JUNIOR MUSHERS: FIRST TIME MUSHER EXPERIENCE WITH THE ‘BIG DOGS’

Featured in the Sept/Oct 2010 Issue: Some people don’t consider mushing a real sport. But it takes just as much skill and endurance as throwing a football or dribbling a basketball. With the wind in your face, the snow flying by the sides of the sled, the dogs making no sound at all, mushing is just a rush that you wouldn’t believe. Just as athletes get pumped and ready for a big game or tournament, mushers must prepare themselves mentally and physically. They make sure the dogs are in tip-top shape and their equipment as well. This is our story of our very first race.Our very first race was held in New York. The weather was nothing like we had experienced before in Ohio. It was -7◦ F. Our nose hairs had frost on them. We had been training for a couple of weeks and were confident that we would do well. Training was a lot of fun, but a lot of work. We learned how to take care of the dogs. We learned what types of equipment was needed to mush. We learned how to use the equipment and how to work with the dogs. We practiced on snowmobiles and then on sleds. We volunteered at a dog sled competition to see how everything worked. We watched many different competitions and learned how to dress for the weather.There were many types of dogs there, not just Siberian Huskies like you see on TV. We saw beautiful Greyhounds, gorgeous Golden Retrievers, classy looking Dalmations and very pretty Irish Setters. You can race with almost any type of dog. They just have to have the heart, the speed and the endurance to do so. Many families gave us permission to take pictures of their teams and many of the dogs seemed to pose for our cameras.We also got some great footage on video of all the different classes such as the 8- and 6-dog classes and also the ski-joring. We would not be racing in any of the major classes but in the children’s and junior classes.We were both very nervous because we had never been on the sled with a dog pulling before. We didn’t want to mess up in front of all those people. But once you step onto the sled, you can’t worry about messing up. Your mind goes directly on the dog and you focus on keeping the team safe. Right before you pull off, the dogs are all happy, excited, and very jumpy. But once you release them, they are very quiet and concentrated. The wind is blowing on your face at 20 miles per hour. The snow is shooting out the sides of the sled as if a rocket was sliding through the snow rather than a sled. The quietness that surrounds you could bring world peace. The speed, the adrenaline, and the power are all very overwhelming. Sometimes you have to run along the side of the team to get around a corner or up a hill; sometimes you have to shout words of encouragement. The dogs are running, the view is awesome, the world is quiet and time is flying by. Before you know it, you are at the finish line, people are clapping and shouting, dogs are barking and the race is over.I would definitely recommend mushing to all kids, teenagers, and adults who have dogs, like the snow and want to test their endurance. It is a really great sport that a lot of people overlook. It’s time to give the dogs a turn to be stars. Thank you for reading. •

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