Sunday, December 31, 2017

2k17: A Year in Review


As in year's past, I've allowed my time with the horses to slow during the winter months. I'm forced into it to a certain degree between the shorter daylight hours, working 10 hour work days at my normal job, and working ski patrol during the winter weekends. This year's winter was much the same as so many recent ones have been - excessively mild and lacking snow, which makes me wish dearly that I didn't love skiing so much! Fortunately, we did escape to Utah for an incredible week with more snowfall in 4 days than we had all season at home!


I spent my winter riding mostly in small bursts here and there. Of note, I began focusing on galloping Griffin for the first time ever. I've never "trained" a horse to gallop before and have grown wary of higher speeds in recent years due to Q's remarkable ability to spook and drop me out of the saddle at higher speeds. Fortunately, Griffin is a good egg (most of the time lol) and we began building more comfort at higher speeds during the winter months.


The biggest event of the winter though was my change in zip code. I moved 5 mountains eastward to the beautiful home on the ridgetop to live with Dave. Adjusting to a work commute of more than 6 minutes for the first time in my life (yes, I have been very fortunate) has been interesting, but I try not to think about the total time suck each day I drive. I love living in Canaan Valley more than anything; the landscape is beautiful and the community is everything I've ever wanted.


Not to be forgotten, I did finally purchase my trailer and bring it home in February! It needed some TLC, but overall I'm really pleased with the trailer for the money I spent.


With the advent of spring, I lost the incredible trail access I've enjoyed for 5 years due to a really selfish and shitty landowner leasing a large chunk of it that bars my access to the further [better] trails. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't bitter. I try to wish everyone well, but cannot wish anything well on this person. He's not only screwed me over, but all of his neighbors who once shared and enjoyed that piece of land with no squabbles or issues. Shame on you, shitty neighbor.


I spent much of my spring consumed with trying to find a truck. I bought one at a steal of a price, but ultimately wasn't pleased with the shape it was in for hauling so I flipped it, made some money, and then bought an even bigger and better truck. Would I do that again? Oh, hell no. But was it worth it? Absolutely. I love Jolene.

20170427 Rolex Finals (45)

At the end of April, Austen all but kidnapped me and took me to Rolex. It was my first time at the event - and I guess my last considering the name change for the future! We had such a great weekend of shenanigans with other bloggers and Austen's friends from Indiana. I loved my first experience at a 4* event and hope to enjoy more in the future.


As riding picked up for the year, I buckled down focusing on getting Stan conditioned for the August LD by moving him up to Canaan for a month or so. I also spent a lot of time focusing on minutia with Griffin with the goal of getting to a dressage schooling show in early July.


What a whirlwind! Work all but consumed me during the summer and it was all I could do to get Stan conditioned for RBTR in early August. Fortunately, we were graced with unseasonably cool weather for race day which lent itself to a 13th place completion (in a field of 30+). Riding Stan at RBTR was the most fun I've had on horseback at an endurance ride in a very, very long time. I didn't realize what I was missing until Stan gave it back to me in the form of an incredibly fun, carefree 30 miles over mountains and across rivers.

When I wasn't riding Stan, I was working with Grif. He and I tackled a dressage schooling show, one XC schooling, and two HTs during the summer months. We competed at Training 1 and 2 at the dressage show and at elementary at the HTs, with a bonus run at BN for XC.


Finally, with RBTR behind me and Griffin's schooling schedule plateaued to a good place, I began bringing Q back into full work after a year off for her suspensory injury. Full work has looked a lot different in this beginning stage, but it's been just what we needed and I'm happy to stay on that track as long as she needs.


I also got my photography website up and running this summer, fulfilling a big year's goal for myself. It will evolve with time, as all things do, but I'm loving it so far.


The horses joined me in Canaan for the month of October, which was wonderful. I was able to see the horses 6-7 days a week for the first time since moving to Canaan and even had Dave join me for a trail ride!


