Susie Stracken is a journalist and makes her home in Winnipeg, with her husband, two sons and her two border collies. Susie is the "Queen of Skijoring" in Manitoba, and through her club "Snow Motion" has promoted dog powered sports for many years.
How did you first get started in the sport?
I started skijoring in 1991, when I interviewed musher Glenys Morgan for the Winnipeg Free Press' Weeklies. She mushed with a team of beautiful Siberian huskies, and I wanted to know how I could get involved. But I only had one dog, my border collie Sona. Glenys sold me a Wendigo harness, and showed me how to do gee/haw training.
What have you seen change since that time?
I started skijoring with fish-scale skis and short poles, holding a leash in my left hand. That was pretty slow and awkward. It wasn't until I discovered Canvasback that I obtained one of the first skijoring belt and gangline rigs in Manitoba. The gangline had a nasty clip on the dog end of the line; it once got caught on my dog's Achilles tendon, and I had to carry her several kilometres back to the car, to make the trip to the vet. I'm very happy the equipment has changed so much since then!
When did you know you were hooked on the sport?
I knew I was hooked by then. I pestered the Festival du Voyageur sled dog race organizers until they included a skijoring and kick sledding class with all the big-team races. Karen Armstrong was the only skijoring competitor that first year. I did my fare share of racing in the Festival races, entering skijoring, kick sledding and 3- and 4-dog sled classes, handling for other mushers.
The Snow Motion Classic is my favourite race every year. Tell me how it came about.
When the Festival race ended, I convinced Karen to start the Snow Motion Classic, and the first race was seven years ago. This is something I'm very proud of. I put a lot of effort into making the Classic as Manitoban as I can make it. We don't follow other skijoring races' rules; we run it the way that makes sense for our competitors, with classes according to handler and dog ability. And I confess: I set up the "Recreation" class just for me and my aging dogs.
Snow Motion, is a very successful club. Tell us how it got started.
In 1986, I started talking with the Canvasback staff about the idea of holding a beginners workshop. We held our first one, and out of that came a group of about a dozen skijorers and kick sledders and a lone dog sledder, who formed Snow Motion in the fall of 1987. This was prior to email and our website, so we had to notify the club members about events via the phone.
In 1996, I wanted a club which gave me companionship on the trails. Today, I want to make sure that everyone, no matter their speed or ability, finds a place in Snow Motion. I was once in a long-distance ski event, where I fell behind the pack of skiers, and spent a very lonely 10 km on a frozen lake before I came to a check stop. That's why Snow Motion coordinators make sure that no one is on the trails at the end of a group run; and that we go back in and retrieve or rescue the club member who is having trouble.