Sled dogs take to the trails of Brant Tract for SSASO time trial event

BROCKTON – Saturday, Nov. 20 was not the ideal day for a quiet walk along the trails in Brockton’s Brant Tract, but it was perfect for the Sled Dog Sports Association of Southwestern Ontario (SSASO) time trial sled dog race.

This event was dryland mushing – no snow required.

Dryland mushing is a catch-all for any dog-powered activities that don’t involve snow. It can include Canicross – running with a dog tethered to you via a modified rock-climbing harness, Bikejoring – biking with one or two dogs in harness tethered to your bike, Skooter/Kick Bike – one or two dogs pulling an adult scooter or kick bike, and Rig – three or four dogs pulling a musher on a three- or four-wheeled cart/rig.

Fun? It was hard to tell who was more excited, the mushers or the dogs.

“They (the dogs) love to run,” said SSASO president Lisa DeGennaro of the Paisley area. She’s been involved in sled dog sports for nine years.

Bekka Haase and Lisa DeGennaro stop for a moment after a thrilling race on the trails of Brant Tract on Nov. 20. (Pauline Kerr photo)

Whenever a team was ready to head out on the trail, every dog in the staging area looked and sounded eager to be out there, too.

There were about 34 individual participants and 72 teams. DeGennaro said there was also a sub-category for each class for registered northern breeds such as registered Siberian huskies. However, there were a number of breeds involved in the event.

DeGennaro said one of her four-dog teams placed first overall. Jenny Lee from outside Quebec City took second and Bekka Haase from Buffalo, New York placed third.

Bekka Haase of New York congratulates her team on a job well done following the Sled Dog Sports Association of Southwestern Ontario’s time trial sled dog race along the trails of Brockton’s Brant Tract on Saturday. (Pauline Kerr photo)

Karen Koehler from the Muskoka area took multiple overall (open) firsts in one- and two-dog Bikejoring and the one- and two-dog Scooter class.

First place for Canicross (open) and one-dog Bike for registered northern breeds (RNB) was JC Ono-dit-Biot, a relatively new and very competitive musher who came here from France a few years ago with his girlfriend Floriane, who placed first in the two-dog RNB Scooter class.

SSASO is a not-for-profit sled dog association dedicated to education and the preservation of sled dogs and physical literacy through harness activities for both humans and canines. The association focuses on the history and evolution of the working sled dog and provides information and support for people interested in getting started in the sport

DeGennaro said that COVID has drastically reduced the association’s activities, making the event at the Brant Tract welcome indeed. She enjoys the trails there but also helps plan and host events at MacGregor Point and elsewhere, including the MacGregor Park Dryland Dog Sled Derby.

She commented that the trails at Brant are wide and safe, making them great for rookies who might be intimidated about entering a fully professional race. “Offering a smaller-scale time trial at Brant Tract makes the sport that much more accessible for people who want to learn about it and try it out,” she said. And she spoke highly of the Brant Tract crew, who were very easy to work with and eager to see something new on the trails.

(Photo courtesy of Sister Act Photogrpahy)

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter