I doubt Jens Lindberget (Nisstorpets) had any idea what he started when he uttered the words to me ten years ago; “People say that the siberian husky is a trotting breed. I consider that to be wrong. The first breed standard says they should easily run 20 mph. The siberian husky is a galloper.”.
Those words must have been the first seed planted in the ten year long journey of the Yabasta kennel. The more I thought about it, the more teams I visited and watch during work, the stronger my conviction. I started to wonder what traits would be required for a sled dog siberian husky to run fast – not only in sprint but also at moderate distances. Capacity of speed of course, those physical and mental traits are required for all categories of sled dogs. But the dog must also have an exteriour that would endure the speed for hours without being overstrained or injured. And the dog must have extended training to be able to do this for a longer period of time.
Searching for those pieces, I slowly found the fundation for the Yabasta team of today. There have been Swedish sprint teams, mainly 8-dog and unlimited dog teams, that have endured extended training and performed high speed results over distances up to 25 km. But would it be possible to reach further? As for that time, there was no clear answers to my questions. I searched through years and years of results to see if there were teams that had actually run mid-distance but in a sprint speed.
I met Marie Israelsson (Team Israelsson) who embraced me as a friend and mentor. Being one of Swedens most winning sled dog sprint teams, I could learn from her how fast running dogs are buildt as well as how they are trained. I mean really learn. I litterally felt the amount of every particular muscle and realized the dog not only needs to be built to gallop, but needs to train for it. Her dogs had a whole other distribution of muscles than I had experienced before. I was also particularly interesting in her dogs and training because she is known to train her dogs a lot and has competed the same seven individual dogs year after year. This would mean the dogs are built to last and trained to run fast.
In 2014 I was served an opportunity to take the first step towards this dream team when I was offered to breed a female from Jens Lindberget (Nisstorpets). Jens has spent years of breeding trying to preserve some interesting Swedish sprint lines that was purely bred on competitive selection. Nisstorpets Cruising Thunderbird was out of Unisak’s Rimfaxe and Stuyahok’s Lady, both kennels of selective breeding specifically based on speed. I bred this female to the lead dog of Marie’s; Snowdigger’s Yarak. Five puppies was born, from which I came to have four females in my team.
In my mind it would be a simple switch. I would start running these dogs in my team, use them to increase the speed and start to win competitions. Reality was somewhat different. These dogs were like nothing else I had run. My initial style was to let the dogs run and then regulate the speed by either braking to reduce or verbally encouraging the dogs to increase the speed. Sometimes we caught up on another team and could hunt them, that felt great! It was a nice time and I was always in full control of the dogs’ energy distribution. But these new dogs? They got tired far too soon. What if I had made the wrong choice? What if distance teams can not be made out of sprint dogs?
Trust me, I have had many opportunities of doubt from which I have suffered.
Again, Jens Lindberget came to my assistance. He taught me to run the dogs quietly. I realised that the dogs worked too hard because I was pacing them. These dogs were already working 100% and whatever I asked them for would push them over their capacity. When I learned to shut my mouth, they started to endure the distances..
At this very time, Trond Hansen (Gråbeintunets) started to appear on the shorter mid-distance competitions in Sweden. Me, already having calculated my dream team to run a mid-distance race with an average over 20 km/h on a flat and fast trail, I felt like I got an eyeopener. He did a 40 km run in 1h 41 minutes..
Finally finding the full speed mid-distance team that was once a dream only, I couldn’t be more excited! I found Trond after the race, excited to hear about his males. Maybe he had something that I could use? I asked him to show me his two best males of that fast running team. I will never forget his answer; “Well I’m sorry to disappoint you. The team consisted of twelve females.”. I was speechless. Was this opportunity out of reach?
I just couldn’t let this go. I stayed in contact with Trond and realized that tha majority of his team was daughters and granddaughters of one particular female; Ulveheia’s My. Like the pieces wasn’t fit enough already, My showed to be a daughter of Stuyahok’s Pluto. Yes, the same line as the first Yabasta litter was partly based upon. Could I possibly borrow her for breeding? From what I was told, My was not really a people dog. She was very attached to Trond and his family and didn’t bother much about other people. Nonetheless, when I was one dog short for our international debute at the WSA World Championships in Sveg 2018, I got to borrow My for my team. And we totally found each other.
Seeing how we had attached, Trond and Siv offered me to have My. She was then soon to be nine years old and the hope for another litter was almost out. Females that passed ten years are not allowed for breeding in Sweden nor fit to carry a litter. But My followed us home anyways. A dream had come true. And at an age of 9,5 years, she went into heat.
Again I chose a male from Marie’s. This time I chose Neimans Lilla Fridolf, a dog that had been running in a long distance team almost whole his life but as a 7-year-old moved to Marie’s and went straight into her top performing sprint team. He fit my requirements on all levels. Eight puppies were born, from which I now have three males and two females.
Now, breeding is not the sole way to success. Many things need to fit together. And the past year I have had just that feeling. That this team is a fast team but we need to put the details together to actually make it to the top. Training, feeding, proper rest, environmental training, my mental mindset and much more. Not to mention a whole life that needs to go on there, besides the focus on the dogs.
This year, all this was possible. I knew it when we hit the starting line, that I was running a team that could win. Could be the fastest team in the world. “Born to race, trained to win” as Jens Lindberget says it. Still, I was perfectly aware that any small detail could put us out of balance. This team is still young and unexperienced and so am I at an international level. And we did have a few obstacles along the way. I let the dogs run way to fast the first day and got the lack of energy that I deserved through the last part of the run. Second day Ninya did the heroic effort of turning the whole team around when he realised we were “on the wrong path” – actually meaning we looped accurately and was to go for another lap. Third day Red was way too hot headed in the start and we had a team fight (!) just a few meters after start. Luckily, all dogs involved realised it was nothing but excitement and we could soon proceed with our run.
But this last run. At first I thought the dogs were a bit tired, not pushing fully the way they normally do. But after ten kilometers or so I felt like they had warmed up and could go on forever. Being the last run of the World Championships, I had decided to actually pace them the last five kilometers or so. And they answered by putting even more force into their harnesses, finishing the race at high pace and with wagging tails.
We did 35 km in 1h 31 minutes. Not on a flat trail. Not on a cold day. But on a techniqual and very hilly trail on a sunny spring day. I can’t help but feel like I have underestimated the capacity of the galloping siberian huskies.
By now you can see this is not a one-woman show. I was asked for the recipe of this performance.. Truth is, the most significant differences this year, compared to earlier years, is that there is a whole team of people that are backing us up in all possible ways. Thanks to them, I have been able to do nothing but study, work and train dogs. I couldn’t be more grateful for their support!
But most of all, the dogs are the ones that did this. These athletes who never fail to inspire me to get out there, day after day, no matter weather, mood nor energy level. I consider them to be super heroes with their never-ending will to run. We are closing in on 3000 km in training this year and somehow their excitement still seems to grow day by day. It has been a true pleasure spending these past days on the sled! Now I can not wait to get back to those longer runs again – and neither can my furry team mates!
Watch our full run below!