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TREC – a little known equestrian sport

TREC is an international sport which tests the skills, confidence and abilities of horses and riders over a variety of terrain and obstacles. It is suitable for all types, ages and abilities of horses and riders.

There are three phases which have a language all of their own. PTV phase involves a test of skill, negotiating 16 various obstacles both ridden and leading the horse. MA is the name given to assessment of control of paces measured by the time taken to walk as fast as possible and canter as slowly as possible over a set distance. The third phase, POR, is orienteering, in which participants use their map reading skills to find their way around a 12-40km pre-determined course at set speeds.

The challenges become increasingly more complex, and the distances ridden are increased as riders become more experienced and progress up through TREC’s four levels of competition.

Where did TREC originate?

TREC originated in France and TREC stands for Technique de Randonnnee Equestre de Competition. It was originally designed to test the competence of professional trekking guides. However, it became popular with others and was developed into a sport which caters for a very wide range of riders. It quickly spread throughout Europe and more recently as far as the US and China.

What does competition involve?

A number of TREC training events are arranged by seven different local groups during the year all over Ireland, North and South. TREC Ireland is the cross-border governing body of all these affiliated groups and sets the rules and organises at least one National Championship in the summer.

Local training events are a great introduction to the sport. The usual starting point is PTV. Obstacles can be set up indoors or outdoors to replicate many of the natural features which a rider might encounter when riding through the countryside eg riding under low branches, opening gates, riding over bridges and banks, passing through narrow or twisty spaces, jumping logs or riding through water.

Up to 10 points are awarded on successful completion of each obstacle and points may increase as the pace is increased from walk to trot or canter or in the manner in which the obstacle is completed.

One of the unique features about TREC is that if a rider does not want to tackle any of the obstacles they can indicate this to the judge and pass on to the next obstacle. Although they do not score any points for that obstacle they are not eliminated or penalised in any other way.

What is the best thing about TREC?

TREC is great craic. There is no pressure when competing. Riders can be competitive with one another, set their own goals or just enjoy participating. The organisers and fellow competitors are very supportive. Strictly humane treatment of horses and sportsmanlike conduct of riders is firmly embedded in the ethos, organising and rules of TREC.

Initially, the PTV obstacles may seem to be simple challenges. However, clever course builders utilise the natural terrain to increase the level of difficulty. It is also a real test of horsemanship to maintain effective control of pace, direction and way of going through many of the obstacles in order to maximise the points available.

The control of pace in the MA phase is a good test of the responsiveness of the horse to the rider and the degree of schooling.

The orienteering POR phase brings the opportunity to ride through the countryside. Depending on the map reading skills the distance ridden could become longer than anticipated! However, at the lower levels this phase is usually completed in pairs, which may of course open the chance of double map reading errors! Rescue by horsebox is always available from the organiser, in case either horses or riders have had enough for the day.

TREC in NI

In NI there are two local TREC groups, which are affiliated to TREC Ireland. Recently Sperrin TREC held a PTV competition and training event outside Desertmartin. The weather was good and there were lovely views from the venue across to Slieve Gallion.

The course, about 2km long, was very interesting, built on sloping ground and incorporated narrow corridors, bridges, road and water crossing, a bank to jump off, a gate to be opened and closed and S bends to manoeuvre through.

The event attracted first timers, young horses and others with more experience. Everyone encountered some challenges. After the competition a written scoresheet and positive feedback was offered and competitors had the chance to go back out onto the course to renegotiate an obstacle which had left room for improvement.

First time competitor at Sperrin Trec, Charlotte Moore with her Irish Draught mare, said: “This was a really friendly event, which provided plenty of challenges. Covid requirements out of the way, the course walk was a great time to meet other participants and to learn how best to tackle the obstacles.

“Putting that theory into practice did not always go as planned! Everyone was very helpful and the feedback, both from the written score sheet and also from the course designer was really helpful. Trec has opened up another way to enjoy equestrian sport and I look forward to the next event.”

Participation

TREC is a great way to enjoy equestrian activity. There are opportunities to participate all over Ireland. Anyone interested in getting involved is welcome to contact the local groups to find out more or TREC Ireland to locate your local group. Find more information about the sport at www.TRECIreland.com or search TREC Ireland, Sperrin TREC, or TREC North on Facebook for upcoming events in Northern Ireland.

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