Largely, autumn has been focused a lot on Q. I've deconstructed her spooking habit, worked on dressage, and finally got her back on trail. She's settling into things well, albeit with a few bobbles along the way, as one would expect. Largely though, I'm seeing differences in her and in our relationship. The hope that was dwindling, has grown anew in recent weeks.


A large part of autumn was spent traveling though. After a hellacious summer at work, I was more than happy to spend a week in Cape May banding raptors with my BFF and then 2 weeks traveling in Mexico with Dave.


When travel concluded, I came home and picked up Taiga who has been nothing but wonderful in her month with us. I adore her so much and am grateful that Kenai has fallen into his role of mentor so well (though it did take some time!)

20171215 Holiday Dog Photos_15

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The end of the year has brought the typical reflections. Despite a tumultuous year outside of my hobbies and passions, I can conclude that personally, I've had a great year. The horses are doing wonderfully, my eventing dreams have been recognized, my climbing and skiing reached new bounds this year, I have a beautiful new home, and an adorable new dog who has completed my little world.

Though from a worldly standpoint and a work standpoint, it has been a very hard year and doesn't look to be getting better anytime soon. I do my best to keep that kind of subject matter away from my blog and out of my passions or I would crumble into a messy heap on the floor and never get up again. However, I don't want to completely dismiss that chaos completely (I do enjoy looking back on my blog and seeing where I was at and what life was like, after all), and would like to leave this year-end-wrap-up with a quote that has resounded with me more than just about anything with regard to all that is going on:

One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am - a reluctant enthusiast....a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.
- Edward Abbey


Cheers to you and yours, I wish you all the best in the coming year. I know it's going to be a great one.

Friday, December 29, 2017

2017 Goal Review


✔ Stay healthy and happy physically and mentally
✔ Continue to see steady improvement and be able to put this whole suspensory ordeal in the rear-view mirror this year
✔ At the proper time, build back strength and fitness (through hiking and dressage that will be intensely focused at the walk for a few months)
✔ Achieve a more acute understanding of the aids and get her to accept contact
Teach her lateral movements under saddle
✔ Build her body back in a more balanced fashion that it was preceding her injury
✔ Enjoy many slow miles of trails (whereby "slow" is mostly walking and meandering and "many" is any amount >20 miles for the year)

I so often get stuck in a rabbit hole of thinking everything is dreadful with this little mare. The reality though is that we had a really great year. It was a slow year with minimal accomplishments compared to years past, but her health is good, her suspensory looks great, and her trust in our relationship is building.

We've begun working on dressage and she seems to like the bit she's working with (double-jointed loose ring), which is big for Q because she much prefers her hackamore. Even though her fitness is still subpar compared to what I'm accustomed to, she's much more balanced than she has been in a few years. Posting to both diagonals feels even and I find myself posting along to her left diagonal (she prefers her right and used to fuss more when I posted the weaker diagonal) without knowing it, which is something that never happened before!

She's moving off my leg in the beginnings of lateral movement, but we aren't quite there yet! Still, progress is progress, and I'll take it.


✔ Stay healthy and happy physically and mentally
✔ Build and develop our prowess at dressage and jumping
✔ Travel and compete in at least two shows
✘ Ride in at least two clinics with Stephen
✘ Take at least two lessons with a jumping trainer
✔ Spend some time perfecting our gallop - something I've never focused on before


What a huge year for the grey guy putting a dressage schooling show and two schooling HTs under our belts. We went out into a new and admittedly scary world of competition this year and Grif blew me away. I guess I kind of blew my own expectations for myself out of the water, too. The sky is seriously the limit with this horse - he has SO much try.

We didn't even try to make it to ride in a clinic of any kind this year and despite best efforts to go to jumping lessons, the communication with my trainer of choice fell through after a few emails. C'est la vie for busy people. I'm already making plans to resolve this for the new year and I hope it will be easier now that I have my own truck and trailer and live an hour closer to where I need to go!


