Sunday, 8 May 2011

TREC Trauma

To say I am fed up today would be an understatement. Have you ever 'bitten off more than you can chew'? Let me explain...
Yesterday I took Barnaby to a TREC competition at a place called Frickley, which is an hour and a half's journey in the lorry. We got slightly lost on the way there, but still found the venue in time.
Then the strangeness began. There were lots of people milling about, as most of them arrived on Friday and camped over night, but there was no one to welcome us and no one to sign in with so in the end I tacked Barnaby up and asked a passerby what to do. She said people were just taking their number bibs and going down to the field where the Control of Gaits took place, followed by the obstacle course, so I rode down there (Mr O was my groom, and this was the first time I'd decided to have a go as an individual) but the guy on the gate said, "Don't come down here please, wait for us to call you!" I thought, 'how can you call me if you don't know I'm here?' Maybe it's just me.
The thing is, you could go there on Friday evening and walk the course, but it's miles away from where we live, which meant Mr O would have to come home from work, come down to pick me up then drive all the way up there, and drive all the way home, which we couldn't feasibly do.
So I asked the man on the gate what I had to do, and he launched into this great long lecture, having asked, "Didn't you walk the course? If you were doing a hunter trials, wouldn't you walk the course first?" as if I had some strange disease. Then he said we could have come an hour earlier and walked the course. It doesn't say that anywhere on the paperwork, it says the course is available for walking on Friday night.
Anyway, I did the gate obstacle, then did the control of paces, where I had to canter down (slowly) and walk back up (quickly) which went quite well considering Barnaby had decided he really ought to stay in the lorry park with the other horses. Why does this always happen to me?
So I followed the field round to the next obstacle and did it, then came to the 'low branches' obstacle. They ask the height of your horse and adjust the 'branches' accordingly, to make it fair for everyone. You have to lay right down on your horse and go underneath them. You can do it in walk, trot or canter and get more points for the faster gait. I did it in trot, closed my eyes and went for it and got through, so I was quite pleased. The next obstacle was two cross country steps down. You had to ride down the first step, dismount and lead your horse down the second step. Barnaby wouldn't go down with me on him, so I got off and tried to lead him down, and we both thought it was ridiculous. How can you stand below a horse like that trying to lead it down? I could see him thinking, 'but if I jump down I'm going to land on you, what on earth do you want me to do that for?' and as I totally agreed with him, I decided to move on to the next obstacle.
I politely asked the obstacle judge if she would kindly explain what I had to do as we were unable to walk the course, and she shouted, "Haven't you got a rule book?" and I'm afraid I flipped. Remember, I have a horse who keeps rearing because he wants to go back to the lorry park, I am nervous about the orienteering section later on and now I've got this woman having a go at me. I just said that the competition was advertised as a good introduction to beginners, why would I have a rule book, but if that's how she felt, I'd call it a day there and go home. She didn't apologise, but suddenly started explaining how to do the obstacle. I felt like crying by then, to be honest.
Anyway, we carried on round, but didn't do very well at the rest of the obstacles. Barnaby didn't stand still in the holding pen, he didn't do the rein back straight, which I knew he wouldn't, but didn't walk straight over the bridge either, which he is more than capable of doing.
Eventually I finished the obstacles, met Mr O and burst into tears because the woman had been so rude to me. I had to pull myself together and go to the map room and copy the route down from the main map onto the copy I would take with me, take my route check card and go and set off on the orienteering phase.
I can't tell you how difficult this bit was. I did the first bit okay, then caught up with a couple who had set off before me. They were arguing about whether they'd gone wrong or not (they had, as it turns out). Barnaby was brilliant actually, because he didn't try to stay with their horses. The man had blood pouring down his face where he'd cut himself on some trees.
Then it began to sink in that I couldn't do this map reading lark whilst sitting on a horse. I had to make Barnaby stand still while I held the map and fiddled about with the compass and tried to think where I was, and carried on and found out I'd come out onto a road too far up from where I should be, but carried on and eventually came to a check point, which was good. The next section was easy, but then I made my way into Howell Wood and it rapidly turned into some sort of nightmare.
There were paths criss-crossing everywhere, so although the map showed you followed a path in a straight line, the reality wasn't like that at all. It was horrendous. I went deeper and deeper into the woods, not going in circles, but much further west than I should have been. I crossed these great deep ravines but in the end came to a river that was a sheer drop into the water below.
By now I was so desperate I was crying and trying not to panic. I'm telling you now I was begging for God to help me. Then I just gave up and said, "Go on, Barn," and he turned round and started taking me a different way through the wood, taking me home. I was desperate to find a road. I didn't even have my mobile phone on me, so I couldn't even ring Mr O and tell him what was going on. I started crying again, but Barnaby strode purposefully on.
And then, a man appeared in front of me and had a backpack on, so I thought he looked like he might know what he was doing. I stopped him and asked if he'd seen any other horse riders coming through the woods. He said, "Yes, they've all been going that way," and pointed further up the track I was on. He said I had to continue that way until the top of the hill and then turn left. I said, "I'm sorry I don't know what you mean, would you mind coming with me a little way?" and so he did, all along the track. I thought, 'I must thank him for coming so far out of his way.' Then he pointed to some people and said, "You need to go up there where those people are, and then turn left." I looked to where he pointed, looked back to thank him and he wasn't there. All there was behind me was the long track I'd walked up and there was no one to be seen. At the time I was baffled, but stressed that I had so much further to go, so couldn't really dwell on it, but you can imagine I've given it a great deal of thought since. I wouldn't be the first person to see a guardian angel, would I? And I won't be the last. I'll leave you to make of it what you will.
Anyway, I continued along the track and came to another checkpoint. I've never been so relieved. To be honest I just wanted to pack it in at this point and go home, but I got my bearings on the map and made it gradually the rest of the way. The amazing thing was, I let Barnaby direct us and he took me straight back to the place I'd got lost originally. It was surreal. I managed to make my way home from there and have never been so relieved to see my lovely husband. He'd been worried sick apparently and they were just about to send out the search parties.
Poor Barnaby was so tired, and of course I have no way of knowing how much extra distance I put on, but I was out for over three hours. I really, really don't understand it.
And the stress and the fright have really made me question whether I should do it again. It's not fair on Barnaby, Mr O or the people who organise the event, is it?
However, while waiting for me, Mr O was chatting to the organizers about how they ride the route themselves, and what the overall distance was, and they wouldn't tell him! It was very, very peculiar and they were quite a strange bunch of people. Apparently it's about knowing how many of your horses paces cover a certain distance, so you can work out how far you've gone in a certain time, and to be honest, if all that's involved, I'm not sure I want to take it up anyway, I had enough trouble just trying to make Barnaby stand still so I could look at the map!
So, to be honest, I was quite traumatised by the whole experience, and don't want to do it again, but I've booked in for a TREC training day on June 5th, so hopefully I'll learn a lot then and be able to decide if it's something I want to have another go at.
I want to say thankyou to all the people who gave me directions, to Barnaby who's internal compass is clearly a force to be reckoned with and to Mr O just for being there really. I never want to get into a stressful situation like that again, thankyou very much!


