Tuesday, 4 September 2007

September 4th, 2007 Fall Warm-Up Weekend (By Jeff deGreeff)

Hi everyone,

I just had to share my experiences of one of the most exhilarating weekends I have had in a while.  Actually, I have had a lot of wonderful working-Samoyed weekends this summer but this one tops it!  Karen Ramstead, a purebred Siberian Iditarod racer, had a fall training warm-up weekend this Labor Day long weekend and she invited people to head up to her place for a fun weekend of food, learning and of course, mushing training!  It was an absolutely wonderful weekend!

I learned so much this weekend and it was great to see so many fantastic teams there with such wonderful mushers!  Karen was an incredible hostess and I have no idea how she can handle 29 people and kids running her dogs - yes she allowed us all to take her Iditarod-class dogs out with a scooter - training with her own teams, entertaining, cooking, 90 additional dogs not including 65 of her own, playing with her puppies (she has three litters on the ground right now) and still staying sane!  She was truly an amazing woman and hostess!  Actually, her husband Mark deserves a lot of credit too since it is very cool how he supports her "habit" so wonderfully with all the work he does with the dogs and all the cooking he did in addition to what Karen did.

There were two definite highlights for me.  The first that I wanted to share was that I had the opportunity to ride an ATV along while Karen worked with her puppy team.  That was an excellent experience.  I was able to watch how she worked with her young puppies, helped them through their problems, put them in situations so that they could work through them and just watch how she interacted with her dogs.  I was amazed at their power and strength, even though it was only a short fall training run, it was still incredible to see them at work - even if they were not Samoyed!

The other highlight was the privilege to run Nakoda with a true Iditarod sled dog!  Karen was kind enough and trustful enough to allow me to hook up Nakoda with one of her dogs, Holly (hopefully I spelled that right).  I have had a lot of fun working with dogs from around our area last winter but it has soured Nakoda a little bit.  Well, this was just a fantastic experience for Nakoda and I think she enjoyed the privilege as much as I did.  I have never, ever seen her run in harness like that before and I am not sure if it was the lack of experience of the dogs that normally run with her, the difference in structure or fitness levels of the Sammies she normally runs with or what but she absolutely flew!!!  It was breathtaking for me!  I went back on my GPS readings this morning and we had readings over 20 mph - maybe normal for a Sibe but pretty good for a Sammy from what I have heard.  I am even more excited by the fact that there were only two dogs pulling the scooter on a soft, sandy trail with lots of moderate hills and I had the brakes on for most of the run!  We ended up doing just under 2 miles with an average speed of about 6 mph including two breaks and a wrong turn.  Throughout the entire run, there were only 3 times that I had to put on the brakes a little more to get Nakoda's tug line tight but then, I had to do it a couple of times for Holly too.  It was just an absolutely awesome experience for Nakoda and me!!!!

As another fun note, it was definitely interesting to have the only Samoyed there out of 155 dogs present.  There were Alaskans, Mal's and Sibe's as well.  I would guess that about 90% were Siberians with about 4 or five Malamutes, my little Nakoda and the rest being Alaskans.  I actually ended up running Nakoda with Sibe's all weekend just to make things fun for her since since that was a major goal of mine for the two of us.  I found it to be a very good match but the real cool thing about this was to be able to observe the difference in how these two breed of dogs is built.  I am always trying to learn and it was fun to see how a Siberian goes from a trot to a lope and then a full run while a Samoyed goes from a trot to a run.  It was also cool to see Nakoda keep up to a loping Siberian while she was still trotting - I hadn't thought that would be possible until I saw it with the two running ahead of me.  Obviously, when Holly or the other Sibe Nakoda ran with the rest of the weekend, picked up the pace, Nakoda would go into a full run but it was pretty cool to see how well matched she was with the Sibes she ran with.

Anyway, hopefully this tempts your ambitions in the future and maybe we'll see some of you out this way next year - so I won't be the only Samoyed owner there!  I saw quite a few large teams there (more than half a dozen dogs in a team) and everyone was absolutely wonderful.  Every single musher I spoke with was very encouraging to me, even though I had and "odd" breed there.  Every single team was great, some still learning but still very good as far as teams I have seen goes.  The gamut of mushers ranged from kids and people just doing it for fun to the professional mushers and all were just as friendly and helpful as the next.  I can't recommend this weekend highly enough as a great kick off to fall training!

I hope all of you have a wonderful fall and have fun working with your Samoyeds!


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