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Snakes, Spiders and Sleddogs: Sleddogs in Australia?

Snakes, Spiders and Sleddogs: Sleddogs in Australia?


Clint and Mandy Graham live in Australia, where their passion in life is Sleddog Racing.. Here is an insight into their lives and sleddog sports in Australia.

'Sled Dogs in Australia?


Australia is to many people a big bare land of just scrub, red soil, kangaroo???s, great white sharks and poisonous snakes and spiders. Most of this is true but we have it all here in Australia. We have some fantastic forests and some fairly good snowfields. Yes snowfields!


My name is Clint Graham and my wife, Mandy and I run Speedback kennels. We have been involved with sled dog racing since 1996 and haven???t looked back since. We started with Malamutes then went to Alaskan Huskies and then we did our own breeding of 50% AHs and 50% EPs. We always thought that we would just import our first hound X, but after doing some investigating of how much it would cost and what paper work we would need we soon found out that it was going to be an expensive operation and then the paper work was going to be a headache. So what do we do?? After a few emails to the big names in sprint mushing and hound X???s we decided to do what they have done and breed our good Alaskan bitch to a mate???s good English pointer. This was the first breeding of this kind in Australia. This litter is still the main base of my team.


These guys have changed our lives more than we thought they would. All of a sudden there was less malamute hair on our good clothes, feeding time was quieter, and we had to buy jackets for the dogs!!


We were visiting different websites, less Iditarod & Yukon Quest websites and more Egil Ellis Racing Sled dogs,, and the amazing races that Egil and Lena were doing. Rondy, ONAC???s and IFSS World Championships???There are a World Championships for sled dog racing? I was amazed and then we saw the website for the WCh???s at Saguenay, Quebec, Canada. 7 months later and I was in Canada at the World Championships. I couldn???t believe it; I was surrounded by lots of dogs like mine back home!! ???I???m not in Australia anymore???


Australian sled dog racing is mainly Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes. These are how 98% started and this is how most people finish too. There are quite a few Alaskan Huskies around also and recently a few more pure bred German Shorthaired Pointers and English pointers. These 5 breeds are what you will find nearly every weekend in winter in Australia running around the forests across the country. Race clubs are Australia wide from Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, Canberra and Queensland. We have a very strong National circuit with national point score races in all these states. The National body, ASSA (Australian Sleddog Sports Association) collates information to put a national point score together. A number of these clubs hold IFSS accredited races too. This is helping the IFSS brand grow worldwide.

Racing sled dogs here in Australia is always a challenge with temperature and obviously the distance we can run due to the temperatures. Summers are usually HOT (especially here in South Australia) and the other problem here is the snakes. The problem is nationwide really. Here in South Australia we mainly get ???Brown Snakes??? These snakes are venomous and they can kill people and dogs if you are bitten and not at the hospital or the vet in time. These horrible snakes can squeeze into small spaces and are usually not aggressive unless threatened. But when or if they get into a dog yard then they will feel threatened and if the dog isn???t quick enough the snake can bite the dog and kill it. Usually we hear of 2 or 3 snakebite deaths during summer just in the mushing community alone. The other main type of snake we hear about in the mushing circles is the ???Tiger Snake??? These guys are very venomous and are much more aggressive than the ???Browns??? Mushers have various ways of trying to keep snakes out of dog yards but because these snakes are ???Protected??? then we are not permitted to kill them. Snakes are very fragile though, so when we try to ???Relocate??? them with a shovel, sometimes their heads fall off?! I swear I was just trying to help him out of my yard and then his head fell off? I don???t know how it happened? ;-) Snake season is usually at its worst in late September because they come out of hibernation and are angry and hungry. Like us when we have to get up early!?? ???Enough of the snakes!??? I hear you say???ok; back to racing.
Speedback Kennels racing in 2013

