Riders put through their paces at TREC event

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By Elanor McNamara

The Arran Riding Club held their third annual Techniques de Randonnée Équestre de Compétition (TREC) competition last weekend.  TREC is the result of French trail riding exam candidates enjoying their tests so much that they wanted to do it all again.  This year is the 20th anniversary of the challenge making its way to Britain.

The competition has three parts, all designed to test the competence of riders and their horses to lead people riding in the outdoors. To do well, horses and riders must be versatile and calm in the face of a challenge.

The orienteering phase tests the riders’ navigation and their ability to judge speed.  The routes are as off road as possible and get more adventurous as you go up the levels, and might well include fords, high bridges, soft ground, rocky ground, narrow paths and riding at night.

The second phase is called the ‘control of paces’ and sounds easy – riders canter as slowly as possible and walk as fast as possible along a 100-150m marked out corridor on grass. Its far from being easy in practice.  Cantering slowly requires quite an advanced level of schooling where the horse has learned to carry itself in a collected way, like an advanced dressage horse.  Its also difficult to achieve your horse’s best free walk in test conditions, especially as items like road signs are often left along the corridor making it harder to keep the horse straight, and all points are lost if the horse steps out of the corridor.  You also lose all points if you break pace into trot in either direction.

The final phase is usually set on a cross country course, using the natural jumps like ditches, steps up and down, logs and hedges, with extra challenges added in.  There is a long list of obstacles for organisers to chose from including staircases, footbridges, gates to open, low branches, narrow corridors, fords, and moving sideways and backwards, too.  Everything has to be performed in good style, with penalties being incurred for growling at your horse, or using a whip, for example.  Taken together the whole thing is a great test of your partnership with your horse, your trust in each other, and your ability as a horseman. Its also great fun.

This year’s competition was held at Glenkiln, making good use of the undulating field in front of the farm. Many thanks to Eleanor and Kenny for hosting, and for all the good natured competitors who came along, making for a good day.

Special mention to Vicki Yuill and Velvet, who had the best walk; Alison Currie and Tia, who had the best canter, and Lois Ashley on Kippen and Clair Hendry on Colin, who had the highest scoring rounds on the cross country course.  Everyone chose to ride as a pair, and the way the scoring works is that each partner’s control of paces and cross country scores are added together, with penalties incurred on the orienteering taken off.  This year Laura Tulloch on Gem and Daisy McNamara on Toby came out on top, having made a big effort to be very accurate on the orienteering course, and with consistent performances in the other phases.  Second were last year’s winners – Alison Currie on Tia and Rona Fulton on Ricky.  Third were Clair Hendry on Colin and Hollie Adamson on Lexus, and fourth were Vicki Yuill on Velvet and Kirsty Morrison on Pearl.

Competitors watch Clair Hendry starting out on the obstacle course. No_B37TREC01

Kirsty Morrison and Pearl, and Vicki Yuill and Velvet approach a checkpoint on the orienteering phase. No_B37TREC02

Alison Currie and Rona Fulton on Tia and Ricky in the forest. No_B37TREC03

Clair Hendry on Colin and Hollie Adamson on Lexus approach the end of the orienteering. No_B37TREC04

Laura Tulloch and Daisy McNamara on the orienteering course. No_B37TREC05