Dogsled racing runs in the family

Todd Pruner
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For musher Jillian Taylor, dogsled racing is in her bloodline

Like the canines that she guides, dogsled racing runs in the blood of Jillian Taylor.

Like the canines that she guides, dogsled racing runs in the blood of Jillian Taylor.

Taylor's father Steph, originally from England, was a Mountie in the Yukon, where he made the interesting transition from cross-country skiing to dog-sled racing.

When Jillian was young, her family moved south to Alberta and Taylor helped her father when he entered in short sprint races.

She left the sport for several years, but returned three years ago and entered her first Canadian Challenge Sled Dog Race.

"Later on in life, I guess you realize the joys of winter activity and freezing - going out in all ungodly weather, at all times of day and night," Steph said.

Entered in the eight-dog race, Jillian began her third Canadian Challenge Wednesday in downtown Prince Albert. The race will conclude on Saturday in La Ronge after about 300 kilometres.

"It's fun, it's exhilarating and I'm kind of an adrenaline junkie," she said minutes before crossing the start line on Central Avenue. "I love it. It's never easy. There's always something to learn. Every run you learn something different. And just to see what these (dogs) can do - it's pretty amazing that they can run for as long as they do."

For the Taylors, the sport continues to be a family affair.

Steph helps Jillian with training and feeding the dogs, while her mother sews boots for the dogs. Also, this is the second year some family friends have come over from England to help out.

"It's kind of a big joint effort really," said Jillian, who now lives in Red Deer, Alta. "It's a big lifestyle choice and commitment - time and money and everything else. It's a lifestyle."

Jillian finished her first foray into the Canadian Challenge, a six-dog race of nearly 300 kilometres, but last year stopped midway through in bitter cold conditions.

This year, she's hoping to finish and possibly enter another race of about 300 kilometres in British Columbia.

Jillian raised half of her eight-dog team, while she bought the other half.

The portion of the dogs on her racing teams that she's raised could increase in the near future though.

"We've got some new guys on the ground," Jillian said.

Organizations: Canadian Challenge Sled Dog Race, Taylor's

Geographic location: England, Yukon, Alberta Prince Albert La Ronge Central Avenue Red Deer British Columbia

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