Devon dog racers set to compete in husky world championships
When you think of the home of elite husky sled racing and racers, Alaska or Norway probably come to mind.
Or maybe Canada or Sweden ... but Tiverton?
Step forward Mandi and Nick Stone – or rather, meet Indy, Akira, Max, Nico, Forest and Cheyenne, and the humans they live with.
The team has just won the national championships in Northumberland in two different classes, gaining qualification to compete in the International Federation of Sled-dog Sports (IFSS) world championships in Italy next year.
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For owners and dogs alike, it represents an incredible reward for several years of hard, but rewarding, work.
Mandi, 42, said: “It all started six years ago.
“We’d always wanted to own Siberian huskies and, with our children all grown up, it seemed like the perfect time to start.
“Our first husky was Indy, who had been rescued. The people who carried out the check to see if we were a suitable home were into racing and we were not even aware that it took place in England.
“We were invited to an event in Taunton and everything sort of took off from there.”
The couple now have six huskies, all with different personalities.
Mandi said: “It is a lot of hard work. I guess it must be a bit like having hyperactive children.”
She added: “We have a Forestry Commission licence which allows us to train in local forests with a three-wheel rig. We go three to four miles, three days a week.”
The training clearly pays off. Last year, Nick and the huskies came second in the national championships allowing him to head to Borken in Germany and compete in the world championships where he came fourth.
Mandi said: “A lot of other countries are backed by their government, with sled-dog racing classed as a profession, and they get paid to race.
“Here it’s not as highly recognised and is funded from our pocket. We both work and have to rely a little on family and friends to help us. But we absolutely love it.”
Perhaps more incredible are the efforts of Forest who Mandi and Nick feared would not be able to race again after an incident earlier this year.
“He swallowed some wire while we were out,” Mandi said. “He was saved by a brilliant vet but lost a substantial part of his intestine. We were told he was unlikely to ever be able to compete again but here he is, part of the national championship winning team.
“This is what these animals are born to do, what they love to do. They are born to race.”