The kid and mutt race is always a favourite. /SUE TIFFIN Staff

Haliburton to welcome mushers for annual favourite

The Haliburton Highlands Dog Sled Derby is scheduled for Jan. 18 to 20

By Darren Lum

Jan. 9 2019

In less than two weeks one of the area’s most popular annual sporting events is returning to the Highlands.

Like the lead up to the Christmas season there is always great anticipation whether it’s the expected 90 or so mushers and their close to 500 dogs or the race spectators excited to see the explosive canine power let loose at the Haliburton Highlands Dog Sled Derby hosted at the Pinestone Resort and Conference Centre.

Held from Jan. 18 to Jan. 20 this Ontario Federation of Sleddog Sports Triple Crown Race Series boasts mushers from all over the province Quebec and the northern United States vying for a $5000 purse.

Winterdance Dogsled Tours’s Tanya McCready-DeBruin who has organized the IFSS sanctioned race for close to 16 years (interrupted only for weather and finances) encourages first-time visitors to come to the venue located within a 10 minute drive west of Haliburton on County Road 21.

“If you love dogs you’ve got to go and see a dogsled race. Even if you’re just curious. Because the energy and the passion and the excitement these dogs have you’ll never see more excited dogs in your life then you’ll see at a dogsled race. Because they are so happy and they love doing what they do” she said. “You put all those dogs together all having that kind of emotion and energy and excitement it’s just pandemonium. If you love dogs it’s an amazing place to go.”

Teams will be leaving every few minutes and will approach speeds of 30 kilometres an hour so the action will be high. Admission is free for all ages. Races are held Saturday and Sunday. The racing begins with the one-dog skijoring at 9:30 a.m. Saturday followed by the four- dog two-dog skijoring kid and mutt six- dog youth until it ends that day with the eight-dog race at 3:15 p.m. The spectator favourite kid and mutt race is only on Saturday at 12:45 p.m. On Sunday races begin at 9 a.m. with the one-dog skijoring race followed by the four-dog two-dog six-dog youth and ends at 2:15 p.m. with the eight-dog race which is followed by the end of event presentation.

In addition to the obvious start/finish area visible from the road there are also spectating areas by the golf pro shop and indoors at the Pinestone dining room.

McCready-DeBruin adds the purse is divided among all the recipients from the first to the 10th finisher across seven categories (four-dog six-dog eight-dog and skijoring one-dog two-dog youth and the did and mutt Race) from the dogsled racers to the skijorers. A further division occurs with the four six and eight-dogsled races to reflect dog types such as mixed bred and pure bred.

New skijorers are welcomed to compete she said.

“Some of our best skijorers that race started out … [started] at our race” she said.

“If you just like getting out on skis with your dog you’re more than welcome to come” she said.

Registration can be done on-site Friday and Saturday morning. The specific equipment to skijor is available for purchase.

Three main reasons McCready-DeBruin and Winterdance loves to organize this event: one is for a reunion of sorts for the mushers which she and her husband Hank DeBruin appreciate. Two bringing an event that helps the community by attracting people to spend money whether it’s food or accommodation and three to educate the public and celebrate the capability of work dogs showcasing them in their element doing what they live for and love to do.

This event has added features such as live music by Creedence Clearwater Revival tribute band Bootleg Creedance on Jan. 18 at 9 p.m. in the ballroom at the Pinestone Resort. Advance tickets are $15 and $20 at the door.

There is also an outdoor barbecue scheduled Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. organized by the host Pinestone Resort. In previous years the Haliburton Lions Club ran the barbecue but were unable to do so this year. She adds mushers often say the derby is their favourite race of the year because once they arrive they don’t have to leave.

McCready-DeBruin said the added attractions and services are great for the mushers and the spectators.

“The more things we can add the more time hopefully people will want to stay and watch because it gives people something to see and do” she said.

For more information about the derby contact Tanya McCready-DeBruin at or call 705-457-5281.