June Jottings: Rebekah’s online TREC Challenge

As an introduction to our new TREC Taster Monthly Challenge, starting next month, its great to introduce Rebekah Spowage.   Rebekah has been a member of the UK Icelandic horse Chat group since August 2017.  Rebekah runs/manages Ingleby Hall Livery in Lincoln where our first UK young riders camp will be held in July. 

Rebekah first met Icelandic horses when she did the BHS welfare challenge ride in 2005 which was a week of riding in Iceland, going from place to place with a large herd loose and changing horses several times a day. They rode for 5-7 hours a day and by first horse change she was hooked!

Rebekah says; “I promised myself that one day I would own an Icelandic mare and my favourite partner on the challenge ride was a sweet and feisty buckskin silver dapple who also started my love of pretty colours. Buying my own sweet, feisty, silver dapple mare in September 2017 was a dream come true!

Rebekah is one of the several Icelandic horse chat group riders that have been involved in TREC.  She competed with her Irish Draft horses for many years and she has written an introduction to TREC here. 

She is happy for anyone to contact her for more information and will be running monthly online TREC challenges through Tölt.Club.  You can follow her adventures and join in on her Facebook Page. Efi’s Trec Adventures.

TREC is a sport that has been in the UK for about 25 years, having originated in France (‘Le TREC’) as a way of testing and training the skills required to be  an effective trail riding leader.

It has come a long way in this time and, thanks to its growing popularity, it separated from the BHS and a new governing body was formed in October 2014 (TREC GB) to ensure all affiliated events were run safely and consistently.

So what is TREC? In winter, when the tracks are muddy and we’d all rather be snuggled in front of a fire with a hot chocolate and not navigating fields in driving rain TREC GB and their associated groups run an indoor series which comprises of obstacles within an arena and a test of paces – you can read about Efi and my first winter indoor series on our facebook page.

In the summer months full competitions are run, generally over 2 days and at levels from 1 to 4.

There are three key components to the competition:

The first, my favourite, is the orienteering. This is accessible at Level 1 for the majority of pleasure riders, involving a lovely ride out in the countryside of around 10-15km (6-9 miles in old money.)

Before you start, you are given 10 minutes in a map room with a blank map (your copy) and a master map with the route marked on. You copy the route onto your blank one as accurately as you can, as this is what you use to find your way round. There will also be an optimum speed marked on a poster within the map room. This is what you are aiming to ride at, from setting off, until the first check point. The problem is, you don’t know where the checkpoint is until you get to it, so you use the law of averages to ‘best guess’ your speed based on the distances marked on your map and your time. For every minute over or under you are, you get 1 penalty point. This constant calculation is a dream for a maths geek like me and I get very competitive with myself!

This is my second year competing on Efi, and we just completed our first competition of the season – you can read about it here.  We came 4th and have qualified for the level one championships at the end of August – so excited!  I had a huge learning curve with Efi last year to learn her speeds given the huge range she produces in tölt. With my previous two mares, both Irish Draughts, I quickly learnt their typical walk and working trot speeds and could get very accurate timings by feel. However, if maths is not your thing, don’t let that put you off! The majority of people just enjoy navigating the route, having a couple more canters on the faster sections and a bit more walk in the slower sections and usually get good scores. Alternatively, you could pair up with a maths geek and admire the scenery while they do the work!

The second section is control of paces. What better test than to encourage your horse to walk as fast as possible without breaking pace, and to canter as slow as possible without breaking pace? The faster you walk, the more points you get (to a maximum of 30.) The reverse is true for canter – the slower, the better. The majority of people score a handful of points in both gaits. One of my Irish mares used to get a 25 at canter but nothing at all at walk and nothing could persuade her to walk faster! I anticipate Efi getting 30 points at walk very soon, if not straight away – she out walks every horse we have ever hacked with and it has a lovely, swingy quality to it! Our canter is one speed only at the moment (fast!) and liable to break over the required 150m so this is an area we can focus our schooling on once she is stronger.

Lastly, there are obstacles. In a full competition there will be 16 obstacles and all of them have a logical, trail riding link. Some are jumps, water crossings, narrow corridors, s-bends (navigating that narrow mountain path!), wooden footbridges, neck reining, rein back, ditches, opening and closing gates – the list goes on, but it’s like handy pony for adults and so much fun! The great thing is you can miss obstacles out and you simply don’t score anything for that obstacle rather than being eliminated as you would in cross country, for example. Therefore if you don’t jump (we don’t yet) or have a horse with a real water phobia for example, you can just miss it out.

We have a brilliant TREC trainer (Evie Priestly-O’Keeffe) who comes to our yard regularly and does obstacle training and a lot of not treccies find the training extremely valuable for building confidence, balance, and general life proofing! There is also quite a bit of cross over with western trail classes, horse agility and working equitation disciplines – its a bit like handy pony for grown ups! To help you get involved we are going to be holding a monthly TREC taster challenge.  For more information check out the TREC GB introduction video or the website for events and links to your local group which will host training events as well as competitions.

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