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> Gearing Up For A New Mushing Season
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Swanny 
Posted: 01-Dec-2007, 12:35 PM
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Well, THAT turned into a moot point. The trail conditions have deteriorated markedly, so the race was cancelled. (sigh).

We're still training with the ATV and even that is a bit risky.

Swanny


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Swanny 
Posted: 01-Dec-2007, 08:05 PM
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Although the race was cancelled I don't think I remembered to tell my dogs. They gave me a very fast 8 mile training run today - even old Gump who has a bit of trouble keeping up with his team mates. I had Amazing Grace, the yearling we are training for a mutual friend, running lead beside Dutchess, Tammi Rego's leader who is visiting this winter to help train "the kids". I don't remember feeding them any oats, but they were certainly feeling them as the gave the team a solid workout. We had 5 head-on passes with other teams, and not a single ball up.

Even better, only two hours after getting home nearly all the dogs were trotting around their houses and acting like they do it all over again. I need to increase their mileage pretty soon.

Swanny
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stevenpd 
Posted: 03-Dec-2007, 03:31 PM
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Sorry to hear about the conditions. I was looking forward to your racing exploits! Maybe next time. It would be wonderful to hear of all of the training paying off. How's Chinook?


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Swanny 
Posted: 07-Jan-2008, 10:11 AM
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Sorry to be so long between updates. I've been good at keeping my blog updated, but not so good about updating this thread.

The past five weeks have been pretty challenging for the Stardancer gang. Every time I've tried to bump up the mileage on the team my 11 year leader, the darling Daisy, has ended up so stiff and sore that she's required several additional days of rest. I've finally had to make the very difficult decision to drop her from the main team, reserving her teaching skills to training the yearlings and many of our rescued foster dogs in gee/haw work. She seems to be happy with her new semi-retirement job. I know that physically it's better for her.

Meanwhile, I waited too long to make that decision, so I now have a team of very large freighting dogs that can cover 15 miles in well under an hour and 1/2, but are then ready to rest, so the focus over the next couple of months is to extend their running range.

Dutchess (on loan from the Rogue Summit Kennel) is doing a great job of leading the team and bringing the yearlings along. She will be joined by her kennel mate Torus, a retired Yukon Quest leader originally from Eric Butcher's team. Torus has run with the Stardancer dogs in the past and is a great match for the team.

Trail conditions are generally poor, due to lack of snow. It has occurred to me that I have never run a team on a good trail. Heck, I might not know HOW to run dogs on decent snow. I'd love an opportunity to find out, though. Currently the heavily used trails are very hard packed, icy and fast. We've been routinely training at distances of 12 to 15 miles with 120 lb of weight in the sled in addition to my gear bag and sometimes camping equipment.

Today we will be stretching that out a bit as my training partner and I want to explore a new (to us) trail we've noticed. We have no clue where it may go, so it's hard to guess how far we'll travel, but I'm sure it will be an adventure.

I have to leave for 1 week of work on Tuesday, and then will have only 1 week off when I return. I plan to take to team on some longer runs out into the Chena River State Recreation Area during that week, so they can start seeing more of the trail they'll be traveling in the Chena Hot Springs Centennial Passenger Run. I'll also be breaking out my new, historically authentic toboggan sled even if the snow conditions remain poor (I expect they will) as it's important that I know how to drive it competently before asking the team to drag it 75 miles.

Currently, the dogs training most routinely in the main team include;

Dutchess (Rogue Summit leader) - Little Dutchess is a 9 year dog originally from Ray Redington Jr.'s kennel. She is painfully shy to handle but a dynamo up front. She'll turn on a dime and hand you a nickle in change.

Amazing Grace - Grace came into the sled dog rescue from a pet home, and is one of the most talented yearlings that my more experienced training partners have ever seen. We pulled her from the rescue and gave her to a mutual friend, a certified canine behaviorist who generously donates her services to the rescue. Grace is a trotter, and she can trot along at 14 or maybe even 15 mph before breaking into a lope. She's been spending a lot of time "up front" and is quickly learning the directional cues. She's just an awesome little baby.

Rose and Nels are my "mitten twins", Hedlund husky yearlings from the same litter. They are proving to be awesome sled dogs, both are reliably hard workers who love to run and pull. Although they've both shown leader potential they lack the maturity they need to spend a lot of time up front. Once the "puppy" comes out they would rather play with their running mate than lead the team ahead.

Gump is a 9 year old village dog originally from Eagle and the Fortymile River country. He came into the rescue in pretty sad shape, way out of condition and with a rough coat. With several months of good nutrition and plenty of training opportunities he continues to improve with every run. He's said to be a gee/haw leader, but so far has not done particularly well up front. He usually runs in either team or wheel position.

Seamus, my Anatolian Shepherd Dog / Alaskan Husky mix is still a social butterfly that can screw up a head-on pass with any given team, just because he wants to sniff every butt that comes by. (see photo below, Seamus is the yellow dog trying to climb over his running mate to sniff butts) On the other hand, he is a very hard worker who runs well in wheel beside the megamutt Sheenjek. He also spends time running beside one of the mitten twins in team or swing.

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Sheenjek is the megamutt. He's a tall, large dog that loves to run and who shines in the back of the pack where he can use his massive power to turn the nose of the sled around any obstacle.

