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UK: Muddy conditions add to the fun for dry-land dogsledders

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 the 16 and 17 November 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 dogs, six dogs, four dogs and two dogs 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 5-km 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 are 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.

Matt Hodgson managed to take top honours in the prestigious four-dog group 2 class, beating his silver and bronze finishes in previous events.

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