✔ Stay healthy and happy physically and mentally
✔ Continue to build fitness with the goal of having a sleek, muscular athlete who doesn't look his age
✔ Ride > 200 miles on him for the year
✔ Compete in at least one LD 


Oh, Stan. The very best QH there ever was. I had an amazing year with this guy. We completed the LD at RBTR in 13th place thanks to a miraculously abnormal cool August day. Without a doubt, I know this horse could have success at LDs and 50s in the future if they are spring and fall rides. If I can get him into shape for them, I hope to pursue a 50 or two with him before his true golden years.

We polished off the year with over 265 miles together, though the number is likely closer to 365 thanks to Stan's adventure in September that I have yet to share on the blog (I'm waiting on the meager media I was promised because the post will be wasted without media). What a good horse, this one. I love him to death.


✔ Stay healthy and happy physically and mentally
✔ Continue to build strength
✔ Maintain a healthy weight and diet
✔ Keep him comfortable on whatever combination of supplements help him the most


Kenai has had a great year. He's still moving great and seems really happy. I'm switching up his food again (began this morning) to see if I can find a better combo of things to help not only his joints but his ailing coat, as well. His alopecia has gotten so much worse this year and it breaks my heart to see him looking so ragged. However, he's happy and has no care in the world about his balding butt, tail, neck, and abdomen and his happiness and freedom of movement is what matters the most. We're working with the vet to see if there is anything else we can do for his alopecia, so we'll see what 2018 brings in that department. My only goal for my best guy is to keep him moving without pain and keep enjoying all the hiking and skiing adventures we can!


✔ Stay healthy and happy physically and mentally
✔ Lead climb above a 5.8
Conquer at least one trail on Canaan Mountain without hike-a-biking
✘ Bike North Fork Mountain again faster than before
✔ Build a stronger body
✘ Advance my mandolin skill
✔ Build my photography and editing prowess as well as my small photography side business


Mountain biking  and music took a very firm back seat this year due to my job getting absolutely crazy and all-consuming during the summer months. While I did bike a trail on Canaan Mountain without hike-a-biking, it was a trail on the lower apron of the mountain that had nary a rock compared to the rest of the mountain's trails. This goal will have to move forward into 2018.

However, what I lacked in biking I more than made up for with rock climbing this summer before I injured my rotator cuff (womp womp womp). I led a few 5.9s for the first time in my life, and one of them in particular was no gimme! I'm still proud of that lead and the strength I built in my body leading up to it. I was completing 100+ assisted pull-ups 2-3 days a week as part of my training and was nearing my unassisted pull-up record that I haven't touched since college of 12+; pull-ups of any kind indicate to me how strong my climbing is as I can only excel at them when I'm climbing a lot.

The other big success for me this year was launching my photography website and side business. I've had quite a bit of success and even have a few bookings for 2018 already. I'm not looking to dive full force into it because of my other life's passions, but what I have accomplished is right where I wanted to be and I'm really enjoying myself.

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Overall, it's been a great and successful year. 2018 looks really promising and very exciting. I'm eager to see what is in store!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Trailer Facelift

Part of the reason I haven't traveled hither and thither with my horses as much as opportunity presented itself over the past few months was because I was in the midst of some various trailer facelift projects.

Well, those projects are FINALLY COMPLETE and it's time to chronicle the process for posterity (but mostly my own memory).

The before, variability in the paint color/thickness not as evident in this photo
After, (inside of Dutch door still awaiting fresh paint; winter arrived and stalled painting process)

A Bit of Buyer's Remorse & Steps Toward a Solution

When I purchased this little trailer in February, I knew it would need a little work over time. By and large though, for a 23 year old trailer, things looked great. The floor was in phenomenal condition and the frame was super solid with very mild surface rust after so many years. These two things are very important to consider when purchasing a used trailer, so knowing they checked out was important to me.

However, to help guarantee further longevity of the trailer, I was prepared to do some critical maintenance work. Primarily, buffing of rust and application of a fresh coat of paint to slow the inevitable rust process that occurs on the east coast due to rain, humidity, snow, and salty winter roads. I've got lots of experience buffing and painting after numerous DIY projects through the years, so this seemed very doable.

