Jesse Terry preparing for big dog sled season
Jesse Bonello - Staff Writer
Local musher Jesse Terry is gearing up for a dog sled season that he describes as one of the biggest seasons he’s had.
Terry said he has two races approaching that will see him submit two teams in each, allowing him to race and travel with his family.
“We are ramping up for a bigger season than we’ve ever had in terms of racing and running. We’re going to be running a race this coming month here in February in Saskatchewan. It’s called the Canadian Challenge, and it goes from Prince Albert up towards La Ronge. I’m also running in the Hudson Bay Quest, which is in Manitoba. It runs from Churchill to Gillam,” said Terry.
“For both of these races we are putting in two teams. The Canadian Challenge has different categories of races. Their big event is the 12-dog, 330 mile race… I’ll be running in that one. They have another event, which is an eight-dog race. It’s a 178 mile race, and my partner Mary England is going to be running in the eight-dog event. It’ll be her first dog sled race, and she’s been doing lots of dogsledding the last few years… It’s a great opportunity for Mary to try a race herself, and the eight-dog race is a good starting point for that.
“The race in March, the Hudson Bay Quest, the second team will be run by my father Tom Terry… He has run in it in the past. The last time he ran the race, he wasn’t able to finish. He had to withdraw from the race due to a very extreme blizzard that happened that year in 2015, and it basically shut down the race, it shut down the town of Churchill, and he was forced to scratch.
“Both races are considered mid-distance sled dog races, and both of these events are qualifying events to race in the longer thousand-mile races up in Alaska and Yukon, the well-known one being the Iditarod. Before you’re allowed to run the Iditarod you have to run these qualifying races,” he said.
Terry’s experience with sled dogs dates back to his childhood. He said he wanted to do more with the dogs as a young adult, which led to his love for distance-racing his dogs.
“My father got sled dogs when I was a young boy, and I guess I’ve been doing it ever since. After college and after moving back home, I decided that I wanted to expand the kennel and use the dogs for more than just recreation… The first part of wanting to do more with them was operating and doing tours and doing dog sledding programs so I could share this passion of mine… Beyond using the dogs for sharing and employment, I decided I wanted to try and run some races with them. I’ve always been drawn to the more adventurous, the more long format of events, rather than the short sprint races,” he said.
Terry said training his sled dogs starts before the snow and freezing temperatures arrive. Runs down logging roads in the fall have helped lead to long training runs now as Terry continues to condition his dogs for upcoming races.
“Our dogs are in much better shape than they’ve ever been at this time of year… Right now we’re doing long training runs. Like any distance athlete, you have to condition, and you have to build up the conditioning and the mileage basically… We’re doing these long training runs to get them in to shape so that they’ll be able to happily finish these events that we want them to… These dogs absolutely love their job, but you have to prepare them properly so that they’re conditioned to be able to do it. They’ll always want to keep going and they’ll always want to keep pulling, but you have to condition them be able to manage the amount of distance that you’re going to be covering… It’s really phenomenal to see what these canine athletes can do,” he said.
“Typically dog sled training starts when the temperatures start to get around five degrees at nighttime, so typically at the end of August or in September. Once it’s around that temperature range we can start training the dogs again. What we do for around three months in the fall, once we start, is they get conditioned, they go on runs, they pull a quad around on various logging roads, and they get into shape that way. The idea is once it snows here and once the trail is here they’re already pretty conditioned to run a very good distance, and you just continue with that, keep the momentum going, and you keep building on the miles for the dogs. You do that all throughout the season until your events, so it starts well before there’s any snow.
“It’s always different as to when the last dog sledding will be. Sometimes it’s done in March and sometimes we’re still on the sled in May, so you never know. It always depends every year,” he concluded.