About Wild and Free Mushing
Kennel Owner: Brent Sass
Kennel Name: Wild and Free Mushing
Where did the kennel name come from? It is from a Hobo Jim song that I love.
How many dogs do you have? 60
Kennel Bloodlines: Wold, Mackey and My Own
Handlers: Kyla Durham, Casey Grass, Jen Johnston
Sled Dog Races Finished: 2006 Yukon Quest 300 1st place , 2007 Copper Basin 300 4th Place, 2007 Yukon Quest 15th Place, 2008 Copper basin 5th place, 2008 Yukon Quest 5th place, 2009 Solstice 100 5th place, 2009 Gin Gin 200 1st place (Men's Division), 2009 Copper Basin 300 3rd place, 2009 Yukon Quest 7th place, 2009 Two Rivers 200 5th place, 2009 Yukon Flats 300 5th place, 2010 CB300 7th place, 2010 Gingin 200 2nd Place, 2010 Yukon Quest 8th place, 2011 CB300 4th place, 2011 Gingin 200 2nd Place, 2011 Yukon Quest 4th Place, 2011 Kobuk 440 8th place
Sponsors: Sass Construction Inc., Horst Expediting and Remote Operations, C-Drive Computers, see Sponsors Page for full list
How many years have you been running dogs? 8
How did Wild and Free Mushing get started?
Brent: "Shortly after moving onto my new property in the Goldstream Valley in Fairbanks I saw a neighbor mush by. I had seen dog mushing before, but this was different as those dogs ran by me just feet away, I looked into each one of their eyes and saw a drive and determination unlike any other. From that day on I knew that I wanted to be a dog musher. At the time I had just one dog, not really a sled dog but she did pull me around on skis. As my neighbor Kurt and I became good friends I learned more and more about dogs, dog mushing and what kind of commitment it takes. The best thing about Kurt is his style, he doesn't follow the pass, he goes over the mountain, blazing his own trail and this can definitely be seen in his dogs. Learning his methods and philosophy helped prepare me for the journey I was about to embark on. One day Kurt told me he had a litter of pups on the way and asked if I wanted one of them. I jumped at the chance and took one of the pups and named him Silver (after the Silver Gulch Brewery in Fox, AK). Silver turned out to be an amazing dog and when the next litter of pups came along I took two more, and before I knew it Wild and Free Mushing was born."
Tell me about your dogs:
Brent: "Dog mushing is all about the dogs and their constant enthusiasm and unbelievable drive to run. In the short time that I have been involved with dog mushing I have been very lucky to have found the dogs of Wild and Free Mushing. My dogs are special, really special. Each and every one of them is very important to the success of our kennel. So what sets us apart, what makes my dogs different than everyone else's you ask? It is their origin. In a time when bloodlines are so important in dog racing, we go against all the rules. There is very little known about the background of my dogs. 80 percent of my kennel comes from blood that has little known racing history. They come from a small kennel in the Goldstream Valley in Fairbanks, Alaska. Kurt Wold has been there for years raising, training and loving his dogs. So when I bought property next to him 4 years ago I was introduced to Kurt and his amazing dogs. In fact it is Kurt who got me hooked on dog mushing. Over the past 3 years I have gotten many pups and young dogs from Kurt as well as a few dogs from Susan Butcher and David Monson. In the past year I have started breeding and raising my own pups, with the same love and devotion that I learned from Kurt. At first glance they might appear to be a motley crew. I have dogs of all shapes and sizes from 35 pounds to my 65-pound leader Silver. But the team works because they trust me and I trust them. I have a great relationship with every one of them. The bond I have with my dogs is something that Kurt made very clear from the beginning as one of the most important aspects of mushing. Because of this my dogs and I were able to prove that we are for real and a team to be watched. In our first racing experience in the Quest 300 last year, not only did we conquer Eagle Summit in one of the worst storms ever recorded but we went on to win the race in convincing fashion. In 2007 we had another great season placing 4th in the Copper Basin 300, earning rookie of the year and finishing 15th in the 1000 mile Yukon Quest. I have very high hopes for this year's team, both the dogs and I learned so much last year that we are extremely excited about hitting the trail for another successful season."
Tell me about Wild and Free Alaska Expeditions:
Brent: "Expeditions are a large part of my training. I feel like the more time I spend with the dogs out in the elements in remote locations the better we will be as a team on the race trail. For this very reason I have spent the last two Aprils living and mushing out of a camp in the Arctic of Alaska, at the base of the Brooks Range. It has been the most amazing thing I have ever done. Spending every day every minute with the dogs for weeks on end just existing out there is some of the best training for both the dogs and myself. Many days were spent just cruising the treeless landscape that rolls on for miles and miles. Breaking trail is something that my dogs just do, always have, always will and they love it, the Arctic is a great training ground for this. The accommodations were pretty amazing considering we were 350 miles north of Fairbanks by road and 13 miles off the road by trail. In 2006 we had 3 tents with woodstoves, 2 large solariums (3 sided snow structures that capture the sun and its warmth), 34 sled dogs, 1 pet dog, 4 loose pups, 3 permanent camp residents, 20+ visiting guests and our token cat, Kenevel. In 2007 we upped the comfort by adding a new 12x20 living tent 2 more sleeping tents and 20 more dogs. Our camp sits on a low ridge above a lake which we drilled a hole in for water (the most pure water a person can ask for). We ate like kings and queens. My camp manager and great friend Thom Walker prepared meals to die for and we snacked on his baked goods all month long. Throughout the month the dogs and I did many runs to the road picking up visiting friends and carrying heavy loads of supplies, we also did long fast runs chasing caribou across the frozen tundra. It is the best of both worlds for a dog musher and his dogs. Spending this kind of time with the dogs is something that cannot be done in town, for this reason, I will be spending every April exploring the Arctic and the great training it provides. I also regularly take the team on long trips/expeditions in the Alaska Range, White Mountains, and on the frozen Tanana and Yukon rivers of Interior Alaska."
What are your goals for Wild and Free Mushing?
Brent: "My goals are endless, there seems to be a new one on my list each morning. This is what keeps me driving forward. Goals are very important to have and even more important to carry out. My main goal for Wild and Free Mushing is to someday win both the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod. But there are many goals to accomplish before those. Setting and accomplishing my goals is what drives me everyday."