Recently myself and Darielle did a Try TREC Day at Darielle’s yard. For those who don’t know what TREC is, check out Darielle’s post from her first TREC experience where she gives a brief overview of what it’s all about. The TREC Ireland website has even more information for those who want to learn more and see how they can take part.
If you’ve got a young horse and are looking for a way of getting them out and trying new things without the stress or pressure of a competitive environment, I couldn’t recommend a Try TREC Day more. This was such a great experience for both myself and Coco. I had never done TREC before so it was the perfect introduction to a sport I knew nothing about. And Coco had never really done anything like this before so it was great for her to be faced with new challenges.
For Dante, as we have already done TREC before this day was more about pushing him a little further and learning more of the rules so we could continue to enter more competitions. He placed 3rd in the last one he done, with that result it was a shame to not do it again!
The day started early enough and it was absolutely boiling hot! (like 27 degrees or something ). Don’t worry, everyone wore sun -ream including the horses! We were split into groups with Coco being assigned to the beginners group and Dante with a group who had done a TREC event before.
There were 2 Different areas set up for the day – the arena and the field. Coco started in the arena and Dante started in the field.
The Arena – PTV (Parcours en Terrain Varie) Obstacles / Cross-Country Phase
Here there were a number of different obstacles set up throughout the arena, all being different challenges one might face during an actual TREC event. We started off on the ground and did some in-hand obstacles first, the S-Bend and the Corridor.
The objective of the S-Bend and the corridor is to guide your horse between the poles without knocking or stepping outside of the poles. This is much easier said than done in the S-Bend but the key is to walk right into the corner to ensure you use all the space you have, the S bend stays the same width no matter the size of your horse!
Tip: When leading your horse in TREC you must hold your leadrope/reins behind your back with your horse following directly behind you. Look up where you’re going and your horse should follow.
Next we mounted up and tried both obstacles ridden and then moved onto some other obstacles.
One-handed Figure of 8 – Pretty self explanatory, you must manoeuvre your horse around 3 barrels using just one hand on the reins. This is a paced obstacle meaning the higher the gait you do it in, the more points you can earn.
Mounted Immobility – you bring your horse into a circle and make them halt. Then you drop your reins and hold your hands out and count to 10, all without your horse moving outside of the circle.
Low Branches – another paced obstacle, here you must ride your horse underneath a low branch (stick on pegs in this case) without knocking it, this is a good test towards you & your horses trust, you really have to get down low on their necks.
With Dante in the arena I could feel that his attention span was completely gone! Luckily the arena is an enclosed space, so he had no way of bulldozing off! We started of as a group on horseback walking through the ridden corridors, moving onto the one handed figure of 8, we done this separately. He really began to get adjatated waiting, and when it was our turn, anytime he would turn into the group or face the group he would try to walk and sway over near them, he eventually got it but started to act the same way doing the S bend. His focus was completely gone, until we moved on to the low branches! We had only ever done this in walk before, I kind of had a fear that he would try to jump it at any other pace, but I am glad to say that we rode it in canter! It was great to leave the arena on a good note considering his tantrums were beginning to crawl back in before we broke for lunch, giving him zero chance to act out!!
Next we moved out to the field where there were a number of other obstacles laid out. When we got out here Coco started to act up a bit. The open space kind of blew her head so she picked up the pace and became quite mare-ish by kicking out at the horses she was napping towards (I don’t really understand her logic). So I kept her moving and worked her away from the other horses which she did happily enough (surprisingly)!
Dante on the other hand, surprisingly he was very relaxed (for once!!) He was used to the environment he was in and was used to the two other horses in his group, with the experience of the TREC day he had done recently he took everything in his stride! He walked when he was asked and trotted when he was asked, no hesitations! The only down fall with Dante was the mounting & dismounting, it is not his strong point. With a lot of stopping and starting I could feel him beginning to get slightly fed up waiting, but at the end of the day he has to learn his place!
