Taking the pressure off ~ by Harmony Barron


I started the 2004 Iditarod with 14 yearlings, a 3 year old up and coming leader named Snuffy and a 5 year old security blanket named Skoal. Well, so much for my security, I carried Skoal across The Burn, and sent her home from Nikolai with a sore ankle.

I started rotating pups up in lead with Snuffy, but by the time we left McGrath, a little female named Norah was the only one who would take on the responsibility. This was fine, but as we made our way down the trail, Snuffy developed a sore ankle, while Norah was dealing with some minor pain in her triceps. I messaged both of their sore spots extensively at every camp, and kept them in wraps (with hand warmers) and blankets. I successfully kept these minor ailments from getting worse, but by the time we got to Cripple, both girls were feeling the pressure of being the only leaders. They got picky with their food, and started to become despondent straw magnets at our rest stops.

I knew I would be in trouble if I couldn’t start getting some pressure off of them, but absolutely no one else would take the reins, so I tried approaching it from a different angle. As soon as we rolled into a check point, I would tie the team off, then set the leaders free. They would walk around with me while I got the food ready, then I would feed them first, right by the sled. They would then mill around a bit {always very close to the team} then go curl up where ever in the line up they wanted, and it was never in lead!

I would take them for a nice walk before I saddled up the team, then let them lay down once again where they wanted until a minute before go time. I saw their confidence returning to them at a steady pace, they started eating again, and being more animated at the check points and out on the trail. Then, {eventually!} they loped us down front street in Nome with their heads held high.

I think it was a combination of feeling very special plus getting the opportunity to not be leaders at our long rest stops. Snuffy and Norah reminded me why I loved dog mushing in the first place, you get the privilege of working with all these different individual minds and personalities, and when you show them a little trust and respect you get it back in spades.

My 2004 Iditarod yearling team ~ Snuffy & Skoal in lead, with Snip and Norah behind them in swing… awwww, the good old days!

Thanks for stopping by folks, more tomorrow…

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8 Responses to “Taking the pressure off ~ by Harmony Barron”

  1. Now thats dogmushing!

  2. That last phrase…you get the privilege of working with…
    is so true not only with our dogs but with people too; especially my students. I agree with Odin, Harmony!

    • Harmony Barron Reply May 18, 2011 at 15:55

      Thanks Margie! I totally agree with that statement being true with kids as well. I feel very privileged for Jason and I to be the ones raising our children to be good, honest, compassionate, driven, hard-working, loving, etc. individuals. And I have a great deal of respect for teachers who feel that way about their students.

  3. Two very simple yet brilliant remarks in your post (at least in my opinion). Wrapping sore legs-wrists or joints with hand warmers.! ..why have I not ever thought about this?–dont answer that–packing a pharmaceutical store in my pocket of wraps, ointments and such..which is needed but sometimes an overkill. Also letting your leaders relax by wandering around at a check point-a brain drain for them. Great ideas..thank you Harmony!!

    • Harmony Barron Reply May 18, 2011 at 16:02

      Thanks for your comment, Wendy! Yes, hand warmers are an awesome tool for healing minor aches and pains for sure. I like your term ‘brain drain’- very descriptive for that scenario. Glad you enjoyed my post.

  4. Tish Cockerham Reply May 20, 2011 at 20:59

    That’s my Girl!! You are very clever!! I enjoy your post and look forward to them.

    • Harmony Barron Reply May 21, 2011 at 06:54

      Thank you Tish, it was the black forest cake at every check point that kept my wits at their best! And the gumbo…
      I’d run the race again just for your good cookin’!

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