Event Showcases Growing Sport of TREC
Nine-year-old Jonathan Martin, of Vass, did it, as did 10-year-old Gracie Hall, of Aberdeen. Ten-year-old Jack Casey, of Pinehurst, did it too.
All three junior beginner riders, students of Kathleen Dickerson, plus 16 other competitors including a rider from Virginia took part in the TREC competition held locally April 24-25.
Developed in Europe, where it is called the European Trail Riding Competition, TREC encourages better horsemanship and safety on trails. TREC consists of three phases — orienteering, control of paces and gaits — along with a cross-country obstacle course. The competition takes place over two days and offers many levels, according to rider’s ability, from beginner to extreme or advanced.
The orienteering phase, which took place Saturday at Chadbourne Farm in Hoffman, challenges the horse and rider to travel by map and compass cross country. It requires the horse and rider to follow the prescribed course using a map and a compass. Unknown check points are placed on the trail, and riders must pass through them in the correct order and from the correct direction. Points are lost by traveling too fast or too slow, missing a check point or coming in from the wrong direction.
The second phase is designed to show the rider’s skill and the horse’s training. It’s called the mastery of gaits, and it consists of a marked corridor 150 meters long. Riders must canter their horses in one direction without breaking or stepping out, then they must walk back. According to the official rules, slowest canter and fastest walk gains the most points.
The final phase consists of 16 obstacles selected by the competition organizers. These obstacles are dispersed over a wide area often encompassing a total distance of 2,000 meters. The obstacles can vary from something as simple as mounting from the wrong side to crossing a bridge or water to jumping a hedge to loading in a strange trailer. All obstacles are designed to mimic conditions the horse and rider might encounter on a trail ride.
While high score may win the competition, each horse and rider combination has a score on their abilities and skills.
The obstacle course is generally considered the most exciting and popular phase for spectators. While this phase does include some cross-country jumping, the size of the obstacles is set according to the level of competition, and each obstacle is optional and does not incur elimination if bypassed. The course also includes some tasks which must be undertaken while dismounted, as well as tests of obedience and calmness.
The scoring is based on accumulating the most points, and one of the major appeals of this discipline is that if a horse or rider is unable to perform any part of the competition, they are not eliminated — they merely lose points
The mastery of gaits and obstacles were held at the Pinehurst Harness Track on Sunday. The obstacle course included opening and shutting a gate, putting a letter in a mailbox, stepping over a small obstacle, riding up and down an incline and loading a horse on a trailer. The gate proved to be a challenge for some of the lower level riders, especially because of a strong wind.
Anna Alford, who traveled down from Natural Bridge, Va., with her palomino, Frisko, made easy work of the gate and the other level three obstacles to win her division. She has been a TREC competitor for 12 years and has competed at the international level.
“I’ve been lost in many beautiful places,” said Alford. “TREC is a good all-around sport. It’s all about teamwork with your horse — how well you work together and how much the horse trusts you. Your horse has to be steady and willing to work independently of a group.”
Mary Harcourt, a teacher at Pinecrest High School, started Sandhills TREC in 2001. Harcourt, who also teaches the Equine Science class, and her band of volunteers have been hosting clinics and local competitions at the lower levels to get people involved.
Currently, they are ready to step up the pace and attract more advanced riders in order to grow the sport locally and send a team to the world cup TREC championship to be held in Austria September 3-5. Sandhills TREC is the only United States chapter authorized to send competing individuals/teams to international events.
“This is a big year,” said Harcourt, who is also president of the United States National Equestrian Tourism Organization. “I am sure we have amazing riders in the United States who can do this sport. We just need to find them, get them trained and do a great team showing in Austria this September. Any good rider — trail, hunter or eventer — can do the obstacles. It’s mastering the compass and map work that takes this beyond being a simple competition to a challenge for horsemen.”
The sport of TREC was designed to promote equine tourism. The TREC motto is, “See the world from the back of a horse.”
Trail riders interested in finding out more about the sport should visit the TREC website at www.trec-usa.org or call Harcourt at (910) 944-5797.
Level 1 Youth Obstacles: CH — Jack Causey; R/CH — Gracie Hall; 3. Jonathan Martin. Level 1 Adult Obstacles: CH — Linda Morgan; R/CH — Katie Dold. Level 2 Youth Orienting and Obstacles: CH — Farrin Wallace; R/CH — Bethany Skillington. Level 2 Adult Orienting and Obstacles: CH — Sharon Mumma; R/CH — Dan Easley; 3. Shelby Friml; 4. Rick Mumma; 5. Dotty Tudor; 6. Toni Skillington; 7. Jen Wallace. Extreme Level: CH — Anna Alford; R/CH — Diane Stephens
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