Arctic Chills: A mushing adventure

16 Feb

For 2012 one of my many resolutions is to experience new things, so when I got the opportunity to go and mush with some very cute furry huskies, it seemed like the perfect way to start my new years resolution, and a great way to spend a day!

On the way down to Gloucestershire (where the track and team were based) I can’t deny that the nerves began to kick in, I had visions of myself whizzing around the countryside clinging on for dear life, to a rig with a team of dogs that weren’t stopping for anything. The memory of when my brother put on roller blades, hooked himself up to my own husky Koda and ended up throwing himself into a bush to get Koda to stop, was now fresh in my mind. One thing that incident taught me, other than never hook your brother up to your dog with no means of braking and no helmet, is that huskies love to run, and a silly little thing like a human being attached to them, won’t stop them if they want to go. 

The Track

Arriving at the track I was greeted by freezing cold conditions (looked like I was going to get the full mushers experience!) and also Vickie, who introduced me to the team of six dogs I would be working with Dashka, Mckinneley, Willow, Minx, Koda (yes they had a Koda as well!) and Nanuk. Spending a lovely half an hour getting to know the cutest dogs I’ve ever seen, it was time to get down to work. I learnt how to harness the dogs up to the rig, and the commands I needed for the team to understand me, as well as how to work with the dogs safely.

Vickie suggested I started myself off slow, only working one dog and building myself up to working a team, looking at the long stretch of track ahead of me with quite a few dips and hills along the way, I found myself  nodding vigorously in agreement, starting off slowly was fine with me! Hooking up Willow to the rig, it seemed she was far more ready and excited about this than I was, barking and howling impatiently, the other dogs joining in, howling in anticipation for their turn to go on a run.

I lifted my steadying foot off the ground, and before I had even finished calling ‘hike’ Willow was already breaking into a sprint, my first thought was ‘sod me this is fast’ with my stomach doing a few flips as we hit some holes in the ground, however after the first minute, the terror subsided and I really began to enjoy myself. It was absolutely exhilarating, racing along the countryside past the lake with Willow yelping noisily in excitement,surprising myself I remembered the commands for left and right (‘haw’ and ‘gee’) and the technique of using my body to turn the rig so it didn’t flip over when taking a corner, heading around Willow must have sensed we were heading back to the beginning and really picked up the pace (turns out she was holding out on me, this was a whole new gear of speed). I got completely caught up in Willow’s enjoyment and enthusiasm and forgot about my fear of tipping the rig, and found myself urging her on, when we reached the end of the track and came to a halt I found myself disappointed it was over, but with a huge grin on my face. Vickie later told me that Willow is her fastest dog (she kept that quiet!)

The lovely Willow! My ginger twin!

We all stopped for a break and had soup around a campfire, the dogs at our feet looking hopeful for any leftovers, however they were left disappointed, Vickie loves her dogs but is very strict about them begging and getting treats, a far cry from my own very spoilt dogs at home!

After a rest we got back to the task at hand and this time Vickie asked me if I would mind working Koda and Mckinneley, her least seasoned dogs, as it was important for them to gain experience of someone other than her working them, quelling my rising nerves I agreed and clipped them to the rig. It wasn’t the smoothest start, for the first few minutes Mckinneley was running off to the side distracted and Koda was making me nervous as she was running, but looking at me as opposed to straight ahead in the direction we were going. But soon instinct took over and both dogs began to run like a dream, the difference

Getting up close and personal

between one dog pulling and two was all too apparent when Koda and Mckinneley put their minds to it, and we were racing along at break neck speed, to the point where when we approached the downward slope I was tugging on the brakes and yelling ‘steady’ as much as my voice would allow.

It felt a lot faster than it looks

It was one of the most amazing and thrilling experiences of my life, right up there with swimming with the dolphins and standing on the cliffs of Xcarat in Mexico. I would recommend it to anyone who loves animals and has an open mind to try something new, however I’ll warn potential candidates for this experience you may be surprised at how addictive the thrill is, I’m already looking up resorts abroad in Norway, Switzerland ect that offer the same sort of experience, as I would love to try it again, hopefully next time in the snow.

 
On the way home I stopped at a service station to use the facilities and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, covered in mud, hair looking uncontrollably bushy and wild (this is where my nickname Mufasa starts to makes sense) basically looking like I’ve been dragged through a hedge. Not my most glamorous look by far, and although I received quite a few stares from fellow travellers I didn’t care so much, the other remnant of the day, my grin, was still there.
 

Beautiful dogs but they're a tough bunch as well!

 
  

The husky team!

 
 
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4 Responses to “Arctic Chills: A mushing adventure”

  1. meganchapple February 16, 2012 at 8:38 pm #

    That’s fantastic!!! Jealous right now. Really beautiful dogs

    • StephBristow February 16, 2012 at 8:43 pm #

      It was pretty amazing I was really lucky to get the chance to do it, it was so much fun, I would love love love to go on holiday and try it in the snow! You’d love it Megs if you get the chance, do it lol x x

  2. meganchapple February 16, 2012 at 8:55 pm #

    How did you get such great photos? I can’t take those sort of photos on my new camera 😦

    • StephBristow February 16, 2012 at 9:04 pm #

      I’m very lucky that my step dad has a great professional Canon 40D Eos (which is apparently very good? I don’t know much about these things lol) and he let me take it down with me, so I could give to the trainer to maybe take some pics whilst I was on the track and stuff. All the pics come out quite vibrant and sharp, its nothing to do with Vickies or my own photography skills, its all the camera! My own would never take such good ones! lol x x x

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