Except after the joy of the initial purchase wore off and I looked at the trailer with fresh eyes, I realized I missed one thing...

From above, you see the rust but the issue isn't that evident...
But from this angle, which accentuates the problem best, you can definitely see the problem!

Yeah... That ramp definitely shouldn't be that way!

I beat myself up about it for a little while, but realized that it was just a learning experience that I needed to get through. As my BO has told me time and time again for various situations that I fret about, "Worse things have happened to better people." Or, in other words, it's not a big deal, calm TF down.

And so I set to researching what exactly needed to happen to correct the issue and then began seeking help. Right away, I was guided to our local high schools shop classes. They're always looking for learning projects. The work won't be the quickest or the prettiest, but the labor will be cheap. With an older trailer, I already accepted that pretty wasn't necessary, so I dropped the trailer off.

Well, long story short, they never got to the trailer before the summer break. They told me to bring it back in August and it would be their first thing, but I was Over It at this point.

Fortunately, my neighbors jumped in at this point and let me know that our friend Chuck was a very skilled welder and could do the job for me! Excellent. Except, well, if you know Chuck (and really, if you know any Canaan Valley person), you know things don't happen quickly.

I just accepted this slowness for what it was and didn't let myself worry about it. I knew he WOULD get to it and he WOULD do a good job and it would probably(?) be done before the end of the calendar year.

While I waited, I was cautious about hauling and loading and unloading my horses if they were on that side. I'm very fortunate to have horses who are very good about trailering and knew that for a limited time, things would be okay so long as I was conscientious about unloading them as that was the only time that cattywompus ramp could really cause an issue as there were no sharp edges exposed, it was mostly just a trip hazard in the interim. And honestly, for my horses that were used to a step-up trailer, that little 2-3 inch warped ramp area was nothing.

Evidenced here, Janky Trailer @ Loch Moy in September

But First, A Fresh Paint Job

It's not evident in many of the above photos, but the paint was irregular at best. Over the years the owners had spray painted areas of surface rust with a variety of gray-silver paints. While this protected against further rust formation for a temporary period, it resulted in the trailer looking rachety as all get-out.

Originally, I figured I would paint the trailer after the ramp was fixed. However, as Chuck was picking away at to-dos with the trailer as they fit in his schedule, he recommended I buff and apply primer on some areas to prepare for the work he would complete.

The weekend I set aside to complete this task corresponded with a beautiful unexpected opening in my schedule - by various strokes of luck, I had NOTHING scheduled.

So, logically, I bought a gallon of primer and decided to "see how far it would go".

Result? Basically the whole damn trailer!

The upper left demonstrates how irregular the paint was.
The lower left looks worse in unpainted areas because I'd buffed them with a metal brush on a power drill.
Right side photos show the completed [primer] paint job, though the final coat won't be much different in color.
Not the most professional of all paint jobs, but way better looking than before! Now it needs a
navy stripe and some reflective tape accents to help with night time visibility.
Irregular paint evident here...
Ah, much more uniform and well protected for several more years against oxidation-reduction -
an inevitable process you must be prepared to battle when you live in the wet & snowy east!

I even clambered up onto the roof like a responsible painter and put the requisite coats on it!

The only place I didn't buff and paint was the base of the trailer ramp where I knew more work would be done.

No need to paint this area! Much work to be done.

It was a ton of work, I won't lie. Buffing the damn thing was the hands down WORST, but good tools and sheer determination helped me get the job done. It's not the most professional paint job ever, but it's a freaking 23 year old trailer - any paint job was an improvement at this point and I'm all about form and function before beauty when it comes to these things.

The most important thing is that the trailer now has a good protective barrier to road salt and moisture. Rust will be slower to form for several more years, a good thing when you live where I do!

The Real Work Begins

As summer faded to fall and fall cooled down and rained a bit, Chuck's schedule finally lightened to the point where he put my trailer in his shop and began work.

