Yukon Quest Rookie Petra Noelle
Musher since 1992
Petra, early February 1999
I am living in the center of Germany together with Peter,
my husband on a 42000 m2 area. We are members of WSA (World Sled Dog Association) which is
member of IFSS. For most European mushers, racing in North America and specially the Yukon
Quest is a dream, and so it is for me as well. The Quest will be my first long
distance race. My goal is to make it to Whitehorse with a healthy team.
In Europe it is hard to find good training conditions for
long distance racing. Also there is now big competition for long distance. I love to be
part of a fast running team going high speed. That's the reason for me to do sprint
races since 1989. After some rig races I started with a 6-dog team winter 1990 in
Austria. After 2 weeks training camp on snow, with a hell of problems, the first
race came near by and I wasn't sure whether or not I was ready. But once the race
started, all my doubts were gone and the dogs did a great job.
What size kennel do you operate?
We operate a Siberian Husky kennel of about 40 dogs on a yearly average. They are
kenneled in groups of 4-6 dogs and when I am inside the yard, they all are together on a
15000 m2 playground. Females with puppies are separated for the first 6-8 weeks in
kennels outside the playground. All other kennels are inside.
What are the most important considerations in
housing sled dogs?
As the weather is completely different where we are living (lots of rain and wind
during spring and autumn), keeping dog houses dry and free from wind is important to keep
the dogs healthy.
Give us an overview of your feeding program.
Our feeding program is based on dry food supplied by Bewital, a German based
producer serving all over Europe. We are adding pork fat, chicken meal and egg
powder during winter. Together with Bewital we have developed a high performance
supplement which we will try as well in the Quest.
Summarize your basic kennel management style.
I am convinced that you need good dogs, good food, a lot of training in
connection with excellent equipment (to make dogs feeling well) to have success. But
the most important is the feeling for the dogs, to understand them, to get everything out
of them and make them happy. Believing in them will make them returning all the
efforts you've done and have fun with them.
What breed(s) do you work with?
I am working with Siberian Huskies which I get by chance. Me and Peter were
looking for a dog in 1985 and one day, a friend of ours placed a puppy on the table in
front of me. I fell in love with Siberians and one week later we got ours.
Years are gone and now we own between 35-45 dogs.
What physical characteristics do you look for in
What mental or emotional attributes do you require in your dogs?
Some years ago we believed in pedigrees and nice bodies. Today I am sure
that the most important part of a dog is between their ears. The physical attributes
are important for a good dog, but if it is an excellent one depends on the desire to go.
Tell us about an all time favorite dog or two:
My favorite dog, "Bugs," is such a dog. He becomes 9 years this
April and still loves to race. Having Bugs in lead I never lost a race. He is
really that dog every musher is looking for. Apart from his sports career, he is the
producer of most of our dogs. I will miss him the next years.
What criteria do you use for selecting breeding
Since I left looking for pedigrees, we are breeding "the best with the
best." We have and will never breed with dogs not making my team. As we
keep most of our puppies until getting in harness, we assure that we won't sell them until
tested. Those which we wouldn't keep for our own teams, we'll never sell to mushers
but to families not working them as mushers would.
What method do you use for starting pups?
Depending on the season, puppies get in harness between 6-10 months. In
the first runs, I am just letting them run as they like. Mostly the good ones do it
from the beginning if they haven't done anything else before. Our youngsters mostly
run in smaller teams the first year. Last year I was lucky--four sons of bugs made
it as yearlings, one of them in lead, all in my first team.
What is the training/racing philosophy of your
Never over train them but get them used to distance. Keep them under race
conditions during training period and also when resting in summer. As more routine
as more time for each dog. Once a dog most be loaded, it will be loaded again and
again. Find out the limits during training but never in a race. Believe in
your dogs. It is never the dog but the musher doing mistakes. Whatever you do
to your dogs, they will return in double. I never let them go full speed in
training. The first time they are allowed to go full speed is the first sled race in
How do you choose which races to enter?
Based on the most important event, my race schedule is planned. No
competition, no race.
What are your strengths as a racer?
My strength is that I concentrate on my team.
Do you having a mushing career goal?
Well, I hope it is reached end of Feb. in Whitehorse. After that I might
think about new challenges, but right now I am concentrating on the Quest.
What does it take to win?
Put a strong and happy team of dogs together, concentrate on your team and not on
your competitors, believe in both your dogs and yourself and you will make it.
What is your vision of the future of sled dog
That sled dog sports become Olympic.
What can individual mushers do to support and
promote the sport?
Each individual can support with fair competition, supporting the media,
spreading knowledge to newcomers. But the most important is being good to their dogs
and treating them well.
What part do clubs and organizations play in sport
Clubs and organizations, especially their officials, play a key role in
developing our sport. They have to manage clubs and organizations as business
companies and not as hobby sports clubs. They have to be business partners to
sponsors and media and act as such. A vision is needed and a concentration of power
to compete with other "in sports."
What advice would you give a beginning musher?
A beginning musher should listen to the best mushers and not the one nearest to
her/his home. Listen to all of them and make up your minds yourself. The real
good mushers will share their knowledge.
Tell us about one or two of your most memorable
sled dog experiences.
Andermatt, Switzerland, February 1994, European Championship. The first and only
time I didn't believe in Bugs. I didn't run him lead and lost the game. It
was an excellent lesson.
Any final comments about sled dog sports?
Nothing can beat standing behind a fast running sled dog team and cold weather
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