried is 49 kilos. If she weighs less, she will be burdened with such a heavy rucksack to reach the desired minimum weight.
  • All the participants must have fun.
  • The winner is the couple who completes the course in the shortest time.
  •  Each contestant takes care of his/her safety and, if deemed necessary, insurance.
  •  Also the most entertaining couple, the best costume and the strongest carrier rewarded with a special prize.

How is this similar to the cross-country phase we know and love? Let’s break it down. The course consists of dry obstacles, such as hills and jumps, and a water obstacle. Teams can be formed by marriage (like riding your own horse in an event) or friendship (borrowing a friend’s horse or riding a horse for a client). I see helmets and some matching team colors on competitors — not to mention some serious thrills and spills.

Here’s the best part: winners are awarded five times the “wife’s” weight in cash, as well as her weight in beer.

That’s right. Her weight in beer.

Anyone interested in tackling this sport with their human partner can check out the Wife Carrying World Championships website. In addition to the rules and regulations, there are also helpful lists of training tips (the hilariously-titled “How to Become a Master in Wife Carrying”), competition photos and videos, and research on the fitness benefits of hauling around a full-grown woman on one’s back (“Wife Carrying for Health”). Grab your husband, boyfriend, or friend’s husband (with her permission, of course) and start training!

Go wife carrying. Go Eventing.

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