Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Wild and Free Update: "the road to the Quest" !
I know, I know I have not been very good about updating the blog this season. Its been a Wild one, as always, but this season was a ground breaker for wild and free not only did we have more dogs then we've ever had, we also were training two race teams. After two summers of breeding and raising 4 litters per summer, we have alot of young dogs with great potential in the yard and the only way to find the super stars is to race them. So thats what we did! Between the three of us (me, Kyla and Casey) we took care of and trained 6 pups under 3 months old, 16 6-8 month olds, 40 tour and retired dogs, and 40 races dogs. (20 pups embarking on their first 1000 mile trip, and 20 of the best dogs I have ever trained!) it will be a season to remember!
I have to say I have the best handlers in the world! Kyla and Casey gave it their all the entire season, and it shows in the dogs. All of our young pups are like pet dogs they live free around the kennel coming and going in and out of the cabin and the houses of all the adult dogs as they please. The future is very bright for these young guys. All the 6-8 month olds are harness broke and totally dialed in on what they love to do. I see lots of potential in these youngsters and cant wait until the spring time to really spend some Quality time with them. Then theirs the race dogs, first Kyla's team of yearlings... AMAZING!!! its the only word to explain how Kyla and her team have preformed. This team mostly consisting of HUGE males was going to be a big job for Kyla in her first year training a race team. But with a great attitude, a little help from all the lessons I have learned and a couple leaders by the names of Madonna and Ling Ling, she nailed it!!! This was a crazy group of dogs in the fall and it looked to be a real battle trying to harness their energy, in hopes to have some control over them. There is now way I can fully tell the story at this point but to make a long story short by mid Nov. they were Dialed! Kyla could harness them put them in the line and they would all just sit there and wait.. booty the whole team, put jackets on, get sorted, and they would just wait. it was an amazing site. Madonna's calm and cool attitude was the driving force. once the pups realized that she was the boss they just started following her lead. When Kyla would put her out there in front and Madonna would just site down, they just followed. Now don't be fooled they still have their energy, they just wait until they are given the go ahead to pour it all out. its been amazing to watch this team excel first in training, then in the Gin Gin 200 and then again in the CB300. They were stellar in both races and I feel they are ready to embark on the biggest adventure of their lives! (both Dogs and Driver).
While I was coaching and watching Kyla and her pups have so much fun I was doing the same! My team this year is Awesome. I have a very talented group of dogs this season, consisting of a group of new dogs to wild and free and my core group I have had since day one. It is so awesome to have dogs still in the team that have been with me since the beginning. I have such and awesome relationship with these dogs it is impossible to explain. They know my next move they know when I am not so happy and when I really need them to step it up. It is this bond and connection that I have relied on the last few years to get us to the finish line in every race we have ever run. I feel that this relationship is key to success in this Sport/ Way of life. Because of that going into this season there were some real Question marks. Last Spring and over the summer I did something I had not done before, I bought some dogs, not just any dogs some really good dogs! First from lance Mackey and then later from JT Hessert. It was not an easy decision for me but after two pretty disappointing years in the Quest I needed to make a move. I just didn't have the depth I needed to be as competitive as I wanted to be. I had lots of great pups coming up the line but they were still too young to race in a competitive team. I first thought about running a puppy team in the 2011 race. That sounded kind of fun... take it easy and train up some awesome pups for the 2012 race. That sounded good until I started thinking about the actual race and knowing myself I new that that was not possible.
This will be my 5th Yukon Quest there is now way I was going to take it easy. So I called up Lance and then later JT. once again there is no way to tell the whole story, but in the end I added some really Quality dogs to my core team to make the potential for a great 2011 race team. (So how bout those pups, now that I had built a race team I asked/told Kyla she would be running a puppy team in the Quest! and so the adventure began) Back to the Question... If I get these new dogs will I be able to form the bond I need in order to get the most out of the dog? Another story for anther time... but to answer the Question YES!! I got them early and it paid off I feel like we have created a very united team. My old dogs excepted the new dogs, which was huge because in many cases the new dogs were performing at a higher level. My dogs not only excepted it, it motivated them to be better and in the end it made us all a better team. To say the least I am fired up about this years race. I am bringing the strongest dog team I have ever brought to the Yukon Quest and this is my 5th race and I am putting EVERYTHING I have learned in the past to work in this years race! We had a great pre season finishing 2nd in the Gin Gin and 4th in the Copper Basin 300 and are caring alot of momentum!
So here we are less then two weeks from the start of the race, how did that happen? overall we are ready food drops are done! Again the two team thing really made that a huge job, but because of the meat cutting, bagging machine in Casey we had them all done and packed with a day to spare. Now we are just making finally preparations taking the dogs out on short runs and getting the Kennel all ready for the dog sitters . This is a huge job its hard to come into the middle of nowhere to a place with no electricity, no running water, only wood heat and take care of 80 Dogs! luckily we have some great Friends and family lined up to fill our shoes. My long time friend GregJurek, and his girlfriend Emily will be up for the first week and then Kylas Mom and a friend will be up the second week. Last spring Kylas Mom, Annelle came up and stayed in Eureka with Kyla while I was guiding in march. So she is totally dialed in on this place which helps us out alot. A big thanks goes out to those guys. and about a 100 other friends and family that have helped us get to this point. I am going to come up with the list and post it on the blog before the race. There is no way I could do this with out their help.
Couple last thing before I gotta get out on a a run. I am very excited about our handlers for this years race. One of my biggest challenges was finding someone to fill Kylas shoes out there on the trail. There is basically one other person and hes on board!! My good buddy Josh Horst is on board. Josh knows me better then anybody and has been apart of the Quest ever since I have been involved, in fact he got me involved as a volunteer at the circle checkpoint in 2004. He has guided the race several times and knows the trail like the back of his hand! Josh is also responsible for introducing me to Hobo Jim and the Song WILD and FREE which we all know the impact that had. I could keep going on but the bottom line is we have the best man for the job. Backing him up and again the best man for the job is the one and only Steve Stoller! Steve is a long time volounteer and came on last year as a handler for wild and free and brought alot to the table and we are glad to have him back as co captain of the USS WIld and Free!
Kylas crew is another solid experienced team. My Dad will be returning to the trail to guide the second Wild and Free truck. This is huge, after taking last year off he is back, having him out on the trail is great piece of mind. I know that no matter what happens he will make sure that both Wild and Free trucks make it from point A to B. Casey who was my new handler this season will be riding long with my dad. Casey has been a huge addition to the Wild and Free team, he is a work horse that is willing to do anything you ask him to do. As I said earlier, he was a food drop packing machine but on top of that he helped train kylas dogs most of the year and split about 5 cords of wood! he is a perfect fit because he knows all of kylas dogs very well, having trained them for most of the season. OK thats the story and Im sticking to it!!! its been a great season, Dont get me wrong we had our ups and downs and defiantly had a few bumps in the road, but the important thing is that we have faced or challenges kept a positive attitude. We are taking this same attitude into the race and are very excited to hit the trail. Check back tomorrow I will be posting the starting lineups for both Yukon Quest teams and some sights and sounds from the amazing 2010-11 Wild and Free Season!!!! Ill leave ya with some puppy love....
let us know who you need us to sponsor now that The Dude is injured.
Cathy and Mark
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