Why this woman and her border collie took up skijoring on P.E.I.

·3 min read
Why this woman and her border collie took up skijoring on P.E.I.
Leah Morris and Skye the border collie go skijoring once a week.  (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC  - image credit)
Leah Morris and Skye the border collie go skijoring once a week. (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC - image credit)

"Ready," asks Leah Morris capturing her border collie Skye's attention. "Let's go."

The dog dashes ahead, seemingly out of control.

"She's very smart and thankfully, she listens to me," Morris said.

Gliding on purple and white cross-country skis with a leash attached to the two-year-old canine, Morris follows behind continuing to provide commands.

Leah Morris and Skye the border collie go skijoring once a week.
Leah Morris and Skye the border collie go skijoring once a week.

"Right," she turns right.

"Left," a smooth left.

"Stop," the duo comes to a — you guessed it — halt.

'Adrenaline rush'

The sport is called skijoring and is sometimes done with horses or snowmobiles, said Morris, an Atlantic Veterinary College student from Nova Scotia. She said she decided to give it a whirl this year after the pandemic put a hold on activities she would normally take part in during the winter.

"I've definitely had more time to get out with her," said Morris. "A lot of the time, we don't go super fast. Like she's not a crazy dog, so we just go along — that's really nice, especially when you're in a nice spot.

"When you get a slight downhill or when she's feeling energetic, we can go a bit faster. That's a nice little adrenaline rush and pretty fun."

'I never liked cross-country skiing that much because I like kind of the adrenaline rush and the downhill,' says Morris. 'Having her with me, pulling me kind of gives you that little extra adrenaline.'
'I never liked cross-country skiing that much because I like kind of the adrenaline rush and the downhill,' says Morris. 'Having her with me, pulling me kind of gives you that little extra adrenaline.'

Morris has had Skye since she was a puppy. She said she trained her to know her left and right by tossing dog treats then shouting the direction.

"She definitely mastered it pretty, pretty quickly."

Skijoring challenges

After learning directions, Morris said she would connect Skye to her bike and the pair would go cycling. From there, it was a rather simple transition to the skis.

"I think she thought it was strange the first time that I asked her to pull me when I'd been doing all my training trying to get her to not pull on a leash," she said.

"I think she likes it."

And there's no debating that when Skye runs into the distance with no destination in mind.

"She's pretty energetic and so anytime we can get out together in the nature, it's lovely."

'She was a little nervous of the skis at first, but having a nice long line that was bungee kept me far enough away from her that I think she got over her little fear, the noise that they made,' Morris says.
'She was a little nervous of the skis at first, but having a nice long line that was bungee kept me far enough away from her that I think she got over her little fear, the noise that they made,' Morris says.

There are challenges to skijoring in Prince Edward Island, however. For one, Morris said you have to find a trail that allows both skis and dogs.

And those trails must be groomed.

"It kind of rules out most trails that are groomed for skiing," she said.

"If snow's too deep and she always gets snow stuck in her paws and on the skis, it's really hard to get any momentum going."

'Something a little bit different'

But regardless, Morris said she thinks the skijoring community is growing and encourages other Islanders to give it a try.

"It's really a sport you can do with any breed. I've seen people taking out their tiny little Yorkies. I've seen people with huskies," she said.

"I think it's really good for dogs like her with a lot of energy to give them, you know, something a little bit different than just a walk in the park."

'It's pretty great, honestly,' says Morris. 'She's been pretty reliable.'
'It's pretty great, honestly,' says Morris. 'She's been pretty reliable.'

And as Skye grows impatient, Morris returns to her skis and smiles down at her dog.

"Ready?"

Then almost as if exhaustion is a foreign concept, Skye's legs begin to build up power as the pair moves forward in the snow and on to enjoy the rest of their adventure.

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