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On the pull
Huskies
Feeling a little husky?
Last updated: 20 January 2005 1737 GMT
lineSean Thompson is popping out with his dogs...to Scotland. The keen 'musher' is taking his team of huskies to compete in the 2005 Aviemore Sled Dog Rally.
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Most dog owners' pet exercise regime extends little further than a leisurely plod around the local recreation ground, allowing pooch to relieve itself and bark at some shiny things.

Gloucestershire's Sean Thompson, however, has a rather more gruelling routine.

He's the proud owner of a trio of huskies, and is currently training his canine compadres in preparation for one of the world's foremost sled races - the 2005 Aviemore Sled Dog Rally.

Sean has been granted special permission to practise in two areas of the Forest of Dean and BBC Gloucestershire's Naomi Wordley joined him for his final session prior to the big race.

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BBC Gloucestershire's Naomi Wordley meets Sean Thompson

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Barking

Despite the antisocial 6am start, the dogs were keen to go, expressing their excitement in typical fashion - barking a lot.

During a race they can reach speeds of up to 20mph, and the sport requires not only considerable bravery but a high level of fitness.

"When you reach a steep uphill section you need to get off and give the dogs a hand," said Sean.

He explained that there is also the risk of falling off or the dogs becoming tangled, so racers need to be physically tough.

LEARN TO SPEAK HUSKY

Gee - Right
Haw - Left
Hike - Let's go!

Mush

Nicky Hutchinson, Simon's friend and fellow husky owner (she has eight) came along to lend a hand.

As Sean and team set off on a 2.5km circuit through the Forest, she discussed the practicalities of sled racing.

Nicky explained that the dogs' welfare was paramount for any good 'musher': "During the race he will be looking at their condition, how they're running, whether any of them are limping."

She maintains that most of the dogs are more than happy spend their time dragging noisy humans up steep hills: "They love it, anyone who's seen the dogs can't say that the barking is anything other than excitement.

"We do have one who's not so keen but we don't make her do it.

"Our lives revolve around them - it's very rare that we get to just go off on holiday."

Commitment

With this level of commitment required, it seems unlikely that husky racing will be the nation's next big hobby craze.

But when Sean and the team emerge breathless from the woods, his pleasure is evident.

"That," he panted, "was a really good session."

While pleased with his team's progress, Sean is realistic in his expectations of the Aveimore event.

"'I'm not hopeful of doing extremely well in terms of results," he said, "I just hope that the dogs run to their potential, (if) they do that then I'm happy really.

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