Monday, August 25, 2014

Intro and Clinic Recap: le TREC

In June, +ADW and I attended a horsey clinic headed by World Champion Thierry Maurouard at Cadogan Farm in Caledon, Ontario. This is a relatively new initiative/equine sport being introduced in Ontario; it originates from France and is very popular (not surprisingly) in Quebec. What drew me is that pretty much any horseman/woman can get involved and it tests practical skills. It's less technical and hence easier for anyone to learn; of course, the more technical you can be, the more skilful rider you might be but that might not be necessary for this purpose.

Le TREC was originally created to test equestrian trail guides with a goal to develop safe, well-trained trail horses that are able to deal with anything that they'd encounter on a trail--solo or in a group. It consists of 3 parts:
  • Phase 1: Parcours d'orientation et de Régularité (POR)
  • Phase 2: Maîtrise des Allures (MA)
  • Phase 3: Parcours en Terrain Varie (PTV)
Parcours d'orientation et de Régularité (POR)
This is the most rigorous phase and requires the rider to think on their feet and be familiar with orienteering and assessing terrain, as well as being a proficient rider. Your mount must also be capable of being patient while you sit atop trying to figure out the best route to take. Riders start by entering a map room with a copy of a blank map and they copy the planned map to the best of their abilities and then use that traced map to complete the planned route. The planned route is arranged so that specific trails or paths must be taken because there are random checkpoints plotted throughout. Checkpoints are not marked on the maps so if you arrive at the checkpoint by the incorrect path, you get pointed deducted. Riders can also lose points if they lose their POR record card or miss checkpoints. Riders must carry and wear specific items: helmet, high visibility clothing, hoof care items, first-aid kit, halter and lead rope, map and compass. Depending on the level of competition, the plotted map can be as complicated as a true map with all the elevation markings and true north, all to scale. Or, as simple as a bunch of pictures and arrows plotting out a sequence of events/points to follow. In addition, the ride distance ranges from 12km to 45km.

Maîtrise des Allures (MA)
This phase translates to "Control of Pace" and is tougher than it seems. A lane 150m long and about 2m wide is marked and the rider must gallop (or whatever gait is determined) in a slow controlled pace, then dismount and walk the horse back to the start line. Deduction of points are made for breaking gait or going off course. The main variation relative to skill level is the width of the path.

Parcours en Terrain Varie (PTV)
This phase is essentially an obstacle course that ranges from jumping, mounting/dismounting or trailer loading or riding through "low hanging branches". Riders have the option to perform obstacles at varying gaits (where applicable) or skip it all together. Points are awarded on successfully completing the tasks but can vary dependant on the gait chosen or style (i.e. too fast/slow etc) or even a misbehaving horse or cruel rider.

The clinic started with a classroom lecture that provided a background (above) of le TREC. We also learned the experiences that Thierry has, competing. While it was a lecture format, it remained informal and we asked questions as it progressed. This lasted for the better part of the morning before we broke for lunch and had the opportunity to enjoy the property. The afternoon section included the MA and PTV sections on horseback for those who brought their mounts with them; the rest of us watched from the ground.

Google animated my photos!
The above animated photo is part of the PTV section where the horse is required to get through that windy 'path' without touching/knocking over any of the bars or kicking the pails etc. It's certainly trickier than one would think depending on how bendable your horse is and the "style points" are judged on the way the rider initiates those turns and how the horse looks, as a result. And I do believe breaking pace is a penalty. I can't imagine getting a horse like Bonspiel through this obstacle.

Another obstacle is the "low hanging branches"; you can see the obstacle in the centre of the photo. The rider basically leans forward towards one side of the horses neck and plods forward. I'd say the tricky thing here is to maintain your weight over your heels so that you wouldn't fall off, when you were doing this at a canter. I wish I knew how to do this one when I took Ariel on a hack the last time.

Horsey limbo!
Other obstacles included the opening of a 'rope gate' where you needed to open and close a gate while on horseback. The challenge here was to get the horse close enough so you could lean over and pull the rope off the post and then continue to hold onto it while 'doing a dance' of sorts into the arena and turn around and place the loop back over the post. A few horses were nervous about getting so close to the fence and others just couldn't figure out how to turn around without getting tangled. As the skill level increases, the 'gate' becomes a lever type where you need even more precision turning yourself around because dropping the gate is not good.

We didn't get through every single obstacle that will be sanctioned for the Equine Canada rulebook (in the works from what I've been told) but got a good taste of what's standard and how they are judged. I'm very excited to see how this activity unfolds and develops in the area because it would be a really exciting activity to participate in.

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