Polar is a yearling from the rescue who has been training with my team in order socialize him and keep him occupied. He is very shy and unsure of himself around humans and other dogs, but he loves running in harness and has done very well on the team.
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stevenpd 
Posted: 07-Jan-2008, 06:04 PM
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Good to hear from you, Swanny! I was wondering where you had gone to. Sound like the team is shaping up but dorry to hear about Daisy. It is never easy to make those kind of decisions. Keep in touch!
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Swanny 
Posted: 07-Jan-2008, 09:41 PM
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Sometimes the defining margin between an adventure and a disaster is very, very slim. To see how badly I can screw something up, check out my blog entry for today at Old School Alaskan blog.
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valpal59 
Posted: 08-Jan-2008, 12:02 PM
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OMG Swanny, so glad you, Lynn and all of the dogs are O.K.. Some days it just doesn't pay to get out of bed.


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stevenpd 
Posted: 08-Jan-2008, 02:28 PM
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Experience is a harsh teacher! Glad to hear everything worked out ok. You'll have to give Lynn a big hug and cup of hot coffee for that one.
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Swanny 
Posted: 17-Jan-2008, 01:14 AM
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Today's run was a real blast. I have a new (well, old as in 18th to early 19th century) sled and took it out for the first time today. Ended up running 17 miles with three different teams. The story and photos are available at http://oldschoolak.blogspot.com/2008/01/no...og-mushing.html

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John Clements 
Posted: 17-Jan-2008, 10:14 AM
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QUOTE (Swanny @ 17-Jan-2008, 01:14 AM)
Today's run was a real blast. I have a new (well, old as in 18th to early 19th century) sled and took it out for the first time today. Ended up running 17 miles with three different teams. The story and photos are available at http://oldschoolak.blogspot.com/2008/01/no...og-mushing.html

Looks exciting Swanny, but Iím afraid Iíll just have to settle for my American Flyer? Have fun man.
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Swanny 
Posted: 21-Jan-2008, 12:21 AM
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I'm having all kinds of fun up here. Today we (the team, including musher) did a 20 mile loop, driving an 18th or early 19th century style toboggan with 120 lb of weights, a 50 lb gear bag, and my heavy arse over soft, punchy trails. The whole run took 3 hours as it was very warm (high 20s) and we had to stop to cool the dogs from time to time.

I've posted a video clip of the team leaving the yard (5 meg) on my Old School Alaskan blog along with a more detailed report.

Swanny
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stevenpd 
Posted: 21-Jan-2008, 03:51 PM
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Beautiful! Simply beautiful!

You're having way too much fun up there. thumbs_up.gif thumbs_up.gif thumbs_up.gif
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Rindy 
Posted: 01-Feb-2008, 12:54 AM
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Wonderful pictures as always Swanny. We were suppose to start around here this weekend but don't know if it will happen or not due to avalance warnings.

Slainte
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Finduella 
Posted: 05-Apr-2008, 07:59 AM
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my goodness that's just so different than what goes on in Australia. i gguess yhe closest thing we have is cattle dog trials ! and dogs that run with endurence horses
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Swanny 
Posted: 05-Apr-2008, 11:29 AM
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I know there are a few Australians who mush dogs on wheeled rigs, bikes (called bikejoring) and two wheeled scooters. Not sure where or how many, though.

It's break up, and the mushing season is pretty much shot up here. The trails are falling apart, but there is still too much slushy stuff to run the dogs with a four wheeler or cart, so they are just hanging out, being very bored.

I'm finding it difficult to cope with break-up this year. We had a great mushing season and I hate to see it end. We didn't get to see nearly so many new trails as I would like - but that's always going to be true. There is always a new stretch of trail and a new piece of wilderness to explore.

Two of the three yearlings on this year's team are turning into fine leaders, and the other is an awesome team dog. We've enjoyed some good long runs, done some camping, and covered somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 miles or so this winter.

The absolute best lead dog I've ever seen was given to me in February. Torus is a retired Yukon Quest and middle-distance leader originally whelped and trained by Eric Butcher. When Eric retired he gave Torus to Tammi Rego. At 9 years of age he has slowed some and can no longer lead fast race teams, so he came to me as his retirement home. I've run Torus in the past and he and I get along very well. The fact is, I adore this dog. He's a great fit for my team of freighting types.

I have a friend who also mushes freighting type in Dillingham, AK. Kyle is the guy who gave me Rose and Nels. In any event, he came down for a visit during the Yukon Quest start, and we were hanging out before the start banquet, bragging about our dogs. I was also tossing about inquiries among mushers who drive the larger village types of dogs asking about breeding plans, as I'll need to bring in some young blood year after next as I imagine that at least one or two of my older dogs will need to be retired from the main sledding team.

Meanwhile, Kyle was talking about breeding his bitch Lucky (mom to Rose and Nels). Kyle expressed some concern that the only dog he has that is truly suitable for breeding is closely related to nearly every dog in his kennel, and he was wishing that he could bring in some new blood. My GF said "Have you looked at Swanny's new dog Torus?"

Well, one thing led to another, and now Lucky is here, visiting in my kennel for the summer. The plan is that we will breed Torus and Lucky. Each of us will get half of the litter (that's kind of unusual, more typically the stud owner gets just one puppy, the pick of the litter). I'll keep Lucky here through whelping, early puppy socialization and weaning and then send her and half the litter back to Kyle early next fall.

We are both very excited about this breeding. We share the philosophy that only exceptional sled dogs, likely to improve the breed, should be bred. Torus and Lucky both qualify and offer attributes that are very hard to find in village or "trap line" types of Alaskan huskies nowadays. (Most mushers breed for racing, which requires different traits).

When I was discussing this breeding with another friend who is familiar with Torus and the lines of both dogs, he just grinned. "You want some big, leggy, black, smart dogs, eh?" he said. Yep, that's what we're shooting for.

Here's a pic of the team at work, shot during a fun passenger race that we ran with a friend (in the basket of the sled).

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