My hero's, Chance and Blaze
From my little bit of personal experience, and with what I've read, seen and heard about mushing, it can be a very physical sport. Especially in the training phases. Of course having the proper equipment and trained dogs makes for half the battle.
You can be constantly on and off the sled, to correct dogs, untangle them or having them change position and quickly having to hop back on before they take off again. You may have to run behind them such as going uphill or run along side of them in teaching them how to lead. Since usually you start working with your lead dog first you can find yourself more off the sled than on.
When I take Chance by himself, we work as a team on the tougher parts, especially when the snow is wetter and more difficult for him to pull me through and going up hill. I either have one foot on the sled and pushing with the other foot, or I am running behind it.
Your lead dog is the most important key to the team. There must be a strong trust between the lead dog and driver as they must know the commands inside and out. Lead dogs also must know how to navigate when conditions change and be able to signal when there is danger ahead. The other dogs of the team must respect the lead dog and learn to follow their leader.
Obviously having the right sled can make the difference between a new car and a clunker. It must be sturdy enough to handle the stress of the pull of the dogs. Different sizes and kinds are made for the amount of dogs that will be pulling. It also must be flexible, light and HAVE BRAKES!! :)
We are in the process of buying a used sled from a friend of ours. I think it will be hard to beat our homemade version made of a chair and skis. BOL! The difference of running one dog as opposed to two is tremendous. I can use my foot to slow down or stop one dog, but find it slips out from under me when I have two. Which is how I end up using my knees or fall flat out on the snow to stop. Every musher has fallen or slip off a sled. It is just the nature of the sport when you have dogs pulling you. Even being pulled by one dog still in training and you are just riding there is a physical restrain on your body just balancing and hanging on. We have clocked two dogs pulling at around 30 miles an hour while hanging on to a handle and standing on runners that are thinner than you boots. It can be quite a feat, but it also a rush. The sport is addictive. I always come home more exhausted and sore than I started out, but nothing beats the thrill of it and watching my dogs enjoying the run. It is hard to give up because of a few pulled muscles and I never get to do it enough.
We did get snow last night, but the plow, that never comes down our road, took it all away. I am a little sore, but doing OK. I felt ready to go if I could have. What can I say? I'm hooked.