A lot of the obstacles we faced out here are quite self explanatory but I will let the pictures describe themselves. The one thing I will explain however is the MA Corridor. This was quite an interesting challenge. MA in TREC stands for Maitrise des Allures or Control of Paces. Here you must canter down a 150m corridor as slowly as you can and then walk back as fast as you can.
Coco was surprisingly good at this (once she got over spooking at a chair, the starting flags, a log and a jeep). Her canter gets very short and choppy when she’s excited so she barely moves when she’s like this and she’s so keen to go fast that she bombs around in her walk so we got one of the best scores of the day on this one!
Dante on the other hand, well he walks like a snail, it felt like it took us an hour to walk down the corridor! Not exactly helping in the points department, his cantering on the other hand is good, on approach to the corridor you are only allowed to circle a maximum of 3 times before entering, this helped us a lot to get a good rhythm, a few extra circles would of helped not going to lie!! Like Coco he had a few looks at the beginning, there were two flag posts at the start of the corridor that he was not familiar with so a lot of leg was needed to get him through! It is harder than you think keeping them cantering at a controlled pace and also having to keep them in between the corridor which is no more than a metre in width!!
Ridden Footbridge In-Hand Decline Ridden Step-Up
Slalom Mounting Ridden Drop
Here you’re given a map with a set route to follow. There are a number of checkpoints along the route with a certain speed required between each check point. You don’t know how many checkpoints there may be or where they will be so you really need to follow your map. For this we had to go out onto the roads. We were all paired off and thankfully myself and Coco were paired with a bombproof horse who could take the lead as we haven’t done much (successful) roadwork.
Darielle and Dante went out last, and OMG he really surprised me out on the roads!! He has done a good bit of hacking recently, but with him always in behind a lead horse his new found confidence kind of shocked me! He was paired up with a horse, that was used to hacking but was quite spooky, Dante paid no attention to anything without any hesitation he would give the other horse a lead, which was amazing as he tends to be a sheep and copy other horses! Likewise when I felt Dante getting unsure of things the other horse would lead out in front there were the perfect pair!
The route was supposed to be done in about an hour however unfortunately myself and Coco missed a turn and ended up about 50 minutes off course. We did manage to find our way back but we ended up being the last ones in and I finished the day with a numb arse and a fed up Coco.
Tip: Know your rules of the road and your hand signals. You never know what you could face when you’re out on the roads. And wear as much Hi-Vis as possible. Better safe than sorry!
Despite getting lost towards the end, it was a great day that I was delighted to have brought Coco to. I was quite apprehensive about it at first as I wasn’t sure how Coco would behave. Of course we had a few… ok a lot of baby moments but in the end she did everything I asked of her so I couldn’t have asked for any more than that.
With Dante, I constantly continue to learn more about him when we do things together! As relaxed as he was through out the day, he needs to be constantly moving or on the go. All the stopping and starting was fine in the field but when we moved into the arena he started to throw a few tantrums and began to get fed up. Despite this he was amazing!! As for the POR, I cant wait to practise doing more of this especially using a stopwatch!!
What did Orla learn:
I have learned that I need to keep pushing Coco and myself to get out and try more things and I also need to give her more credit. While she may start kicking up a fuss, so long as I stay calm and keep her moving forward she eventually gets to where I need her to be. It’s all just learning experiences at the moment and I’m enjoying every minute of it.
What did Darielle learn:
Trust Dante more! I need to start pushing him on a bit further and not assume he will have a tantrum. For my next TREC competition I am going to start doing a lot of the obstacles in trot, he is well capable! Its a constant learning curve with him and the more we do together the more we really begin to trust each other and click as a team! Once Dante does something good, I do need to start giving him credit where credit is due.
So have we convinced you to give TREC a go? You may find its not really your thing but its amazing how much you’ll learn about your horse in these types of environments so it’s definitely worth a go if you get the opportunity.
Please be sure to leave a comment if you have any questions or if you have any interesting stories from your own TREC experience!
Orla & Darielle