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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Three Rivers Park District Women's Event

Oken and mom, Tuloon, lead Deborah on her adventure.

Yesterday, Points Unknown hosted the Three Rivers Park District dog mushing women's event. Their Near Wilderness park facilities were used as a base for the event. The campus includes a wonderful wood lodge with an enormous field stone fireplace and several small satellite cabins, in which the women stayed, that is tucked back in a beautiful hardwood forest, just minutes from the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. On the main agenda were ski lessons and dog mushing! The dog mushing took place at the Points Unknown kennel, just 20 minutes away from the base. Six participants joined us in the morning and five in the afternoon for some experiential learning on how to run a small sled dog team.

Getting to know the dogs.

With the help of Hailey and Rich, we introduced the women to the dogs so an amount of trust could be built before they began working with them. Sled safety was also a top priority. We discussed the components of the sled, how to use them and what they do as well as different techniques for mushing. Although the dogs would not likely listen to anyone but their musher, we were sure to cover some basic commands and what to do if they were out on the lake and needed a hand enforcing them.

Ilu LOVES all of the attention.

Harnessing the dogs was another time to gain some trust and respect from the dogs. Our participants did an excellent job and even were able to convince Journey that it was safe to be handled. Journey is often very concerned about people she doesn't know and does work best with our small women's groups rather than our larger groups. During those, she is allowed to hang back and watch. Ilu, on the other hand, sucks up as much attention as possible from whomever will give it to him! And, be aware, he also quickly sucks up gloves and other various dangling winter gear.

Harnessing begins.

The dogs are very accustomed to being harnessed by those they don't know. They will often times help teach our guests by almost harnessing themselves as they lift the appropriate leg up in the air to be inserted into the leg hole.

Ready to go!

The sled is secured to one of our two take off sites and the dogs are put in place on the line. Each dog gets several turns to lead with a partner during these events. Since we were headed out on the small portion of Oake Lake in front of the kennel, the remaining women, Hailey and Rich fanned out on the lake to make certain the dogs didn't take their new mushers on an unexpected adventure. If they headed for the bridge that would take them to the larger portion of the lake, I quickly zipped out on the recently purchased and very much needed, "new to us" Skandic work horse snowmobile to encourage the dogs to take another direction. In addition to the safety net the snowmobile provides, we can get some pretty nice photos of each team in action.

Diane and her team head back to the kennel.

Kathy requested a "moderate" experience around the lake so Zala and mom, Tuloon were happy to oblige.

Our new mushers were presented with a few challenges which included a head on pass with another team.

Oken, Topa and White Feather wait their turn. Topa and White Feather are now 7 months old and got to go on only one short run around the lake. Next season, they'll be all grown up and can do anything the big dogs can do!

McKenzie and Sweet Pea were on one of Regina's teams.

Yikes! Where's the musher? We're happy to say no people or dogs were injured when the sled got away from one of our guests. Having a relatively closed course for such an event ensures that the dogs can't go far if detached from their musher.

Deb with Klaus and Oken followed by Sandy with Journey and Zodiak.

Polly's team consisted of Klaus and White Feather.

Smiles from all team members! Sandy with McKenzie and Journey.

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