Jessica Tackett - Skijorer and Junior Musher
Jessica finishing a skijor race in the 2 Dog Class,
Anchorage, Alaska, 1997
Golden Trails Racing Kennel
Student (Jr. High)
I am a 13 year old Skijorer
/ Junior Musher. I am in the 8th grade at Wasilla Middle School. I own 3 dogs. I live with
my Mom, Dad, and younger brother. I race with NASSPA (North American Skijor and Skipulk
Association) and have raced in the 1 dog class for the past 2 seasons. I enjoy sprint
races with my dogs, x-country skiing, and spending time with my dogs in general. I am a
member of NASSPA, and the Chugiak Jr. Dog Mushers.
What is your primary sled dog
activity or area of interest?
My primary sled dog activity is Skijoring.
How long have you been involved
with sled dogs?
I have been involved with sled dogs for 3 years now.
What sparked your initial
interest in sled dogs?
When I had a ride in a dog sled (by a sled dog tour company) at the Fur Rondevous when I
If you remember your very first
time behind a team of dogs, tell us about it.
I can't remember my first ride with someone else's dogs, but my first run behind my dog
was great. I didn't have a real dog sled yet so I hooked up a little plastic sled to my
husky, Fang, and we followed a car down the road. It was fairly uneventful.
Who have been your mentors?
Almost everyone with NASSPA and the Chugiak Dog Mushers members that have helped me
through rough spots in my training and racing.
What size kennel do you operate?
I operate a kennel of 3 dogs, with 100% of their care entrusted to me. (They are my dogs.)
Give us an overview of your
All my dogs live in individual runs, so I usually clean all runs, water, run (or walk),
play with and train my dogs before they eat. And even then, they all eat in their own
runs. I tried feeding them all at once in the same area, but I ended up breaking up a
What advice would you give a
Blame yourself, not your dogs. Don't be afraid to ask a question, no matter how stupid it
might make you look.
Summarize your basic kennel
I try to stay happy around the dogs. It can be hard at times, but it's very important.
It's also very important to keep your kennel as clean as possible, not only because it
looks good, but also because it keeps the dogs happy and healthy. It's also important to
feed the dogs good quality food and to socialize them properly.
Jessica with Leaders Coolie & Weasel
What breed(s) do you work with?
I work with Alaskan Huskies and a husky mix.
What physical characteristics do
you look for in your dogs?
I look for a dog that is going to be able to pull me, alone, without my help, on a skijor
run, and I try to go off of the dog's previous running record also.
What mental or emotional
attributes do you require in your dogs?
I require that the dog is going to be able to stand up to running in front of skis for 90%
of the runs that it will be on during the season. I also want, but don't require, a dog
that is going to let strange people handle it.
|Tell us about an all
time favorite dog or two.
My all time favorite dog is my 3-year-old leader/wheel dog, Fang. He's trained
every dog in my kennel, and my cousins' kennel to lead. He is a one-person dog and will
only run for me, but he loves everyone. His only two flaws are that he is a little on the
slow side (he's half Chow-Chow) and the second you tell him to stop, he stops,
Jessica & Fang before a race
in Anchorage, Alaska, 1997
Do you use any pre-training
evaluation of puppies?
I play with them and walk them with my dogs, and what I want them to do is to walk right
up there with my dogs as every dog in my kennel is REQUIRED to be somewhat of a leader.
What method do you use for
I will go out skijoring with my best command dog, (but unfortunately, he's also my slowest
dog.) Fang, pulling alone with the pup on the second tug with it hooked to the pups
collar. I run them like this until the pup is pulling from the neck up next to Fang.
What is the most important thing
you look for in a young pup?
I want the pup to be active and I want it to be playful.
At what point do you decide a pup
is likely to make it in your team?
When I take them home. I work with dogs that just aren't making it individually until I
feel that they are ready to really kick in and start working in the team. I have a
yearling right now who was really testing me, he was both EXTREMELY shy and kennel sour
(always wants to go back to his kennel). I put him on a special, customized training
program, and now he's my hardest worker, and is almost done with full command leader
Starting a skijor race in the 1 dog class,
What is the training/racing
philosophy of your kennel?
I usually train and race semi-competitively, meaning most of the time, I am just racing
for fun, but some of the races I will train and race to win.
Do you have specific training
goals for your team(s)?
I want every dog in my to be a semi-leader (Gee, Haw, Lets Go, And Whoa) by the end of
November. If I have one dog that's just not making it in the leader spot, it gets to stay
in the kennel unless I'm running a 3 dog team.
How do you choose which races to
I chose races by the time frame the race is in, and how ready my dogs are for the race.
Distance is a deciding factor, as well as how far and how long the dogs will have to
travel to get to the race.
What does it take to win?
It takes dogs with the Attitude, Drive, Speed and Endurance to get through the pressure of
any race, whether it's a 1/2 mile, or 1,000 miles.
What is your vision of the future
of sled dog sports?
I think that more people will start to get into the recreational side of the sport, but
about 2 of every 10 are going to turn competitive.
What can individual mushers do to
support and promote the sport?
Treat all dogs, yours and others, in a humane manner. Offer people a chance to hook up one
of your calmer dogs and try the sport if they seem really interested in it.
What part do clubs and
organizations play in sport development?
They play a large role in development. Most clubs hold beginners clinics, and fun runs and
tours aimed at the recreational side of the sport. Some clubs have a recreational class in
their race classes.
A solo skijor run with Fang, 1998
Tell us about one or two of your
most memorable sled dog experiences.
The Rondy last season (1998) had to be the best race for me, ever. I was running Fang in
the Women's 1-dog 15 Km. class. We had to go through tunnels and over bridges and we had
to do a lot of head-on passing. I trained Fang two years ago to chase anything that passed
us, (that was before I started racing) and we got passed a lot. The most memorable part
was actually after the race when I was checking my time before becoming a handler for the
8 Km. racers. That John Harris, one of the people who raced in the 15 Km. class and
actually came in behind me, commented that he saw my dog "Just take off and really
Go!" I looked at him like he was crazy and then asked him if he was sure it was me.
He said "Yeah," and that there was one team behind me and I had just been passed
by another racer. That would explain it.
Any final comments about sled dog
You have to take everything at your own pace, if you don't, running dogs won't be fun
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