Siberia?No, it's just west Suffolk
PUBLISHED: 14:45 24 January 2011 | UPDATED: 20:32 20 February 2013
Sally Forstal's hobby comes into its own at this time of the year. The complementary therapist and martial arts teacher races her Siberian Huskies in the forests of west Suffolk
Sally Forstals hobby comes into its own at this time of the year. The complementary therapist and martial arts teacher races her Siberian Huskies in the forests of west Suffolk
How long have you been racing huskies?
I have had Siberian Huskies for over 40 years and started to work them in harness early on as this is the best way to exercise them. I was involved in getting the sled dog sport started over here. My parents brought a pair of Siberian Huskies into the country from the USA in 1969 when they came back to England to live. I quickly realised that these dogs needed controlled exercise, on the lead, so this meant they really needed to be worked. Racing is a natural progression as the sled dog sport is very popular in many countries world wide.
Is it a challenge?
It is difficult when you first start out and in my case there really was no one to ask for advice. It was very much trial and error to begin with and the dogs were my best teachers. If you have dogs with what we call good working attitude, a natural desire to run and work, then it is not difficult to train them. They almost seem to know what to do instinctively but these qualities need to be selected for in breeding to ensure this working desire stays in the breed. It is not a hobby to get into lightly as it takes a lot of commitment and hard work. The racing is just a small part of it so you have to be a person who really enjoys training the dogs and their day to day care.
Huskies are a strong and hardy breed. Can you tell us anything about them our readers might not know?
Siberian Huskies are indeed hardy and strong but they also love their comforts. Ours all come into the house every evening and take over all the chairs and watch the TV. They are also highly intelligent and very sensitive. They learn very quickly as long as their trainer knows what they are doing and is calm and consistent. While they learn fast they are not always obedient. They can be very independent and should be kept under control at all times as they are very close to nature and will go hunting given the opportunity.
Do they make good pets?
They make lovely pets provided they are in an active household, get plenty of controlled exercise and are not left alone. They are highly social and need company at all times, either of their own kind or their human family. Like all dogs they need to know their boundaries and feel secure in their place in their pack, human or canine or both. So long as owners know what they have in a husky; that is a natural, potentially independent canine predator that needs to be kept under control at all times, then they can be very rewarding pets.
They are also not ideal for the house or garden as they moult a lot and love to dig holes.
When do you race and where?
The season in this country is usually from November through March. Many of those of us who keep huskies do work them all through the summer months as well to keep them fit and happy. We always go out at first light to catch the coolest temperatures but even at this hour it can be too warm so we keep an eye on the weather forecasts. We hold events in several parts of the Thetford Forest, including Kings, and Rendlesham. The trails are ideal as the surfaces are of packed sand and grass so they are ideal for the dogs feet.
Incidentally we are concerned to learn that this government is thinking of selling off our forests. This could be a disaster for our sport, as well as every other activity that depends on the Forestry Commission land.