Thursday, 23 July 2015 15:10

Man Battles Through Painful Uncommon Neurological Disorder To Compete At World’s Largest Agility Event

Mark Leybourne from Darlington, County Durham has been helped through his battle with Parsonage Turner Syndrome thanks to his love of agility and his dog Ems, a Working Sheepdog.

Mark and Ems will compete in the Kennel Club International Agility Festival for the first time this year in Rockingham, Market Harborough.

Mark, aged 50, suffered a rapid onset of severe pain in the shoulder in March 2014 and it was diagnosed shortly after as Parsonage Turner Syndrome, otherwise known as brachial neuritis.

The exact cause of Parsonage Turner Syndrome is unknown, but it is believed to be caused by an abnormality of the immune system. Mark explained: “I found myself at the mercy of Parsonage Turner Syndrome in March 2014, the most painful week of my life.  A virus decided to nibble away at my nervous system taking out my right shoulder. I couldn't drive, ride my mountain bike or generally get about. The pain could last for a few hours to a few weeks and is followed by wasting and weakness of the muscles in the affected area.”

Shortly after his diagnosis, Mark met his partner Joanne, who Mark believes was his saviour, running around after him and introducing him to her dogs and agility.

Mark continued: “When I met Joanne, Ems was naughty and, at six years old, Joanne had decided agility wasn’t for her. I started training with Ems with my arm strapped up. It was great to get out and be able to exercise and build up a great relationship with Ems. I love agility and I’m really looking to competing at the International Agility Festival this year.”

After training in agility for almost 12 months, Mark had test results in December 2014 that showed the nervous system had started to repair, and he is slowly on the road to recovery.

Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary said: “Mark’s story highlights the range of benefits of having a hobby such as agility. Not only is it good for your dog to keep active but also it improves mobility of the owner.

“The International Agility Festival is the largest agility festival in the world. Anyone can enter their dog in the show and it’s a fantastic event for both competitors and spectators alike. We wish Mark all the best for the festival.”

The International Agility Festival will be held at Rockingham Castle in Rockingham, from Thursday 13th August until Sunday 16th August. More than 2,700 dogs of all types, sizes and experience levels will compete across 16 agility rings, with dogs jumping and weaving their way around the various courses. For more information on the festival, visit

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