Neill hounds competition to take sledding title

Neill in action, with Rico and Logan, during the rally.'Contributed photograph
Neill in action, with Rico and Logan, during the rally.'Contributed photograph

A ST CYRUS man has proven that he is well ahead of the pack by winning an award for his first appearance at a major national sled dog competition.

Neill Davidson (24) and his two Siberian Huskies Logan and Rico competed in the 30th Arden Grange and Siberian Husky Dog of Great Britain Aviemore Sled Dog Rally 2013 over the weekend of January 26 and 27.

They were awarded the Best Newcomer trophy for finishing seventh in the run. They completed the route in a time of 21 minutes and 42 seconds.

Organised by the Siberian Husky Club of Great Britain, in conjunction with Forestry Commission Scotland, the race saw 250 drivers – known as mushers – and over 1,000 dogs compete in the event which has been held in Aviemore since 1984.

Neill, who runs his own canine services business, Pack Tracks, was delighted with the win.

He said: “I’m really proud of my dogs. We have been training really hard this season for our first Aviemore run. There were so many people there, so many distractions and factors that you can’t control, but they both did really well.”

Competitors set off at one minute intervals to complete the 4.03-mile track, which took in forest trails around Loch Morlich, most of which were covered by snow.

Neill added: “In the UK we usually run on a three-wheel rig, like a tricycle without pedals, but with all the snow that we have had we were out on the sleds all day. Even though this competition has been running for 30 years now, only a handful of events have seen snow.”

Siberian Husky Club organiser Sarah Robinson said: “Competitors come from all over the UK and range in age from just eight to over 60. Dogs and mushers have to be fit, many training all year round for this race.”

Having originally acquired Logan and Rico as pets, Neill first got into dog sledding as a way of satisfying their seemingly endless energy.

He said: “Huskies have a high prey drive, so I needed to find a way of draining that energy, without them posing a risk to themselves. People don’t always fully understand what they are taking on with dogs like these, and they find themselves overwhelmed by all the energy they have. I spent about a year riding a bike with them before going and getting a rig, so this has been my first real year of competing.”

Neill is already looking forward to the next event in which he will compete, at Culbin Forest over the weekend of February 16 and 17.