  1. What a horrible experience! And I do believe you had a guardian angel with you. If you do another one you're braver than I am.

  2. I first did Trec in 1997. My horse is the one I always ride. She was young at the time, and I had never done Trec, Handy Pony or anything like it.

    So in for a penny! I booked in, paid my dues, and turned up on the Friday evening. Vetted in, got my bib number and checked the Obstacle course.

    One the first day, we did the POR, at Level 3!! I hadnt a clue. However, as an ex mountaineer, I can read any Maps. I managed to finish, and achieved 190 points, good for the first day. Did I tell you this was the Scottish national Champs?
    Now then, here is where it went pear shaped!
    The second day, we did COP, canter slowly? Not on your Nelly! Walk back fast?/?? Oh yes! We did that.
    Nil points for both!

    So, off we went onto the Obstacle course. I was understanding that if you didnt want to do any obstacle, you told the judge at the obstacle, and then you dont lose points, nor do you gain them.
    So this I did at all the Jump ones. I failed the S bend!
    So we finished, I came 8th over all!!!!!And got a sash, and medal.
    The whole experience for me was great.

    Now here is why I think you have had a bad one. First Shortly after 2009, the Trec sport was taken over by the BHS, who tried to make it as more like any other horse sport they control. It has been ruined due to this, and the friendly natures have gone, it has become so competetive, it is unreal. No one has time to talk to anyone now. But, thats some type of progress. The BHS then put up the charges, introduced changes to the qualifying rules: You have to qualify at two "qualifier" Trecs within the year, to attend the Championships in that year!! Whereas before, if you were in the top 10 finishers of a Trec, or indeed did Trec, you could enter, in other words any one could enter a Trec.
    With it all changing, people cant afford not to win. Attitudes have changed, and therefore that is why you probably didnt have a very friendly response from the judges, as they now expect you to be fully conversant with the rule book!
    Which the BHS sell! ....But having said all this, the sport is a good one, and there are good people there, try the sport as a pair!Find another person to do it with.

    Also, and here is the thing, try Level 1 first, that is far easier. Then move on up to level 2 then 3 etc! Dont be put off. Oh? One more thing, Trec horses are expensive to buy! Teach your own to stand, while you read the map, also teach it to be lead uphill or down, there is a lot of Obs to do, leading the horse! So good luck.

    ps, I dont do it anymore.

  3. Sounds like you have had a real bad time still hopefully it will be better next time. All the organizers should be ashamed of themselves what kind of competition won’t help its competitors, stupid judge! Why would you be asking if you had a rule book, what a useless bunch of organizers. I am sure your training day will help you a lots.

  4. So sorry about your v. stressful competion. I'm not that good at map reading at the best of times, can't imagine being able to do it on horseback.

  5. So sorry your TREC was so bad. It actually sounds like it could have been a lot of fun.

    I haven't run into too many nasty horse organizers around here, thank goodness, but I'm sure they are around. I'm not sure whether I would have cried myself with woman or told her off.

    And I do indeed believe you met an angel in the woods. I'm pretty sure Barnaby would have gotten you back home the way you'd come, but how nice that your angel pointed you to the track so you could finish up in proper form.

    Do they allow a GPS? And yes, next time, you need to go as a pair...

    I think you do need to do this again, even if it's on a very easy level just to boost your confidence and put this bad ride behind you.

    In the meantime, I think you did an amazing job considering everything...and once more Barnaby proved what a super partner he is!!

  6. Oh you poor love Jane, Im so sorry you had such a distressing outing, Im sure your guardian angel must have watching over you and or course Barnaby must have second sense to make sure you got back on track. Take care with hugs Shirleyx


I love to hear from visitors, so please let me know you dropped by, and I will visit you as soon as I can.