First thing was first, patching up the metal along the base of the stalls behind the tires where road salt had eaten away at the trailer.

Inside the trailer where the plywood typically sits; bottom of the metal rusted out.
White strip is new metal that was cut, drilled, and caulked to protect this area from future moisture/rust.

From there, he painted and installed new plywood.

New plywood installed back in it's proper place. Bumpers not yet installed.
Old plywood was rotted along the back corner where the trailer had at one
point sat under a gutter and gotten soaked: cue rust and rot!
New plywood installed; rusty, warped ramp visible here, though you can see
that that left corner really isn't that dramatic in the grand scheme of things!
Still, it's better it was addressed once and for all as it only would have worsened.

And then took the ramp off to begin working on that whole debacle.

Discussing whether the plywood under the ramp mats would need replaced.
Spoiler: it didn't! It was in great shape.
Ah, hello there problem child!
Miraculously, the ramp wasn't warped that badly from where the hinge
rusted off allowing the spring to pull it upwards and askew from the trailer.
If you look closely, you'll note the left-most hinge missing completely. Lovely!

Chuck is an absolute WEALTH of knowledge on this type of thing and I enjoyed hearing how the process was going as he set about it. The "hinge" on the ramp was definitely NOT factory-built. It was some sort of repair somewhere in the trailer's lifetime and it was done piss-poor which is why the whole thing ended up the way it was when I got it. Basically someone drove a hexagonal bar through the hinges and called it good. It wasn't done well and resulted in one hinge rusting off of the frame resulting in a warped ramp.

Chuck's repair of the thing put it back to what it should have been - three independent hinges.

The original problem child looking much better!
The rest of the hinges along the ramp post-work

Final Steps

Putting the ramp back together was a bit of a process, but not too bad in the grand scheme of things.

I first prepped and painted the ramp where the plywood would go to further protect against future rusting, and then we fit the plywood back in, I screwed the mats on, and that was that.

Partially buffed in preparation for paint.
Buff job complete.
Painting complete.
Lining up the plywood to be screwed back in was a bit more complicated than it looks!
Bada-bing, bada-boom! A STRAIGHT ramp!
How lovely this is to look at!
No more rusted off hinge and warped ramp

We also patched up the sheet metal on the outside bottom of the ramp, too, to protect from further rust damage. Or I guess I can say that I patched up the sheet metal on the outside. Chuck cut the pieces, then instructed me how to caulk them and screw them on.

Left side patch caulked and screwed on...
And now the right side! All it need is a final paint job to neaten up everything!

What a process!

I still plan to add a final coat of paint to the whole thing with a sprayer - and honestly planned to have that done prior to sharing this post - but it will have to wait for warmer weather, which is hard to predict this time of year.


Could I have spent some more money or taken more time to find a better trailer? Absolutely! But you know what? At my price point, I did pretty damn well for myself and even with all of the extra work, I still couldn't have found a nicer trailer within my budget.

It was a lot of time and effort to flip this thing into something prettier than it was, but I have learned a TON from the process. And honestly? I really feel like I'm better off for having put in the hard work myself to make so much of it happen. I'm much more familiar with this hunk of metal on wheels and feel good about hauling my horses in it. Additionally, if a day comes that I want to upgrade to a better/bigger trailer, I have a much better grasp on what I'll be looking for and considering. Knowledge is power.

All that remains is a final fresh coat of paint and a better
organization system for storage!

I'm really pleased with how everything turned out. I plan to add some additional minor upgrades to the inside so far as hanging hooks and saddle racks, but that's child's play considering everything else that has been tackled to date. I'm also playing with the idea of painting some fun little caricatures of the horses somewhere, too, we'll see!

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Have you ever flipped, renovated or given a facelift to your trailer? I know some of you have shared some blog posts here and there on the subject. I'd love to hear your stories if they haven't been documented yet. Or maybe you've chronicled some trailer improvements already and they're archived in years past on your blog?

