From the eager barks of my all-girl husky team to total silence the moment they were free to run, husky dog sledding was an exhilarating yet peaceful activity.
Before visiting the Arctic Husky Farm, situated between Pyhä and Luosto in Finnish Lapland, I had a few misgivings regarding the use of huskies as a tourist attraction. Being concerned for animal welfare, I worried that certain tactics used to motivate the dogs would upset me. However, as soon as I removed my foot from the brake their obvious joy at being free to run put my mind completely at ease.
There is a real feeling of being part of a team when you are with the dogs – pushing on the brake bar to slow the sled down, leaning into the corner turns, all whilst watching for low-hanging snowy branches. My favourite part was giving the huskies a helping hand uphill, by pushing away with one foot.
Swapping places with a friend after five kilometres, it was time to take it easy and watch the fairytale landscape of snow-covered fir trees glide by.
Back at the farm I was given a tour of the spacious, outdoor kennels. The Arctic Husky Farm raises nearly 160 dogs, mostly Alaskan huskies but also some Siberian. Training starts from the age of one and a half to two years old and some huskies work up until the grand age of 14. Always running in a team of six, the huskies are marshalled by a pair of lead dogs.
When the winter snows melt, work finishes for the huskies and their holiday season begins. During the hotter months (within the Arctic Circle summer temperatures can still rise to 25°c), the dogs are free to roam outside their cages, play together and rest up.
I finished my tour with a visit to the puppy kennels. Meeting the pack of adorable, two-month-old huskies was predictably a highlight for me.