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Oxford resident enjoys a unique outdoor sport with his dogs | oxford

A confluence of situations has led to Lauren Stierman’s discovery of a new sport known as canicross.

It involves running or biking while on a leash to one or two dogs running ahead. Canicross started some 22 years ago in the UK and spread to the US and into the life of this Oxford wife and mother of two. She hopes to compete in the sport in the future.

Stierman grew up on a cattle ranch in New Mexico and Texas. She was an athletic girl who especially loved the ranch dogs, the heelers. While studying at the University of New Mexico, her athleticism led her to the sports of soccer, rugby, and ultimate frisbee. The latter involves competitive games.

White there, he met and eventually married Lute Stierman, another athlete, who shared his love of sports, particularly snowboarding and mountain biking.

That was in the early days of the couple. Now with two young children in tow, they moved to Jacksonville when Lute took a job at the New Flyer in Oxford, and they later moved there.

About three years ago, while browsing the social networking site Instagram, Stierman saw people hitching their dogs while jogging or biking. The sport is much like the ancient sport of using dogs to pull a sled and its occupant through the snow.

The original sport is called snow mushing. This new sport of running with dogs on a leash is called urban mushing, while the sport of biking with dogs on a leash is called bikejoring.

“Canicross is done on dry land on trails,” Stierman said, “and it evolved when mushers had to keep their dogs in shape during the summer months when there was no snow.”

Stierman then, without the proper gear for her or her dog Rune, a stubby-tailed Australian Shepherd, began running while tied up. Then, she tried to ride a bike while she was attached. She also discovered that sport was excellent for her and Rune’s health. Stierman began to study on the Internet about canicross. She bought better dog harnesses (they have to fit properly or dogs will choke) and a better belt and bungee cords for her.

Then online, Stierman found another canicrosser from Alabama, a woman named Eden Grimes from Fort Payne. The two communicated, met and planned outings with their husbands, both also athletic, and, of course, their dogs.

Canicross is all about having an active dog, and now he has two, Rune and Tycka (pronounced ‘tooka’).

Stierman and Grimes love the sport. They hope to form a group of canicross participants, like the Georgia Urban Mushers, or GUM, in the Atlanta area. On February 1st, the families of both women attended a weekend race and helped each other out by sitting with the dogs as they each took turns competing in a race. Grimes looked at the Stierman children.

“I’ve been canicrossing for about seven years, starting with a little heeler,” Grimes said. “I was a runner and wanted to incorporate my dogs into my running.”

Grimes and her husband own the Defy Gravity dog ​​training and rehabilitation business. She is a former animal control officer and has nine dogs of her own. For her canicross activities, she prefers the Belgian Malinoi breed. She and the dogs can reach 25.5 mph when they bike. Stierman and Grimes want to make sure people learn about the sport of canicross before trying it out.

“I don’t want to scare anyone who wants to try urban mushing or biking,” Stierman said, “but you can’t just hitch up your dog and run. You must have good control of your dog or dogs, or they may drag you into traffic or fight other dogs.”

To avoid these dangers, Stierman trains Rune and Tycka with the proper commands the sport recommends, such as “on,” meaning the dogs shouldn’t be distracted while running, and “out of the way,” meaning they should get out of the way. to avoid hitting them. someone or other dogs.

This is where Stierman’s experience bonding with dogs is important. He spends a lot of time training the stubby tails to follow his command and be social.

“My bushy tails are not affectionate dogs,” he said, “but they have a lot of energy.”

Known for its black and white, or sometimes red and white, speckled coat, the handsome breed lacks the tan coloration of its cousins, the Australian Cattle Dogs. Stumpy tails are becoming popular, although they are expensive to buy if they are thoroughbreds. Stierman obtained Rune from a salvage agency and Tycka from Eden’s husband, Tyler, a delivery boy. A farmer he knew said a stunted tail appeared and he didn’t want it.

“I know who does it,” Tyler told the farmer.

Stierman said the breed of the dog isn’t as important as making sure the dog is active and healthy, intelligent and well-trained. She said she has even seen one canicross runner use a chihuahua and another a corgi.

For canicross information, call Stierman at 520-266-2493 and visit Brimes at “Defy Gravity Canine Rehab and Training” on Facebook.

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