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Let's Talk About Siberian Huskies

When I introduced Taiga, Dom commented requesting the following:

What a great idea! I'm happy to oblige (and shamelessly share lots of photos of my dogs).

I have received so many questions, comments, and unsolicited advice on the breed since Kenai entered my life in 2010. I've learned a lot in my time with him, though I did do a TON of research on the breed prior to Kenai entering my life as I have been in love with the breed since I was a child (as my family can attest).

The following are some comments and FAQs about the breed I routinely answer and some clarifications about common myths/misconceptions. These are based on my research and my experiences with my dog(s). It should go without saying, but I am not an all-knowing expert - I learn new things all the time (e.g., the breed can be prone to alopecia) - and your mileage may vary.

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If it's summer: Boy, your dog must be hot in this weather with all that hair!
If it's winter: Oh, this is perfect for your dog, huh?

If I had a nickel for every time I've heard these comments I'd be rich!

Yes, they are a northern breed. Yes, they thrive in cold weather. Yes, they can overheat easier than some other breeds if it is hot and humid AF. But mostly? Mostly they're FINE. They're fine because I'm cognizant of their needs no matter what the weather.

He loves the snow, it's true.

Siberian huskies have a double coat with a very plush undercoat and, due to human desire and selective breeding, the coats can be the typical medium length you most commonly see, or they can be wooly (long). While wooly coats may be pleasing to the eye, they're not doing the breed any favors as they protect them much less from the snow and result in a lot of snow/ice balls forming against the coat, which is uncomfortable for the animal and can result in them being very wet down to their skin which isn't desirable in cold weather.

Double coated dogs have two layers of coat: an undercoat that protects from heat, cold, and a top coat that helps to repel dirt and moisture. The denser the undercoat, the fluffier it appears.


MANY breeds have double coats! Huskies, labs, retrievers, Aussie shepherds, GSDs, newfies, sheepdogs, schnauzers, terriers, the list goes on! People tend to overlook that these other breeds also have double coats and may also have trouble over-heating in the summer. Personally? I feel more for newfoundlands in the summer than my huskies! A jet-black coat with an equally dark undercoat is gonna heat up a lot faster than my predominantly white undercoat with some darker guard hair dogs.

Do my huskies excel in winter weather better than other double coated dogs because of their denser undercoats? You betcha. But just because they have that denser undercoat and excel in winter doesn't mean that they are suffering in summer.


As noted above, an undercoat helps protect a dog against heat AND cold. Think of it as a personal climate control system insulating against both cold and heat depending on the season. As long as they aren't overly exerting themselves in the summer, they're no worse off than most other double coated breeds.

This leads me to another very valuable point. Shaving your double coated dog (husky or not) to "help them cool down" in the warmer months is one of the biggest mistakes you can make as an owner. By doing this, you are removing his protection from the heat and allowing his skin to be damaged by the sun. Additionally, you cannot guarantee that the coat will grow back properly after it has been shaved. It may come back, yes, but the quality of the coat will likely be lesser than it once was, oftentimes with more undercoat than top coat. Every time I hear someone talk about shaving their double coated dog, it breaks my heart.

Don't huskies only have blue eyes?
Or, my personal favorite: If it doesn't have blue eyes then it isn't a purebred husky.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but huskies can have blue eyes or brown eyes or a combination thereof!

Taiga's sweet brown eyes
Kenai's brown eyes, and light blue spot.

In fact, some even have blue and brown in the same eye or have one blue eye and one brown eye. Austen's Sonka, a husky mix, had the most strikingly beautiful bi-colored eyes (blue and amber (! even more rare)) I've ever seen.

Blue eyed Lyra on the left and Sonka with his striking bi-colored eyes on the right
PC: StitzPics; photo provided by Austen
Sonka's beautiful amber eye featured here
PC: Austen

Icy blue eyes are common in the breed and are very striking. Because of this, people mistakenly assume all huskies must have blue eyes. This is a false assumption.

