DOZENS of dogs and their owners hit the tracks to race through the New Forest in a rally organised by the Hampshire Sled Dog Racing Club.
Participants at the two-day meet at Standing Hat Inclosure, near Balmer Lawn Road in Brockenhurst, lined up for a series of events in which dogs pulled three-wheeled rigs, bicycles, scooters and even their owners.
Event organiser Matt Eames, from Havant, said the club usually holds at least one rally in the New Forest every year, and public spectators are always welcome.
He said: “We are a very friendly club – we are always delighted to welcome people who want to come along and see what we are up to and ask us questions. Our members are always very happy to chat about their dogs.”
The rally included a number of different classes including canicross (running with a dog), bikejor (riding a bicycle pulled by a dog), scooter classes and those for three and four wheeled rigs and carts pulled by varying numbers of dogs.
Matt said: “Canine sports really began as a sport for huskies but it is now popular with dogs of all breeds.
“We have everything from dobermans and retrievers to spaniels and collies taking part. I would estimate that around 50% of the participating dogs are still huskies.”
Event participants race against the clock rather than each other and travel from across the country to take part in rallies.
Matt said: “I would say that 75% are from Hampshire but several travel from Devon and even Yorkshire to take part. We hold a rally every month between November and March and these are sometimes on private land and sometimes at other sites owned by Forestry England.”
During this event, Matt’s daughter Paige (13) raced a team comprising four of the family’s seven pet huskies. “The dogs thoroughly enjoy the sport – they can start racing from a year old and they carry on until they let you know that it is time for them to retire.
“If they don’t want to race any more, that is it – they let you know.”
Matt has been involved in sled dog racing for 23 years. He jointly organises rallies with his wife Clare and fellow club members William and Lisa Wright from Southampton.
He added: “It is a really wonderful sport and it certainly keeps you fit as well as the dogs.”