The (Rye) Grand National

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Dogs can be fun - as in the Rye version of the Grand National - with dogs on leads, over fences, but the owners on foot.

Runaways, refusals and flouting the rules was clearly the order of the day for the Grand National at the Rye Show on Saturday (August 16). The rules were simple: both dog and human must jump the fences – and, no, the owner cannot carry the dog or viceversa.

Missing a fence by being pushed out at the sides means elimination, shouted the race official David Rhys-Jones through his loud hailer. Intent on a fair contest – or more likely on creating chaos – he advised all contestants to aim for the centre. And if this should lead to a bit of a scrap, he shouted, and you find yourself bleeding profusely or, worse still, missing a limb, remember it’s only a flesh wound!

And they’re off. Impatient dogs tore free and dashed up the field missing all the jumps and being chased by owners who were laughing so much they could barely run; others spun round after jumping a fence to have another go backwards, dragging their owners off balance and barging into those behind them. Many strayed out of their “lane” and tripped up those next to them – deliberately or not has yet to be investigated; others tentatively crawled over – dogs and owners – holding up those trying to leap past.

Dogs of a particularly diminutive stature decided very sensibly that it was plain stupid to jump into the unknown over a fence they couldn’t see over and dug their heels in every time. Then there were the few who managed, somehow, to jump all the fences, avoid all the unofficial obstacles and get a clear round.

The course looked deceptively easy to us spectators, one contestant told me. The fences weren’t high but they were unexpectedly deep and  it took quite a stretch to clear them. Short legs were a distinct disadvantage – two legs or four – she said, and wearing a skirt didn‘t help. She knows better for next year – and her puppy will have longer legs by then even if she hasn’t.

Who won? No one seems to know!

Photos: Jane and Tony Nunn