I've met people that have taken this assumption a step further and insisted that ANY blue-eyed dog in existence MUST have husky mixed in it if it has blue eyes. Um. No. Just no. Many other dogs can have blue eyes for a variety of reasons, though commonly dogs with a merle gene (carried commonly by Australian shepherds, Great Danes, dachshunds, collies, and shelties ) will also have blue eyes.

Black rimming around Kenai's eyes and you can eve seen the blueish spot in his left eye

A unique trait about huskies eyes though, are that they are rimmed by dark pigmented skin. This helps with glare and reflection and is present due to the breeds origins from snowy northern latitudes (bright white landscape).

Oh! He's so big!
Or, Oh, I bet she'll be huge!
Or even, He's going to keep getting bigger!

The breed standard for size in Siberian huskies is 45-60 lbs. and 21-23½ inches at the shoulder for males and 35-50 lbs. and 20-22 inches at the shoulder for females.

Kenai Winter 2016-3
Adventures in the hoar frost

They really aren't THAT big of a dog. Their malamute cousins have much more height and weight on them though, which is likely the cause for confusion.

Their dense undercoat (fluffy appearance) can definitely be misleading though! But really, it's just fluff. Kenai may appear as if he's 70-90 lbs. to some people, but I swear to you, he's only 62 lbs (and 23 inches at the shoulder)! He is at the upper echelon of the breed standard, but he's not too far out of the ballpark at all. And no, random people who think he'll keep getting bigger, he's nearly 8 years old, I'm pretty sure he's full grown.

Small enough to go into a little backpack for the moment!

Kenai's dad is the same size as Kenai - and built very similarly! His mom is only slightly smaller than the dad, probably around 50 lbs. Taiga's parents are both smaller than Kenai's parents (dad ~55 lbs and mom is 40lbs) and I expect her to mature somewhere between 35-45 lbs. She was the smallest one in the litter, also.

Don't huskies kill cats?

Kenai doesn't kill cats, no, in fact, he's raised two kittens that were each 4-weeks old when they entered our lives. Because he has been raised and trained to not see cats as prey, we have no problem. It doesn't mean he won't chase a cat - small fast-moving animals trigger that prey drive instinct like none other - but he won't harm them if he catches up to them!

Killed by the cat would be a more accurate description. These two loved one another so much.
And for those who remember Atticus, he's still living large in Pittsburgh ruling his 2 humans, 2
cat siblings and his dog sibling.

But other huskies can and will kill cats and any other prey-like animal. #murderdogs

Huskies have a high prey drive (and aren't the only breed that has one) and have a hard time resisting instinct to chase and subsequently murder small, fast-moving animals. You can train them to resist and listen to you above instinct, but it takes a lot of due diligence and they still may backslide. Example: Kenai didn't chase, bother, or harm chickens for years and years. I didn't even have to watch him when we were at the barn because I knew he wouldn't bother them. Then one day, he killed three! Now I'm highly vigilant of him any time we are around chickens to make sure he doesn't act on his instinct.

20171201 Taiga-3
Taiga at sunset

Actually? Fun fact, huskies are quite cat-like! They're a tidy breed that appreciates cleanliness and is rarely dirty for long. Go on a muddy hike, throw Nanook in the back for the ride home, and more often than not, he'll emerge miraculously clean by the time you arrive home. Magic!

Other cat-like traits include the lightness with which they move, their pouncing and hunting behaviors, their curiosity, chirrup sounds of pleasure/communication, and lack of listening to you when you want them to most.

Don't they need a lot of exercise?

Yes. Resoundingly, yes. But to be fair, any active breed needs exercise! However, huskies were bred to RUN, so they obviously do better with exercise.

Huskies are much better citizens with a good exercise routine. Without it, they can be destructive or they will find a way to escape their confines (they are the ultimate Houdini!) to run and roam, often times not returning for days - if ever! This can be nerve-wracking for owners who subsequently have to worry about the dog being hit by a car or worse.

