19 December 2013

Meet the Musher: Karen

Meet Karen.   Karen Ramstead, 49, was born in Toronto, Ontario, and raised in Alberta.  A good Canadian!   She began running dogs in the early 90′s after obtaining her first Siberian husky. She and Mark moved to Perryvale in 1998 for Mark’s job and so Karen could run dogs full time. She became interested in running the Iditarod after reading Libby Riddles’ book, “Race Across Alaska.” She’s run ten Iditarod’s and numerous mid distance races.


What dog powered sports have you been involved with?

On a 'serious' scale, just sled dog racing - sprint racing to begin with
then moving into longer and longer stuff.

How  did you first get started in the sport?

My husband wanted to move to northern Alberta but I was reluctant to
leave my job and family. He offered me a purebred dog as a bribe to
move. I settled on a Siberian Husky and the kennel I bought her from was
into sledding.

 For many of us, running dogs is a lifestyle.  When did you know you were hooked on the sport?

The second I first stepped on the runners of a sled, I knew it was going
to be a 'big deal' in my life.

 What is mushing like in your neck of the woods?

I don't mush much in my 'neck of the woods'. I train here till January,
then head to Alaska or travel around the lower 48 and Canada racing for
the rest of the winter.

What is your favourite activity to do with your dogs?


What other kinds of training have you done with your dogs?

I've done conformation showing, obedience, and a bit of tracking in
addition to sledding.

Tell us about your current dogs.

I currently have 48 purebred Siberian Huskies, a Border Collie and a
Great Pyrenees cross. The Siberians range in age from 1 1/2 to 14 years.

 What characteristics do you look for in a new dog?

I sort young dogs by performance. We let them have a lot of time to
'find their feet' and figure out if this lifestyle is for them. I put no
pressure on pups until they are at least 2 years of age.

What is your favourite piece of gear? 

Hard to pick one piece. My life is frequently in the hands of my gear
due to the extreme conditions I run dogs in.  A good sled, good
clothing, well fitting harnesses, and a solid gangline would all be near
the top of my list!

Describe a perfect run with your dogs.

My runs are long enough that they are rarely 'perfect' instead I cherish
the perfect moments - which might be a young dog figuring out something
new, a beautiful trail, a fast stretch, a special encounter.........

 What is the best advice you have ever been given for mushing?

I've been blessed to have a lot of great mentors that have all shared
all kinds of fantastic advice with me. The advice I always share with
those new to the sport is to grow slowly and thoughtfully. Too many
folks just dive in without thinking about long term welfare of their
dogs and without thinking about how they will care for them 'if'.

What resources have you used to further your training?

Everything I can. I used to read and watch everything I could find on
the sport. Now a days I mostly search out folks I respect watch and ask
questions directly.

Why do you run your dogs?

Because it fills my soul!

Follow Karen on Facebook!