With Maui too old to train the youngsters, it will be a wild sledding season. It will take some time to get Beamer and Phil working as a team, till they know exactly what to do (Beamer comes from active working lines in Germany, Phil's sire and grandsire were excellent sledders when Rossanna was still driving her 6-dog team. Many offspring of those two are top winning Siberians in the working world (scooter class and open team)).
I just learned at the Siberian Husky Club of Gauteng AGM, that from now on we can enrol our dogs for working titles with the club! I'll enrol this team in the bikejoering 2-dog classes for their working titles which are further in the process of being recognized by KUSA.
Are you a member of the SHCG yet? Join them here, so you can also enrol your Siberians for working titles!
Sledding season in South Africa starts in the region of April/May, depending on the weather of course.
With my beloved Orion passing away (cancer) and Tiggy having a litter in June, I took a sabbatical from sledding in 2007.
Congratulations to Orion (Veteran) and Tuscany on their silver medal at the SA Champs in Belfast from the purebred 2 dog bikejorring class and the bronze medal in the 2 dog bikejoerring overall ranking.
It was a cruel 13 km trail that had an uphill in it that felt like climbing Mount Everest. My fitness levels left much to be desired and I was really proud of my Veteran for finishing the trail two days in a row. These medals came at a price though and left me with a bittersweet memory. Why was I was truly upset with myself for putting my Veteran in an event like this? I did ask the race officials if the trail was reasonably flat and suitable for a Veteran and was assured that the trail was not a problem at all. On hindsight, one is always wiser ! The second day showed, that this trail was not for Veterans, on the contrary, this trail was even a challenge for trained youngsters.
The steep uphill on the second day was almost fatal to my Veteran. We had to take the last 3 kilometers really slow. Tuscany's behavior of instinctively sensing when her trail companion needed a breather was a truly humbling experience. Orion's guts of not giving in and will to finish what he started showed the true nature of this magnificent breed. The South African conditions of heating up after sunrise even in the middle of winter, did not make this any easier. After such a steep hill, the 15 degrees Celsius cut-off temperature seems like a joke! It was still well below 10 degrees Celsius and I thought it was boiling hot, taking off any scarf's, gloves, and my winter-jacket!! I was aware my Veteran was overheating and struggling, yet back behind the finish line the outside temperature showed only 2 degrees Celsius.
There is definitively a crisp in the air in the mornings. The pack gets more restless, indicating that THE TIME has come to take the harnesses out. I am looking forward to the nip in the air, the cold ears when racing over the bridle paths in the early morning hours pulled on the mountain-bike by two to three of my Siberians. It is the exhilarating feeling when my dogs are jubilant in doing what they love to do most that gets me out of bed at the break of dawn.
On crisp winter Sunday mornings there are groups of sledding-enthusiasts all over the country, which mush their Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes and some even with German Shepherds on self-built gig's, (3 or 4-wheeler carts) over dirt tracks. It is not about time or winning. It is about letting the dogs run because that's what a real Siberian Husky loves to do. Our dogs are long distance endurance trotters and our "racing" is nowhere near the banned sport of Greyhound races.
Stephan on the mountain bike with Maui in lead, Chiquita on the left and Samadhi on the right wheel.
May 7, 2002: This is it! The thermometer fell far beyond 14° Celsius! There is frost on the grass, the dogs are restless….nothing holds me back anymore. I organized my family to baby-sit Chanel, threw the bike into the back of the bakkie to get its wheels pumped at the garage, got the gang-line and 2 harnesses out, wow! The dogs heard the rattling of the harness and wooooowuuuuuuuhhhhh! The first excited howl because they knew what was going to happen. First I took Maui and Orion, the Veteran's in harness! Despite Maui having been lost for 1 ½ years, he remembered the "Gee" and "Haw" commands and when an odd error occurred, managed immediately to correct himself and push Orion to the desired side as well. What an experience to feel the icy wind rush past. The dogs loping the first kilometers because of excitement before they settle into their usual moderately fast endurance trott. Because these males can be quite a handful on the mountain-bike, I use a bridle path (dirt & grass track designed for horse-raiders), which rises slightly for a kilometer and then becomes quite a mean uphill for another kilometer. It is a safety measure to warm them up and let them give off their first mean take-off speed without getting injured or using my bikes' entire break-pads in one run. Oh, they did nothing wrong in that first run of the season. Despite a Jack Russel having a go at them, they did not even bother, head down and work! What a pleasure.
10th April 2005: Having moved suburbs and no longer being able to run my beloved Siberians on Beaulieu's bridle trails, I had to look for alternatives. Yesterday a fellow Siberian Musher called and asked if I don't want to come along to a race, they are having a sledding event close by. My Mountainbike got stolen (for the 2nd time, bloody thieves always nip the gangline with it) but my fellow mushers lent me their scooter. What an adventure. Hey, I am one for Mountainbikes, these scooters are scary. I took Tuscany and Orion (already a Veteran) along. Orion really for safety. I did not want to risk to have a major fall on my first race of the season with the dogs not trained yet. Last time crazy Suzie mushed, she was in a team of 6 and still managed to chase lizards! Tuscany was fantastic and loped the entire 3 km's. Not bad for a first race without any training. Orion put the breaks on after 1 km, entirely my fault. Please learn from my mistake. When you mush a dog especially an oldie, warm them up first by walking them a bit. I just let them take off like bomb crackers ice-cold. Not a good thing for a Veteran. Sis on me! Well, the mushing bug has bitten again. I vowed to get myself another Mountainbike, chain the thing to my house so it can't get unvoluntarily removed and train them again during the week. There are dirt tracks close by, just have to walk them there over the tarmac. Might be good anyhow to warm them and me up first and then sprint when on the bike. Ypeeaah!
BEWARE first time mushers! I took me quite some time to gain the security and train the dogs correctly to run double lead or sometimes even three in harness on a mountain-bike. Rather get help from experienced mushers before you attempt such an adventure without trained dogs on your own.
There is nothing more dangerous or disturbing than a Siberian at full speed deciding to hop sideways and chase that lizard or squirrel on the side of the track. On one of Orion's first run's, I almost broke my neck because of a guinea fowl. Orion went at real break-neck speed. It was a long straight bridle trail with nothing far and wide in sight! That's what I thought when I let him stretch out. Neither him nor I at first saw the guinea fowl on the side of the trail. I saw it just a split-second before we passed it and thought Orion missed it. WRONG! At exactly the moment we went past, it fluttered and protested loudly. Orion just hopped instinctively in a 90o angle to the side, I went flying over the handle-bars and the mountain bike needed a severe work-over after that. It is advisable to wear a mountain bike helmet at all times. For information about sledding in Midrand, call Cathy Tel. 011 315 1271, or for other areas call the Siberian Husky Club of Gauteng,: Vice Chair Liz Norval 073 319 6541 or Cindy Foggit IFSS 082 4416256.
Above : Stephan with his newly built 3-wheeler taking Maui and Orion for a short test run.