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The Racing Siberian Husky Online
Summer 2004 Web Feature Edition
Published by Heritage North Press & WorkingDogWeb

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The Training and

Racing Journals
of Roland and
Louise Lombard

Insights on Training Sled Dog
Doc Lombard—A Master of Sled Dog Training

By Nancy Cowan, Author,
The Training and Racing Journals of Roland and Louise Lombard

“A good leader is a rare and wonderful thing. When you get one, take care never to do anything that might put bad thoughts in her head.” Those words were written in a notebook over thirty-two years ago by one of the world’s foremost of sled dog racing champions, Dr. Roland Lombard.  Click for the full article.

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Lombard was making notes in preparation for presenting a speech on sled dog racing lead dogs…and when Doc spoke, everyone wanted to hear. The advice is as pertinent to today’s sled dog drivers as it was to those of three decades ago.

These notes, others devoted to aspects of his career in sled dog racing, and his day-to-day journals are all contained in a newly printed book, The Training and Racing Journals of Roland and Louise Lombard.

As a sled dog sportswriter with a twenty-year-long career in writing about mushing, mushers and the dogs that pull sleds, I found compiling this book from forty-five years of journals, letters and notebooks was like a one-on-one seminar with one of racing’s greatest. This is not a “how to” book per se, but is a diary of the Lombards’ life with dogs.


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eading the book, observing as the dogs are started, tested, conditioned, then chosen for the racing string becomes a fascinating story.   Interspersed with the day-to-day runs are gems of wisdom for every person who presumes to drive a team of dogs.

One of my favorite passages came in the Fall of 1978. Doc Lombard was a well-known champion, but his competition in an informal dirt race held in New Hampshire in mid-October was marred by some problems in meeting and passing head-on.

"Doc got right to work. The next training days
are marked by an evaluation of each dog's
particular problem with passing.

Doc got right to work. The next training days are marked by an evaluation of each dog’s particular problem with passing. The journals contain notes on Roland’s approach to correction. The normal training routine was interspersed with comments like the following:

  • “Two teams of sixteen dogs run for eight miles with Louise and Bill walking dogs (means that walkers had dogs on leashes as the teams passed).”
  • “Staked two dogs in separate places in middle of trail and drove all past in harness on foot (Roland walked beside the team so he could immediately make corrections).”
  • “Trained four teams with Toyota (gangline was hitched to car bumper) on the Pump House Loop (trail) with one dog chained to a tree, four dogs on a picket line and three dogs on the side of truck.”
The next gig race came just a month after the one marked by passing troubles. This time Doc Lombard noted in his journal, “Passing very much improved.”

The following week, Doc and Louise ran their own “trials” and gave scores to each team dog in order to evaluate eligibility for the coming season’s race line-up.

Problems with passing solved, the Lombards now were able to change their training focus to the speed of the potential front-enders.

DocLombard2.jpg (118323 bytes)
Roland with Chuck, 1958

As you read this book, you will become familiar with the qualities that made Lombard so great. In evaluating his dogs as candidates for his 1967 racing string, Doc says, “Several puzzling dogs for one reason or another.” Not content with analyzing every bit of the “outside” of his dogs, Lombard worked hard to understand the “inside”. He wanted to get into the head of each dog to see the WHY of the dog’s performance.

When Dr. Lombard writes about sled dogs, the words come from a master of his subject. I tried to sum up that quality in the following passage from the book:

"Roland Lombard was that rare entity, a master of masters at what
he did who was also mentally and near telepathically in tune with his
team.  He loved and understood his dogs. They loved and understood
Lombard. Lombard’s labor made a science of sled dog racing but in
his talented hands sled dog racing became an art."

Like the words from any master of an art, Roland Lombard’s words about training and racing will surely become a classic in the years to come.

Author Nancy Cowan
has been writing about aspects of sled dog history -- especially in her home region of New England -- for some 20 years now, this being her fifth sled dog book. In that process, she has made available to dog lovers and mushers a wealth of resources hidden away in boxes of photographs or diaries or, in this case, the training journals of one of the 20th century's most famous mushers, Doc Lombard, and his wife Weezie. 

We were delighted to have her write this short article for The Racing Siberian Husky Online as the Lombards owned and raced Alaskan Malamutes, Siberian Huskies and then Alaskan Huskies.  Note:   the photo above, from the book by permission of the author, is of Doc Lombard with Chuck, one of his Siberian Huskies.

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Available NOW - order online or from the author
The Training and Racing Journals
of Roland and Louise Lombard

In 1990, the sled dog world said good-bye to one of its all-time greats, Dr. Roland Lombard. He  was well known for his championships (8 World Championships, 6 NACs, 7 at Tok, 3 years holding Alaska’s dual-championship title), as a founder of ISDRA and SEPP,  past president of NESDC.  He bred and raced some of the fastest Siberian Huskies to set foot on snow, and initiated the spread of Alaskan Huskies beyond the Alaskan racing trails.

Behind the championship exterior was a man of sweetness and good humor, combined with a tremendous love for his dogs and a steely will to win.  The book  is comprised mainly of diary-like entries from the training and racing journals written by Roland and by Louise, his wife and his team handler on most occasions.  It is the first definitive work on this internationally admired sprint racer and on the sport’s most beloved couple.

Journal entries begin in 1945 and continue through 1989.   Also included are highlights from seven years of letters written by Doc. Including training tips, Doc’s lists to himself for things “to do” and “to pack”, detailed hitch diagrams, weight charts and more, the book covers championship sprint racing in a way in which it has never before been seen.

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Click below to order
Training and Racing Journals
of Roland and Louise Lombard

star-red.gif (874 bytes) Book also available directly from the author
at $50 to addresses within the USA,
including shipping & handling,
with payment via check, money order or PayPal.
Nancy Cowan
183 Deering Center Road
Deering, New Hampshire 03244  USA

Prices are higher to locations outside the USA
and also include shipping & handling.
For details on these prices, contact Nancy Cowan at
Telephone:  603-464-6213


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