by Greta Yeoman
A Pleasant Point dog-sledder is off to Wanaka next week to try his dog team on snowy trails.
Owen Burt, who has been racing for about five years, will race his four huskies at the annual Wanaka Sled Dog Festival at the Snow Farm on August 9-11.
The Wanaka event was one of the few races held on snow trails in the country, he said.
Most dog races are held on forestry tracks because the majority of areas with suitable snow are in national parks, where dogs are not allowed.
Mr Burt said he planned to head south early next week so he could get in some snow trail training for the dogs, who had raced only on forest tracks so far this year.
The dog and driver team had ventured to several forest events this year, including races in Invercargill, Westport and Christchurch.
He began racing after his daughter got a dog and discovered the sport, so he got one, and another, then another, and ended up with four dogs.
“It happens to most people.”
Racing sleds on snow involved different skills than those needed for forest races in small, wheeled carts, he said.
“[They have] totally different techniques.”
The three-day Wanaka event involves dog and owner teams racing on an 8km trail on the Pisa Range. Mr Burt will compete in the four-dog sled event. Other festival events will include six-dog, three-dog and two-dog teams, as well as ski-racers, in which racers would be towed on skis along the track.
Fellow South Canterbury sledder Brittany O’Connor is not going to this year’s event but will be sending her dogs along with a friend.
Mr Burt said sled racers had to be prepared to compete in most weather conditions and last year the team raced through a blizzard, he said.
“[The dogs] liked that.”
His four-legged friends would wear booties to avoid hurting their paws, Mr Burt said.