Success for Reston dog handler at World Open

Heather McLean with her dogs, l-r, Race, Bud, Mooie and Blaze.
Heather McLean with her dogs, l-r, Race, Bud, Mooie and Blaze.

A RESTON woman and her dogs were in medal-winning form at the first World Agility Open championships last month.

Going head-to-head with some of the best handlers and dogs in the world, including national and international champions, Heather McLean - and her dogs Chance and Bud - were part of the Scotland team who bagged a bronze medal at the inaugural event.

And Heather and her Jack Russell Bud also won a bronze medal in their own right at the prestigious championships, in the Individual Agility Pentathlon.

“It was great to win a medal,” Heather told The Berwickshire News. “Scotland did very well as a team too, and I think we could have done even better with some different choices for the final round.”

Over 200 competitors from 18 different countries battled it out in the first World Agility Open Championships (WAO), which were held from May 13-15, at the Hand Equestrian Centre, Clevedon.

The event featured individual and team competitions, and included a variety of classes.

Heather and Bud impressed judges Andy Hudson of England, Dave Grubel of the USA, and Mia Laamanen of Finland to earn third place in the individual agility pentathlon which consisted of two Agility rounds, two rounds of Jumping, and one round of Speedstakes.

The combined results from these classes determined the Individual Agility Pentathlon World Champion in each jump height.

Heather’s four-year-old Border Collie Chance, better known at home as Mooie, also competed at the championships, coming an impressive second in the agility round of the Biathalon event, and finishing in seventh place overall.

Heather explained that her love for working with dogs is in the genes.

“My older dog Blaze is a descendent of my grandad’s dog, and my grandad was on the first ever ‘Man and his Dog’ with his collies, so it runs in the family!” she said.

“I’ve done it for years and years - between working and my dogs it’s pretty much my life! We’re constantly up and down the country.

“I absolutely love it, though it gets to the stage where you can do with a weekend off!

“You have to put a lot of time into training, then it comes down to the bond between you and your dog, and how much experience the dogs have,” Heather explained.

“The older they get, the less training they need, though I try to keep them jump fit.”

As well as Blaze, Bud, and Chance, Heather also has young border collie Race, who, at just two years old, is making waves in the agility world, having recently qualified for the Olympia Novice semi finals and the Highland Novice final.

“It’s hard dividing the time between four dogs,” admitted Heather, “but I just train each as and when they need it. It’s just repetition, repetition, repetition.

“I tend to put more work into the younger ones, or the ones who are to compete in Europe, because the European courses are slightly different to the British courses.”

With the World Championships now behind her, Heather still has a busy season ahead. She is the only Scottish handler to have qualified to compete for Great Britian in the forthcoming European Open Championships, which will take place in Austria next month.

“Chance has qualified again this year to represent Britain in the European Open Championships, and she has also recently qualified for the Championship class at Crufts for 2012,” she said. “She’s a phenominal dog for her age.”