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Zoomies in the snow, recalling like a good girl

Huskies are highly intelligent. If they have been adequately exercised, they'll settle and use their intelligence for good (human desired) actions, whereas if they have energy to burn, it's anyone's best bet! I'm sure we've all seen various memes of a couch, beanbag chair, wall, door, floor, fence, etc. that has been destroyed by a husky. I can guarantee you that each of those dogs in the memes could use more exercise!

Lurking while we were outside the window

A lot of husky owners are runners (hi, Austen!) and keep their huskies sated in that manner, other folks have loftily fenced backyards for their dogs to burn off energy. Though one must be careful with fences and huskies! They can and will climb and jump and dig. Oft times, if you're going to have a fenced in backyard for your husky, it is recommended that the fence is not only tall (6+ feet, bonus points for a hot wire at the top) but also deep so that the dogs cannot dig and burrow underneath!

Horse play is an alternate form of exercise...
Hard to believe Griffin was ever so dark; this photo is from 5 years ago!
In fact, Griffin and my BO's border collie play almost every day. It's a really cool relationship.

I am very fortunate to live in a very rural area with few neighbors and no traffic. As such, I am able to exercise my dogs primarily off-leash so they run and sniff the world to their heart's content without me having to suffer through the rigors of running (ugh, I really admire y'all, but no). However, this off-leash exercise does not come easily!

Three weeks and 7-8 lbs gained!

Huskies, a highly intelligent dog with a high prey drive that doesn't always listen to their owner, have notoriously shitty recall. If you've ever wanted a husky, more than any of the points I've made above, please know that recall is something you must practice again and again and again with your dog to have any kind of success. Recall is important both on and off leash for various safety reasons.

I researched the breed tirelessly from the time I was 8 years old until Kenai entered my life in 2010 and knew that recall would be something I focused on more than anything else with him. I buckled down hard for 2½ years hammering recall into him.

Oh, be still my heart. Kenai in his full regalia prior to any knee surgeries or his alopecia hair loss

A big facilitator in this effort was a remote shock collar; I am a big advocate for them if you want to have your husky successfully off-leash. I recognize that both off-leash dogs and remote shock collars can be highly controversial and I do not care to get into that with anyone. These methods work incredibly well for me and my dogs - your mileage may vary! Do know that I am sensitive to having off-leash dogs in more public areas and take appropriate measures as necessary when we are away from home.

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Taiga fully appreciating the snowstorm last week

Kenai has incredible recall as a result of my tireless training from a young age. He's remarkably good to a point where my neighbor who owns three wolf dogs of various content calls Kenai an "un-husky" because he listens to me well and doesn't run away from our house when he's left outside, off-leash, with no remote collar. Part of it is his temperament, but a lot of it is due to endless hours of training.

In the horse field years ago lending me his eyes and ears when I asked for his attention

Ultimately, I enjoy having well-behaved off-leash huskies. It allows them more opportunities to run to their heart's content and get enough exercise as I am not a runner! Additionally, it's great so they can go trail riding with the horses and I. I love when I can knock out a lot of birds with one stone and exercising a horse and the dogs in one fell swoop is a wonderful thing in my world.

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I think the bottom line with any dog is to do as much research as you can about what the breed (or possible breed(s)) is like and what they need to have a happy, healthy lifestyle. If everyone took the time to research their desired dog well in advance of bringing the dog home and made every effort to help the dog find success for it's unique needs, there would be a lot more happy dogs and happy owners out there.


I've loved Siberian huskies since I was a child and spent years learning about the breed's pros and cons. Even though I could have brought a husky into my life earlier than I did, I chose not to because I knew my lifestyle wasn't going to be up to snuff for having a happy dog. I didn't want to have one until I could guarantee that it would have success and not get into trouble at every turn because of my own human errors due to scheduling/lifestyle.

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Dog's are a wonderful addition to my life, and I really couldn't imagine my world without a dog in it. I know many of you are the same. If you have one, I'd love to hear a little bit about your dog(s) in the comments if you'd care to share. Not a dog person? Tell me about your cat or other [insert-pet-here]!