Muddy Conditions Add to the Fun for Dry-Land Dogsledders

By Reuters

Muddy conditions greeted 150 teams from 15 countries as they competed in the 2019 WSA (World Sleddog Association) Dryland World Championships.

While sled dog racing is normally associated with snow covered landscapes, the event was held over the weekend of Nov. 16 and 17 on the Firle Country Estate in southern England, where an unseasonable amount of rainfall in the preceding days made the course treacherous due to the muddy ground.

Around 250 dogs, including Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamute and Greenland, raced in a variety of classes.

Team sizes ranged from eight dog, six dog, four dog and two dog teams where the driver rides on what is known as a ‘Rigg’, a two, three or four wheel contraption resembling a trike. There were also solo classes with competitors on mountain bikes (Bikejor) or running behind their dog (Cani-cross).

Whatever the class, each were set off on a time trial to complete the 5Km trail that extended from the grounds next to Furle Place and out into the estate through a woodland trail.

The championship is highly competitive; with entrants travelling to the event from as far as Russia, Belgium, Spain and other parts of Europe, but the safety and welfare of the dogs and the drivers is paramount. Despite the kudos of a World Championship there is no prize money and vets and animal welfare charities are in attendance to ensure that the welfare of the dogs is centre stage.

Each set of dogs race against the clock, two minute intervals divide each team as the various classes are set off from the starting area.

The dogs are all highly active breeds that evolved as working dogs and they love to run.

After the dogs cross the finish line they are each checked by a team of vets, who also scan their microchip details to verify that the team entrants match their registration.

Matt Hodgson managed to take top honours in the prestigious 4 dog group 2 class, which beats his silver and bronze finishes in previous events.