Watching the WCh???s in Saguenay was a great experience and I met some amazing people. Some of these amazing people opened doors for me that I never thought would open. I was sent an email from a friend in Canada with a link for a race in Canada that was offering assistance for international mushers to come race at their race to give it an even more international feel. This was an opportunity not to be missed! This time we both went. Mandy and I left Australia in the peak of summer (January-42C) and arrived in Daquaam, Quebec in full winter (-26C) Holy hell what a change!! We were picked up from our hotel and then we made our way to Quebec airport to pick up the visitors from Ireland. Cool! We were super excited. The four of us got to our cabin at the race site and we talked and talked until our next international guest turned up. A guy from Spain turns up with his own dog. Excellent! We were all excited to have a dog in the cabin; after all we are all into dogs so it felt like home when Munir and Onyx turned up. We were now complete. Fintan and Mandy from Ireland, Munir from Spain, And Mandy and myself from Australia. We all had a great time together and the race itself was amazing to be a part of.

This year I had the opportunity to race in the IFSS winter World Championships in Alaska. Greg Sellentin offered me a team and this was the biggest opportunity of my life, to race a team in the World Championships and flying the Australian flag???surreal!! Greg and I developed a good friendship when he came to Australia to be our Race Marshal and then a year or so later I went to Alaska to help him train his team while his wife, Jane, was visiting family. This was another amazing trip because I was in the heart of mushing; Alaska. After all these years of seeing all the Alaskan mushers through pictures on websites and then seeing them train their dogs while we were training, I still smile like a child thinking about it. My smile was about to get a whole lot bigger. 12 months of organizing and then Mandy and I were off to Alaska to help Greg out at the Rondy and I was going to squeeze in two races while I was there. The biggest race of my life was going to be the IFSS World Championships in North Pole. I was ready, I had my ???Team Australia??? Jacket and my Aussie flag for Greg???s sled. He said he didn???t mind as long as I shouted the beers for the night. ???Deal!??? I said.

: 2011 Alaska trip, Clint, Egil Ellis?? and Greg Sellentin


I was racing in the 4-dog class; this suited me because that is mainly what I run at home so I felt relaxed. Then I found out Lena Boysen-Hillestad was also running 4 dogs. This was one of the biggest names I had ever run against and when I first saw the draw, I was going out just before her. Panic and excitement set in, ???I hope I don???t do anything wrong and stuff her race!! But at least I will get to see those amazing dogs of hers fly past me!??? But in never worked out that way, the bib draw was done & I ended up going out 4 to last I think. That???s cool I can deal with that. I have been racing sled dogs since 1996 and when race day came around I was more nervous than I was at my first ever race. I had trained with these exact dogs and on this sled, so why was I so nervous? Because there were hundreds of people all at the start, it was the IFSS WCh???s, and I was racing with all of Australia looking on via Facebook. Australia had two other Aussies they were watching at the WCh???s too. Phil Friedlander and ex-pat Amanda Byrd. Phil and Amanda both ran 6-dog class and Phil was doing 1- and 2-dog skijoring too. I have never been on skis in my life so no way was I going to do that!

So many people from across the globe and so many amazing dogs. I think we nearly took 3,000 pictures and made some great friendships and caught up with some people that I hadn???t seen since my very first trip to Canada for the dryland WCh???s in Saguney. Needless to say that both Mandy and I loved every minute of that amazing trip. The dogs, the people, the trails, the RACING and everything that came with it were a great opportunity. It was an opportunity that I am still thankful of to Greg Sellentin, for the chance to run his dogs and the trust he had in me running his dogs safely.
Mandy and I at the IFSS World Championships on snow in Alaska 2013

Mandy and I have another dream now, one that will be very hard to make happen, the chance to race our own dogs at an IFSS WCh???s. It wouldn???t matter what place I got in the final standings, the fact would be that they would be our own dogs. But with the cost of flying a team over to Europe/Nth America and back and then the quarantine demands and fees, this could very well stay a dream. Dream or not, we will be at another IFSS WCh???s be it racing again or just enjoying such a well-run event. Either way I am looking forward to the next IFSS WCh???s???oh and yes we do have snow in Australia ;-)


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