Arundel agility dog handler Ashley Carter is back on top form after major heart surgery.
She has qualified for the prestigious Kennel Club Olympia Agility Stakes finals in London, starting on Thursday, and will compete in the large novice competition with three-year-old border collie Epic.
Also qualifying for the finals was Millie Clark from Littlehampton, who will compete in the large novice competition with her three-year-old border collie and Jack Russell cross Herbie.
Ashley had heart surgery last winter and made her agility comeback this summer, after a lengthy period of recovery.
She had been competing in agility for nine years but was diagnosed with a hole in her heart last August, then told the devastating news that she had a huge mass which could not be removed until she had surgery on her heart.
With heart surgery in December and an operation to remove the mass in March, Ashley had to rely on friends running Epic to keep up his training and fitness while she was recovering. They were back training together in May and qualified for Olympia two months later.
Ashley said: “It has been an ultimate goal to qualify for Olympia as I have had some serious health problems to overcome. So to have got to grade seven and qualified for Olympia has been amazing and I can’t wait to compete.”
Millie has been competing in agility for four years and Herbie is her second agility dog. Since starting, she has qualified for Crufts once, as well as the large novice competition twice with her older dog Dexter.
She said: “I’m feeling more nervous than ever before as the standard of dogs in the novice is higher than I have ever seen it, and Herbie has been off agility for three months due to injury.
“Despite the lack of preparation compared with fellow competitors I’m absolutely buzzing to run with my best friend with thousands of people to cheer us on.”
The country’s most talented agility dogs and handlers competed in qualifying heats at agility shows across the country to gain places in the finals, which take place from Thursday to next Monday as part of the London International Horse Show.
Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club secretary, said: “Olympia is a big highlight in the agility calendar. The standards continue to grow and this year is no exception.
“We are looking forward to watching all those talented dogs and their handlers in action, with such a fantastic atmosphere it’s certainly not one to miss.”
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