Barking (and running) in the park: the sled dogs return to Kialla

On The Run: Lewis Luyken, Helen Weber and Alexandra Ball compete in the Victorian Northern Sled Dog Classic at Kialla over the long weekend. Photo by Max Stainkamph

The normally quiet birdsong along the banks of the River Goulburn at Moira Park Scout Camp has been replaced by the barking of dogs, the cheering of spectators and the beeping of the tee box over the long weekend.

The Northern Victorian Sled Dog Classic returned from a two-year COVID-enforced hiatus this weekend to finally celebrate its 30th edition of racing at Kialla.

The event, which brings together people from as far away as South Australia and New South Wales, features huskies, malamutes, kelpies and a whole host of dog breeds racing through the park, towing their owners and trainers on bicycles.

All smiles: The Northern Victorian Sled Dog Club committee. Photo by Max Stainkamph

Northern Victorian Sled Dog Club president E’vette Burrows said it was a pleasure to be back on the course, with cool temperatures which benefited the dogs.

“We had a good number of competitors from Queensland, South Australia, NSW, Victoria,” she said.

“It’s good to be out after about three years of not racing.”

Dynamic Duo: Richard Grilk is led by two dogs in the Northern Victorian Sled Dog Classic. Photo by Max Stainkamph

Ms Burrows started participating in the sport in the mid-1990s, first with an Australian cattle dog before moving on to malamutes and then Alaskan huskies, and said she was easily ensnared by the sport and the community around him.

“You’ll find a lot of people in the beginning they have a dog. And then next year they’ll have two dogs, then the progression, then they’ll have the trailer, then they’ll have to move into the property and it’s a very addictive lifestyle,” she said.

Endgame: Savannah Heymen crosses the line just ahead of Charlotte Davies. Photo by Max Stainkamph

Australian Sleddog Sports Association chairman Sean Hennessy, who was race steward at the weekend, said the sport has been around for around 35 years in Australia.

He has three Siberian huskies, but he had a lot more dogs and competed more often.

“If you have an active dog and love being outdoors, it’s a really good way to be here, to be honest,” he said.

“If people are interested, they contact the club here. There are a number of races around the state, around Australia.

United: Daniel and Vanessa Kydd with their runner Cash. Photo by Max Stainkamph

Finley’s Vanessa Kydd raced with her rescue kelpie named Cash on Sunday.

“The dogs are enjoying it and so are we and after COVID it’s good to get out there,” she said after crossing the finish line in one of the social races.

Teamwork: Kyle Hammerling competes in the two-dog division. Photo by Max Stainkamph

“We’ve been doing this since 2016, so we’re fairly new, but it’s exciting – there are around 140 entries this year.”

The Kydds came down in 2015 as spectators and before they knew it, they went to training camp, then kept adding more dogs and “the rest is history”.

“It was a good sport to play,” Ms Kydd said.

The race continues early Monday.

Rush: Lewis Luyken’s canine companion is up to the task. Photo by Max Stainkamph

Challenge: Karen Birrell in the two-dog division. Photo by Max Stainkamph

This way: Molly Hodgson is driven around the track. Photo by Max Stainkamph

For the future: Josh Winther. Photo by Max Stainkamph

Go ahead: Alison Staniforth’s dog has a competitive edge. Photo by Max Stainkamph

On the track: Charlotte Davies is focused on the race. Photo by Max Stainkamph

Running: Amee Newel follows her dog. Photo by Max Stainkamph

Together: Devilan Manners exercises. Photo by Max Stainkamph

Bette C. Alvarado