Hartpury University student Vickie Pullin and her award-winning team of sled dogs are aiming to become champions of the world.
Vickie, who is studying a Masters in Research in Anthrozoology at Hartpury, is representing Great Britain in the International Federation of Sled Dog Sports (IFSS) World Championships 2019 this weekend in Sweden.
She feels fitter and stronger than ever for the showpiece competition after undergoing specialist training at Hartpury’s new state-of-the-art Sports Academy.
Sled dog racing involves the timed competition of teams of dogs pulling a sled, with the dog driver, or musher, who needs to have all-round strength and cardiovascular endurance, offering encouragement and issuing instructions.
“I’m aiming for gold in Sweden, and it’s definitely a possibility,” said Vickie, who is already ranked in the top three in the world.
“The training that I’m receiving at Hartpury – I’ve been blown away by the facilities there – is on another level to anything that I have done before.
“It’s been great working with strength and conditioning coach Lee Douglas at Hartpury to help improve my strength, endurance and flexibility and I’ve already seen the benefits.
“My cycle coach Nick Yarworth has also provided me with amazing support, training and advice to make sure I’m in the best possible shape – he and Lee are my A-team!”
Vickie, who lives in Tewkesbury, added: “To have access to such fantastic facilities on my doorstep at Hartpury and the opportunity to work with its teams of experts, alongside studying for my Masters, is absolutely amazing for me.
“Personally I’m in a great place – the best place I’ve ever been – and we’re taking a strong team of dogs with us to Sweden, so we’ll give it our best shot and see what happens.”
Devoted to her dogs, Vickie is excited about the positive impact that Hartpury, which has a wide range of world-class research facilities, could have on the canine world.
Recently, it announced a new partnership with the Great Britain dog agility team, which will see a collaborative approach to research in canine activities.
“I think it’s great what Hartpury is doing in terms of research,” said Vickie. “I’m looking forward to building upon the work it’s done with horses and seeing how this could be replicated in the canine world, which is such an untapped area of study.
“We could look at various areas in more detail, such as gait analysis, heart rate, recovery time and nutrition, to further enhance the wellbeing of the dogs.
“It’s potentially game-changing in our sport. We’re looking to do things with our dogs that no one else in the world has done – that is really exciting.”
As a mature student, Vickie is studying the Masters in Research in Anthrozoology, which explores the varied area of animal and human interaction, alongside her sports commitments as a member of Hartpury’s Sports Academy.
“The course links really well with what I do, with the relationship I have with my dogs,” she said.
“To me there’s nothing like that feeling of trust that you have with your dogs. No matter what sort of day you’ve had, a dog is never unhappy to see you. They’re a big part of my family.
“Win or lose, the dogs come first and as long as they’re happy, so am I.”
Picture: Vickie Pullin and some of her team of dogs in competition