TREC arrived in the UK in 1998 when it was added to the British Horse Society's family of recognised equestrian activities. The sport is developed from the expertise required of both horse and rider whilst out hacking or trail riding and is designed to test the ability of the rider to; navigate and map-read effectively, keep control of the horse's paces and the ability of horse and rider to negotiate a variety of obstacles.
Combinations are tested over three distinct phases: orienteering (POR), control of paces (CoP) and cross-country/obstacle course (PTV). There are four levels of competition designed to cater for beginners through to those riding at international level. The terrain and weather conditions at each event venue dictate the levels to be run and also determine the difficulty of the POR course. The BHS runs two leagues; the BHS TREC League which runs from March to October, and the Kelly Marks Perfect Partners Winter Series which runs from October through to March.
Origins of the sport
TREC began in France as a response to demand from the equestrian tourist industry as a way of testing the competence of equestrian tour guides. It quickly grew in popularity and soon accommodated all levels of rider before spreading internationally under its French name: Technique de Randonee Equestre de Competition (TREC).
Level One is suitable for beginners although basic map reading skills such as recognising roads, rivers, woods and field boundaries are required. The POR course is up to 10km long. Riders would expect to be out for around two to three hours.
Level Two is still suitable for novices but does demand slightly more map reading skills, for example being able to distinguish between different types of woodland and a basic understanding of contours. The POR route can be up to 20km long and takes at least three hours to complete and the PTV course can include obstacles up to 70cm (2'4") in height.
Level Three is still suitable for more experienced riders and may include sections using grid references or bearings where you may not be permitted to use a map. The POR route can be up to 30km long.
Level Four tests the fitness of horse and rider in addition to the ability to navigate unfamiliar terrain accurately over a sustained period of time. The POR phase generally lasts for five to seven hours and runs over a course up to 40km long. The PTV course will include jumps up to 90cm (3') in height with a variety of obstacles and a time limit.
Phase One: Parcours d'Orientation et de Regularite (POR)
Riders are required to follow a preset route which they first trace onto a map. Most of this phase undertaken at walk and trot, depending on the level at which you are competing. Riders begin with 240 points and the aim is to complete the phase without losing points to penalties.
Points can be lost in a variety of ways. Missing a checkpoint, arriving at a checkpoint by the wrong route, finding a checkpoint not on the prescribed route or opening the map during the bearings section where maps are not permitted.
Phase Two: Matrisse des Allures or Control of Paces (CoP)
This phase is designed to show that a rider can control his horse in canter then in walk as they follow a marked course up to 150 metres long and two to four metres wide.
The Control of Paces (CoP) is designed to demonstrate that the rider can exercise a high degree of influence over the horse first in canter, then in walk following a marked course of up to 150 metres long and between two to four metres wide. The object of the exercise is to canter along the marked course as slowly as possible without breaking. The rider then turns around and walks the back along the course as quickly as possible, again without breaking. Points are awarded for the speed of the canter and walk (regardless of the correctness of the sequence of footfalls, which as a dressage judge I find totally bizarre!), and penalties can incurred for a hoof being placed outside the marked course or the canter or walk being broken.
Phase Three: Parcours en Terrain Varie (PTV)
The PTV course is comprised of up to 16 natural or stimulated obstacles. Steps, water, jumps, and ditches may all be included and there will be some tasks required which must be performed dismounted.
There are up to 10 points available for each obstacle awarded for the rider's effectiveness and style and penalties which are deducted for carelessness, brutality (!), dangerous riding and excess time taken to complete the phase.
The time limit is set by the Technical Delegate and is determined by the level of the class, terrain, weather conditions, length of the course and the obstacles.
There are also veterinary inspections at intervals to ensure that each horse if fit to compete.
It certainly sounds like something different to try although I don't think my map reading skills are quite up to the task. I wonder if you're allowed a SatNav!
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