Mushing training

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Hawthorne
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Mushing training

Post by Hawthorne » Fri Feb 22, 2013 4:30 pm

Teresa of Moondance Tamaskan and I attended a basic mushing course at the beginning of February 2013. It was just as much of a wilderness adventure as it was about learning how to manage, harness, and drive a team of 2, 3, and 4 dogs.

Teresa and I arrived at the predetermined location near Hovland, MN at 2pm. As described as "where the plow stops." Lina and Neil of Points Unknown kennel weren't kidding. We were back on a dirt road in the boundary waters and it was literally where the plow turns around and no longer plows the road because of how remote it is. Linda arrived first on snowmobile with two sleds in tow to carry our luggage. Neil arrived with a six dog team (seen in the video below). Among which were Topa, White Feather, Misquah, Arrow, and Ilo. The dogs took a nice long break while we loaded all of the luggage we would need for the next four days onto the snowmobile sleds. Neil and Linda then hooked the dog team back up and Teresa had the joy of riding in the dogsled first. I rode on the back of the snowmobile--but just for the first three miles. At the three mile marker, we switched and I was able to ride in the dogsled.

In this remote location, there was no sound pollution--so all I heard was the sound of the runners on the snow, a few ravens, and Linda's commands to the dogs. It was pure heaven.

We arrived at our destination: a rustic cabin 6 miles from the nearest road, unhooked the dogs, unloaded our luggage and moved into the loft of the cozy cabin. That night we discussed our lesson plan for the next day, got to know one another (there were only two other students with Teresa and I), and were fed a gourmet meal. This is living!

The next day we fed, watered and cleaned up after the dogs, had breakfast and then our first lesson took place. To teach us how to drive the sled: take off, break, turn and stop Linda hooked a dogsled to the back of the snowmobile and towed us around a 3 mile loop. During which time she would stop suddenly and it was our job to stop soon enough to "not run over the dogs." We were all very intimidated, but it was a super way to learn the basics without fear of hurting the dogs. According to Linda, we were then ready to graduate to our next lesson in the afternoon: a two dog team pulling the sled.

After lunch we harnessed our dogs, made sure our sled was tethered to the tree properly, and the snow hook was sunk firmly next to the sled. For weight we had a bail of straw in the sled this time, and not our partner. Going solo made each of us nervous. We hooked up our dogs and when we were ready: stepped on the break, picked up the snow hook and then pulled the quick release on the tether: "Ready? Let's go!" And off we each went , one at a time, for a mile trip with our two dog team. The trails were windy, had plenty of intersections to practice "gee" and "haw" and up and down hills. It was such a beautiful experience on so many levels: the dogs doing what they love, the beauty of wilderness all around us, and the snow falling softly.

By the end of the day we were all exhausted. Time to feed, water and clean up after the dogs as well as have some quality time with the puppies. LeeAnn conjured up another gourmet meal and we ate like Queens. (I say queens because it was a women only expedition.) We discussed the dogs, as Linda assigned to each of us seven dogs to get to know during our down time. She wanted to know our impressions of them, their character, etc. They were all different in their own special way--but similar in one important fact: they were all friendly and affectionate dogs. Some stoic, some silly, some wise...they all captured my heart. One thing was very clear to me: Linda and Neil love those dogs. They are their children and say so many times. But even beyond that: the experience with the dogs in the wilderness was an exercise in self discipline, knowing yourself, trusting your instincts, self-esteem, confidence and physical strength. Even more so, it was a spiritual experience. We were there with no electricity, no running water and melting snow for water for the dogs.

The following day we broke up into teams again. I went first (eek!), while Teresa rode in my sled. We had a five dog team to hook up and we were going to drive them for three miles, then switch drivers. Five dogs are very powerful. After the initial launch, we had a downhill for about a 1/4 mile. We were told to ride the break on both feet, leaning back the while way down. From this point, I was thankful for my long years of downhill and cross country skiing, and started to relax and enjoy the sled. It was no longer the terrifying and intimidating thing. I knew I wanted more.

At three miles, we stopped, sunk our snow hook, and tipped the sled over the hook to lock it in place. Teresa and I then traded positions and she drove the team for three miles. It went by too quickly. The moral support of having a team member with you was a good confidence booster. We returned to the cabin for lunch and discussed our experience with the second team who were nervously awaiting their turn for the afternoon. We offered some advice and I hope it let them relax a little. I was glad the anticipation was over for me--sometimes waiting and waiting only makes things worse!

The final day we were assigned a four or five dog team. We loaded all of our luggage into the dogsleds and the snowmobile sled. We said our goodbyes, hooked up the dogs and off we went for a six mile run back to the "parking lot."

Points Unknown Dog Adventures is a top notch kennel. Linda and Neil are superior teachers. Their location can't be beat--and we plan on returning for their advanced mushing course next year. In the meantime, I'm looking for a dryland cart and am training our dogs further about the sport of mushing. What great fun!

I wish I had more video to share with you, but this is all I took. Next time, I think a helmet cam is in order.

Tracy Graziano
http://www.hawthornetamaskan.com

bark as if no one can hear you
catch the ball on the fly
lick like there's no end to kissing
sleep on a sofa nearby
jump like the sky is the limit
sit by the fire with friends
stay with the ones who love you
run like the road never ends

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HiTenshi16
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Re: Mushing training

Post by HiTenshi16 » Fri Feb 22, 2013 5:24 pm

I'm so jealous :) if it weren't for me getting Zelda and also not having the proper clothes that would keep me warm, I probably would have gone too.
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Karen
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Re: Mushing training

Post by Karen » Fri Feb 22, 2013 5:30 pm

Oh boy... before you know it you are at my point. 12 dogs and doing this 6 months a year.
Be aware!! :lol:

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Hawthorne
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Re: Mushing training

Post by Hawthorne » Fri Feb 22, 2013 7:09 pm

Oh, I'd love that!!! I wish we lived further north like we used to. For now, work has taken me into the "banana belt" where snow is a rarity. :/ Oh well--there's always the cart!
Tracy Graziano
http://www.hawthornetamaskan.com

bark as if no one can hear you
catch the ball on the fly
lick like there's no end to kissing
sleep on a sofa nearby
jump like the sky is the limit
sit by the fire with friends
stay with the ones who love you
run like the road never ends

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JoaquimJoe
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Re: Mushing training

Post by JoaquimJoe » Fri Feb 22, 2013 10:18 pm

Wow, great to see, I did dry land Mushing in the Netherlands with Joe(Malmix) with kickbike.
Have fun and the doggies too!!!
Don't appologise for your ancestry, but stand straight and be proud (Dogwisdom)

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Nino
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Re: Mushing training

Post by Nino » Mon Feb 25, 2013 1:35 pm

great video!!
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EssiK
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Re: Mushing training

Post by EssiK » Mon Apr 29, 2013 4:35 am

Haha, we have lots of snow here in Finland, so all sledgedog/mushing people, move here ;)
I'm also trying mushing with my wolfdog and german shepherd. Shepherd is doing fine, but wolfdog Demon is having little problems with focusing and he is learning direction words soooo slowly he is also little bit scared of my kickbike. Hopefully he get used to it and start pull better.
Anyway, Demon have lots of difficulties with concentration. So, I havent found any good training method or on-leash hobby to me and Demo, so this and "tracking" are only ones.. (I dont know the right word to that tracking hobby :D)

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oliviagonzalez
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Re: Mushing training

Post by oliviagonzalez » Fri Mar 17, 2017 3:45 pm

It seems like a really cool experience - thanks for sharing!
Do you have any recommendable resources for training dogs to pull and follow sled commands?

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