What is TREC?

TREC is a sport intended to test the skills of a horse and rider in planning and executing a long distance ride in unfamiliar country. It originated in France as a way of testing and improving the skills of trail ride leaders, and was introduced into the UK in the early 1990s.

TREC is a great sport that any horse /pony and rider can enjoy. There is the chance to improve and Championships to aim for if you want to, or you can just enjoy exploring the countryside with your trusty steed (and a friend as well if you want to, in a pairs class).

TREC events are run all year but in different formats in the summer and winter. Full TREC’s are run during the summer months with up to 4 different levels competing, usually over a weekend.

TREC is a great way to get away with your horse, most events have a social evening too, good for picking up tips from the more experienced (and hopefully inside if wet).

TREC is a three phase competition. The phases can be run in any order but generally in a 2 day competition the orienteering ride (known as the POR, which is the abbreviation of its full name in French) is run on the first day with the other 2 phases being run on the second day. 

Level 1 competitions, which are the entry level, are often run over one day with the other levels mostly being run over the whole weekend. The higher levels involve longer and more complicated POR courses and often harder PTV and MA courses too. A level 1 POR is 10-15km long, which is about 6-9 miles, and takes most horses and riders about 2 hours to complete.

Arena TREC events are run during the winter months in an arena, which can be indoors or outdoors, with no ride or POR, just a shortened course of obstacles (also known as PTV) and Control of Paces (MA).

The best thing about TREC is that you can have fun with friends and your horse whatever your skills. The fun goes on all day, you have many opportunities to do well and a good level of all round performance is rewarded.

A level 3 competitor at the GB championships on the PTV step down, you can see the level 2 obstacle adjacent. Level 1 competitors are never required to jump or step more than 60cm.

So, a few more details about the phases, firstly for summer competitions. For the POR, the organiser will set the route and the pace or speed that you should go.

After having your kit checked you will go into the Map Room where there will be tables laid out with a master map and a blank map. You then need to copy the route from the master map onto your blank one. There is a time limit but it is generous at level one. 

When your time is up you will leave the map room with a score card and your marked map, the stewards will tell you what speed you will need to start at and show you what the tickets look like.

You then mount up and set off following your map.  This can be a tricky part as sometimes getting yourself oriented is a challenge in itself.

Once you get going, you will need to follow the map as accurately as possible at the set speed to gain full marks.

On the correct route, there may be manned or unmanned tickets for you to find. These are often letters or numbers or alternatively kites with clip markers on them that you should mark on your card when you discover them, but be sure that you are on the right route as it is possible to pick up a bad ticket.

When you start TREC at level 1, I would suggest not worrying about the timing too much. If you ride the route at the speed that the terrain dictates, you won't be far wrong. When you are confident with following the map, then is the time to start trying to time and speed check. 

The routes vary in length from 10km for level 1 -40km for level 4 and riders lose points (from a maximum of 240) for

A group of competitors return from the POR finish to the venue (no doubt discussing what they got right and what they got wrong)

using an incorrect route or being too fast or too slow. At the higher levels riders may be asked to navigate using grid references or compass bearings only.

The next phase is usually the MA or Control of Paces which is ridden in a corridor up to 150m long. You have to canter down it as slowly as possible then turn around and walk back as fast as possible without leaving the corridor or breaking pace. Points (out of a maximum of 60) are determined by the time taken for each pace.

The last phase is the PTV which is basically an obstacle or handy pony course with 16 obstacles placed over a field or two if space is available. The PTV course can be up to 5kms long, though it is usually much shorter.

There is a maximum time to do the course in and it is timed from start to finish. Going over the time will incur time penalties.

Obstacles may be required to be completed ridden or led, and include things like riding through water, opening and closing a gate, jumping a small fence and riding or leading up or down a slope, over a bank or through a dip.

Each obstacle is worth up to 10 points. It is marked by positive scoring so you are allowed to miss out obstacles if they don’t suit you, but you must stop and let the judge know you don’t want to do that one.

It is lots of fun and also gives you something to work on when you go home. There are 36 obstacles in the Rulebook though organisers do sometimes make up obstacles to suit their terrain as well. The scoring guidelines for all obstacles will always be publicised in advance so that you know how to get 10 out of 10!

At the end of the competition the points gained in each phase by each rider or pair are totaled, and the highest total wins.

Arena TREC competitions are very similar but only have 10 obstacles in the PTV. The MA course is often much shorter too, typically 75-90m (depending on the size of the arena being used). The range of PTV obstacles is smaller as they all have to be able to be built in an arena, but the course will usually give a good flavor of the types of things you could meet in a full TREC.

TREC competitors enter as pairs or individuals, but you will often meet other competitors en route

Different competitions offer different sorts of classes and, unlike summer TRECs, there is the opportunity to do several rounds in a day if you want to so you can have a good practice of the different tasks you and your horse are being asked to do.

Like in the summer competitions, your points for the MA and PTV are added up and the highest total wins.  

Thanks to Dani Glaister for this article


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