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It’s all about the dogs

By Darren Lum

Published Feb. 6 2018

Watch the frenzied action up close when the 16th Haliburton Highlands Dogsled Derby comes to Haliburton Feb. 10 and 11 at the Pinestone Resort and Conference Centre.

The IFSS-sanctioned event offers a $6000 purse to competitors who come from all over North America.

Competitors will be competing in a variety of dogsled race categories from pros to children in the kid and mutt class (participants must have a dogsled and one dog) and will also include skijoring – a competitor on Nordic skis is pulled by a dog.

Tanya McCready-DeBruin who founded the race with her husband Hank DeBruin said the best part for her is the dogs.

“We love the mushers too of course but all mushers are mushers because of their love of their dogs and we are no different. It is also rewarding to see new people get excited and become mushers and skijorers keeping the tradition of dogsledding alive and well!” she wrote in an email.

Seeing fellow mushers and taking in the community’s reponse are part of what make the experience enjoyable after 16 years of running the event McCready-DeBruin said.

“It doesn’t seem like it has been that long to be honest. We love organizing/hosting an event that brings mushers to our hometown from all over North America every winter. We get the pleasure of catching up with mushers we haven’t seen in a year or two and meeting new mushers as well” she wrote in an email.

“Plus having done it this long every year it gets easier as we usually have the same amazing businesses/organizations who make the event possible with their sponsorship and the team at the Pinestone after so long know exactly what we need and do a great job of having the trails food and event rooms all ready for the mushers.”

McCready-DeBruin was told by the mushers this is their favourite race of the season due in large part to the “warm welcome” from the community and Pinestone. Getting to show the public sled dogs excites the organizers she said as it’s an education about the sport.

When people come to watch they will see the dogs being their “happiest” and most passionate she said.

“The passion and excitement huskies have for running and everything they do is absolutely infectious. Almost impossible to not have a smile on your face if you come to truly watch them getting ready running and the look of pleasure and satisfaction on their faces at the finish line. We normally have 80 to 100 teams competing in all the events and mushers range from two to 72” she wrote.

Organizers ask spectators to stay off the race course at all times ask dog handlers permission before approaching any dogs not to make unusual noises or movements that could distract competitors and to leave pets at home because they can distract the competitors.

Volunteers are welcome to help.

“We are so lucky that many of the same volunteers come out every year. Some have been with us for all 15 years! If you are interested in helping you just need to love dogs – that’s it” she wrote referring to who and what is required.

Contact Winterdance to see what volunteer tasks are still available. The work ranges from setting up the course installing signs registration on Friday to late registration assisting the timer scoreboards bib collector and sorter flag person dog marker dog handlers sled holders trail wardens traffic director and mascot on Saturday and Sunday.

Keep up to date with the Haliburton Highlands Dogsled Derby through Facebook Twitter or email them at info@haliburtondogsledderby.com or call them at 705-457-5281.