DOG owner, Jo Wormald, has become the first person from the Yorkshire region to be selected for Team GB in dryland mushing classes at both the European Championships in Belgium and the World Championships in Sweden.

Both competitions take place in October and Jo says she is ‘ridiculously excited’.

Brought up in Ben Rhydding Drive, Ilkley, before moving to the town centre, and then to Skipton nine years ago, Jo, a dog trainer, has competed very successfully with her dogs in agility for many years, but switched to harness sports when rescue dog Dan, an Ibizan Hound from Spain, decided he didn’t really like agility very much.

“Dan was a young, high energy dog with a need to run, but because I couldn’t let him off-lead due to his fondness for playing with sheep, I had to start running too,” she explained.

“I quickly discovered canicross – which is dogpower assisted cross country running – but unfortunately as a really hopeless runner it wasn’t really my forte.

“I then borrowed a scooter which was specifically designed for dogs to pull, from a friend, and it all snowballed from there.”

Dryland mushing is derived from sled dog racing, using bikes, scooters or three wheel rigs rather than sleds, and in the UK sprint distances of about 5km are the most common, partly due to climate and partly due to space availability for trails.

She added: “Dryland mushing and canicross are rapidly growing sports, particularly canicross which is incredibly accessible for anyone with a pair of trainers and a pet dog.”

Currently she is ranked 4th in the UK in the two-dog scooter class.

She will be travelling to Chevetogne, Belgium, and then on to Nybro, Sweden, with her small team of rescue dogs, Ibizan hounds Dan and Cordelia, trail hounds Melody and Mischief, and Flea the tiny collie.

Jo is also the founder of the local group Running Riot Canicross Skipton, which organises the area’s only annual canicross race for dog assisted runners, in aid of Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice, and which is a hugely popular event.

“Being selected for Team GB and being given the opportunity to race abroad is a huge honour, and very, very exciting.

“There is lots of work to be done on both mine and the dogs’ fitness before October and we are all working hard.

“I am incredibly privileged to have the support of Stuart Rider, of Rider Cycle Centre in Skipton who has been amazingly generous in his efforts to keep my scooter in tip top race condition, and I’m also very proud to announce that Cobbydog have recently offered to sponsor my dogs’ food.

“It’s fantastic to have their support and experience behind me, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing my dogs flourish on their new diet.”

Jo, 48, who was a horse rider and eventer until a back injury forced her to give up riding, says her own fitness regime involves running and strength training which will help her control the dogs while they are speeding along at around 28 or 29 mph.

But the sport is not without its dangers.

“It is off road, on rough tracks through forestry and on uneven terrain and can be quite hairy going at times,” she said.

“I’ve had a few spills. There was one occasion in Pembrey where I was out on a scooter with two dogs and I saw a loose dog ahead.

“I was concentrating so much and trying to keep an eye on the loose dog that I hadn’t realised there was a sharp left turn on the track which my dogs, rightly, followed. I ended up missing the turn and instead crashed into a tree and smashed up my brakes.

“I had to compete the next day with no brakes. Fortunately I hadn’t done any great damage to myself,” she said.

Jo says her work as a dog trainer has allowed her to be flexible in training and entering the competitions over the past five years she has been involved.

Her selection into the Team GB squad came after gaining national ranking after competitions in Wales, Norfolk and Scotland.

“I am very excited to be part of Team GB and am looking forward to competing at championships.

“It is a relatively little known sport but is growing in popularity and is immensely enjoyable both for me and my dogs.”