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Driving

Click on any of the pictures for a larger view and more information....

Borzoi have been pictured on old postcards, pulling children in wagons. Why should kids have all the fun?

In October of 2001, I found a source for a cart designed just for dogs, the Sacco cart, made in Norway. It is used for organized sport in Europe, and in the U.S., it is often used for training lead dogs for sled teams.

Tooz and Midge matched stride

Our cart arrived the end of November, 2001, and within three weeks, the girls, Caldonia and Tattoo, were pulling me a couple of miles at a time around our rural neighborhood. Boston and Zorro, the boy team, had to wait until the larger sized harnesses arrived, but by the week after Christmas, both teams were able to make regular 8 mile drives.

Chris with Boston and Zorro

Our driving season is greatly limited by the Florida heat. Fifty degrees is really the upper temperature limit for an 8 mile drive. At 60 degrees, we are cut to no more than 4 miles. By the time the temperature is 70 degrees, two miles is the most that is fun for dogs and humans. We go out first thing in the morning for the coolest temperatures, but this driver won't go out until it is above freezing.

Boston and Zorro

Dirt roads are the most fun, since traffic is not a consideration, but we have to drive two miles one direction, or one mile the other on the highway, in order to get to the dirt roads. All four dogs quickly adapted to the cars and big trucks zooming by in the next lane at 55 mph. The drivers have been unfailingly considerate and we are careful never to impede the flow of traffic.

Mack truck in fog

We've now logged over 1000 miles in harness with the original two teams. This season, India has replaced Boston to run with her father, Zorro, and Fiona has joined Caldonia . Virago, or one of the other coursing dogs, usually runs alongside on a separate leash.

Unless you're the lead dog...

We count among our friends and mentors, George and Ann Cook of Alkas'iber Siberian Husky racing kennel. The early training was aided by hints and tips from their wealth of racing sled dog experience. At George's suggestion, I've kept a log of all our driving trips. The cart is equipped with a speedometer and odometer, which also records average speed, maximum speed, and travel time. In addition to recording speed and mileage in the log, I note temperature, the route driven, how the team performed, and any significant happenings along the way each trip.

flying low

Speed varies according to terrain, temperature, and how far we go. The boys regularly go over 20 mph down our drive to the front gate, with ten other dogs running wildly alongside. Way too fast. The first mile out on the highway is usually 10 to 12 mph, and as they settle into a comfortable pace, the speed will drop down to a steady 6 to 8 mph.

The highway speed record was set by the boy team; 35.1 mph pursuing their arch-enemy farm dogs barking from the back of a speeding pick-up truck. They stayed over 30 mph for a quarter mile. For safety reasons I'll never allow it to happen again, but it was exciting (and terrifying) to do once.

Midge and Tooz in sync

 

Sometimes, in the past, Caldonia was hitched out in front on a cable as a lead dog on the traffic-free dirt roads with Boston and Zorro. The three of them as a unit provided a lot of dog power! Next year, we hope to have a 4 dog Borzoi team trained to run in a sled dog race on snow.

Harness work is great cross-training for both the conformation ring and the lure coursing field, building confidence, timing, muscle, and endurance. From the step on the rear of the cart, where I spend 95% of driving time, I can kick off behind, much like a Nordic-Trac, and help the team along, especially on hills. Therefore, it is also good exercise for the driver. Mostly, it is just FUN for all of us.

 Christopher and Patti Neale
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