Riding on trail of alternative French import
Bambi Carroll uncovers the secret of TRÉC and what makes it such a popular equestrian sport in Ireland
Unlike so many other equestrian sports, TRÉC (Techniques de Randonnée Équestre de Compétition) is often won in the map room and not by jumping the highest, racing the fastest or looking the prettiest.
Developed in France some 30 years ago, TRÉC or Technical Trail riding competition, is an equestrian pursuit that looks at horsemanship from a completely different angle.
Made up of three phases – orienteering, control of paces and obstacles – it is suitable for horses and riders of all levels, and the added bonus is that it does not require a special horse, gleaming white jodhpurs or fancy tack.
As we all know, Ireland is steeped in traditional equestrian pursuits such as hunting, and show jumping, but TRÉC is rapidly gaining a following as a cheaper alternative for riders simply looking for a fun day out in the country.
While most riders enjoy jumping fences, the orienteering phase of TRÉC often puts potential competitors off.
However, most who have tried it will agree that this part is thoroughly enjoyable, given that it involves making your way through some of the most beautiful or interesting places in the country that are often otherwise inaccessible.
At Level 1, riders must compete in pairs, and the orienteering is very basic. Any novice or rusty riders/horses generally start at this level but progress quickly to Level 2.
It is here that the distances for the orienteering get longer and the obstacles slightly harder. If you prefer to compete as an individual, this is an option.
When you get to Level 3, you will be expected to cross much tougher terrain where there are often no established routes and compass skills are required. At Level 4, courses are up to 40km long, and the orienteering is most challenging.
The control of paces would be seen as the dressage phase of the event. Deceptively simple, the rider must canter as slow as possible along a 150m corridor that is only one metre wide and then return at the fastest possible walk. Usually, horses with excellent flat work have the edge and can gain valuable points on the phase.
The obstacle phase is very similar to a cross-country event, with about a third of the obstacles being traditional and the rest being TRÉC obstacles. Again, it takes good basic flatwork to open the gate, negotiate the S-bend and rein back with the style to get top marks.
At Level 1, some of the riders come to the sport not wanting to jump, but this is not a problem as all obstacles are optional. Many riders then find that after some training, the jumps are actually an easy way to gain points and start taking them on.
At Level 1, the jumps are under 70cms and, for Level 4, they go up to 1.10 metres. It is here that the Irish horse and riders often excel when competing at European events.
In these difficult economic times, many equestrian centres across Ireland are now embracing the sport and people producing horses are using TRÉC events to develop a mannerly horse.
This was shown last year when Ireland hosted two European Cup events and two of the horses loaned to visiting riders were sold as a result and are now competing at a high level in Britain. As the weather begins to improve, regular TRÉC competitors are preparing for the busy season ahead, especially the TRÉC Ireland Open Championships and leg of the European Cup, which takes place from May 23-25.
This weekend of action will be hosted by the Slieve Aughty Equestrian Centre in Kylebrack, Co Galway. With over 100 events and a further five championships scheduled to take place in Ireland this year, TRÉC Ireland is growing by the month and always welcomes new members.
- Further information from www.trecireland.com
Connemara sale success
"The Connemara pony is a great ambassador for Ireland," stated Marian Harkin MEP during the inaugural Connemara Pony Elite Sale held recently in Duffy's Equestrian Centre in Galway.
Harkin, who launched the event, praised the work of the Connemara Pony Elite Sales Group and their huge voluntary effort to promote the Connemara pony.
"The Connemara pony is an iconic brand of Ireland and the efforts of the group to elevate marketing practices and sales methods in the sector will be a significant boost to the trade," she said.
"The Connemara is one of the world's premier performance ponies and the current efforts to ensure high standards in the process of marketing and selling the ponies will be good for the breed and help to ensure fair profits for producers."
During the sale, some 43 lots were offered to both Irish and international buyers, and topping the prices on the night was the all-rounder pony Derrygimbla Atlantic Storm, purchased by Northern-based pony producer Gillian Creighton for €9,000.
Also selling for the same price was the nine-year-old stallion Kildromin King, purchased by Liam Diamond.
The next best price was the €7,500 paid for the five-year-old jumping mare Lady Mirah, by Westside Mirah.
Other prices included €5,700 for the five-year-old potential working hunter pony Kiltulla Boy, and €5,300 for Deirdre Scott's seven-year-old stallion Ben Ban Playboy, bound for Denmark.
A total of 22 ponies changed hands, giving a good clearance rate of a little more than 50pc.
- Siobhan English