Racing With SiberiansSteve Maggio lives and trains his dogs in Montana. Originally from Los Angeles, Steve first encountered sled dogs at the Fur Rondy during the 1980s while living for 4 years in Eagle River, Alaska. As he watched George Attla win, he became intrigued by the dog teams. However, it wasn’t until a hunting trip in the Steese Mountains that Steve was truly struck by the beauty of a dog team. “We were walking down a canyon in a mining area, and a team of 16 sprint dogs came up behind us. We never heard them coming, and that quick they were past us and on down the trail.” That stuck in Steve’s mind. In 1990, Steve moved to Montana where he handled for a sled dog tour company at a resort. That was the final hook that had Steve firmly aimed at having a dog team of his own. The sled dogs in the tour were Siberians, and Steve fell in love with the breed. Dog mushing was an activity that mixed all of Steve’s favorite outdoor activities, coupled with a connection with animals. Steve started his own tour business, but after a few years he grew weary of running down the same trails many times a day, saying the same words everyday, plus dealing with the government, weather, and insurance. The weather was the deciding factor. After having the insurance paid for and rides booked, there might not be any snow. Steve was burnt out on tours, so he switched his focus to racing his Siberians.Steve has 22 dogs, a mish mash of different lines. His lines include Anadyr, Northome, and New England. Steve says that “New England is a nick name out west we give to the dogs that are a mix of different lines such as Igloo Pak, Zero, Lokiboden and a few others.” Steve’s New England line came from Rob Tucker’s kennel, and he has some of his dogs as well. Steve started with Anadyr dogs, with a line from Orlene and Marshall Bond (Orbond Ramway) – a spin-off of Earl Norris’s lines. The first Anadyr dog Steve purchased was a Blackjack female named Banner. Steve started his own breeding program, using Banner and breeding to a Northome dog named Bucky, which was out of their Lefty stock. Steve also ran dogs with Rob Tucker, and liked what he saw. He bought a female from Tucker, and started breeding his own lines from his three main lines.Steve sees Siberians as “rowdy, territorial and half wild.” He loves their mental toughness, their feet, and their attitude. While acknowledging the purebred standard, Steve does not adhere to it. He sees racing dogs, in all fields, becoming specialized, therefore, to adhere to a conformation and breed standard does not give flexibility to develop the racing dog. “In the 6-dog class, you need a slightly larger dog who can give it their all for those 6 miles, perhaps some horses in there. For the 8-dog class you might go for a slightly smaller dog, and that is what I am looking for.” Steve competes mostly against Euro-hounds and Alaskans, and while he may not win he believes that “you don’t get better unless you run against dogs that are faster than yours. I realize I may never win a race but as long as I am in the mix I am happy. If I can get someone looking over their shoulder once I a while, that is a good feeling.” Recently Steve traveled to Alaska this spring for the championship races, namely the Limited North American and the Tok Race of Champions. “When I was at the Tok race here in Alaska, I had people come up to me and tell me that my dogs, that are pure husky, were running really well.” Steve found the races in the Western part of the U.S. to be wonderful. “You have fast dogs, you have really good courses and well organized races with great towns behind them. The LNAC didn’t go so great for me on my first time. I just had a string of bad luck.” Getting out of the truck on the first morning of the race, Steve’s zipper on his Carhartt pants broke, the zipper on his Patagonia jacket broke, and he had a nose bleed. He looked like he had just stumbled out of a bar. The bad luck continued on the trail where he had taken a wrong turn. At the Alaska Dog Mushers Association trails there are a lot of little side trails that are not blocked, and for the uninitiated this can pose some problems. “On the last mile I missed the left turn sign while I was looking down at my dogs, and suddenly I had oncoming teams traveling across the trail I was on.” On the second day Steve still found himself in trouble. “Going out, my lead dog had to take a dump the size of the pyramids and that balled up the whole team. On the third day we had a clean run, and my thoughts were then focused on a clean 2 days in Tok.” At Tok, Steve had better luck. It seemed that everyone had slow times on the first day, although the course record was broken in the 6-dog. Steve managed on the second day to shave 20 seconds off his first day time over the 6 mile course. “I came in 15th and creamed half the field, so I am tickled pink about that. I worked a lot out there.” Next year Steve looks to focus on the 8 and 10 dog classes. He has some yearlings that are looking very promising. “The males are around 42 pounds and the females are a little under 40 pounds. Their gaits are really smooth and they have some hard heads on them.” Before next year, Steve will run his dogs on his purpose built running yard which runs the dogs around the 500 ft, 3 ft wide oval track, that surrounds the kennel, during the summer. During fall training the dogs will pull 2 different weight ATVs without motors to build muscle and strengthen their feet. Steve plans to arrive in Alaska earlier next season to take advantage of more races and training opportunities.


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