Following the pleas from several Moanin’ Minnies that they missed seeing folk between working seasons, ABSA decided to schedule a Fun Day to fill the gap.
Sue Williams rallied to the cause and organised the very first Fun Day in May 98 at the Rushmore Arena, Aldershot, Hants, ably assisted by Cathy Croman, Mark Tillier and Karl Binns. Rushmore Arena is used by the Army for their own ‘games’ and is an ideal venue because of its seclusion from the public. A high perimeter fence provides a degree of safety in case a sled dog gets loose. However the area is so large, with an amphitheatre-like set-up of woodland surround and flat areas in which you could fit several football pitches, it could be several days before you actually caught a loose dog!
Dog handlers were drawn into teams and could use a different dog for each of the games that were the format of the Day. Sue executed much flair in her choice of games which included a blindfolded obstacle course, whose dogs could carry a sausage and not eat it (!), egg and spoon, three-legs – all in typical pony club style.
Once the first game got under-way, the mushers still in competitive ‘mode’ from the winter visibly relaxed. Once the dogs saw there was food attached to some of the games, they visibly got on their toes! Of course, many of the dogs put their own accent on ‘how to do it’ as only sled dogs can. Some cheating was decidedly blatant…
The sunny day made for a good barbecue lunch on the grass, with the dogs staked out under the shade of tall trees. A raffle rounded off a very enjoyable get-together and ABSA plans to make this Fun Day a regular part of the calendar.
Dog sledding did help in shaping society because dogs have been an important part of our society since, well – always. The most iconic way that people worked side by side with dogs is in order to establish a life in the Arctic Circle, and that was done with dog sledding. Today, there are even dog sledding tours you can be a part of, and they give people the opportunity to experience that special connection that is made between sled dogs and sled drivers.