TREC: What is TREC?

By Jane Barden

How to videos

21 January 2010 11:49

TREC is a unique test of horse and rider partnership that appeals equally to novices and champions alike. Just about anyone can have a go, on any type of horse or pony, as an individual, pairs or even teams. What’s on trial is not the beauty of your horse or his jumping talent or even his speed but his versatility, training and obedience.

There are three distinct parts to TREC, each one designed to test specific qualities. The orienteering phase is primarily a rider challenge – a basic ability to map-read is an essential quality but training sessions are held around the country. However, while it is the rider’s job to find the right paths, there may also be certain tests for the horse along the way – a ditch to cross or a wooden bridge to negotiate.

The second phase tests the rider’s control over the horse’s paces but it’s the third part that is the real crowd-pleaser. It is, in the most literal sense, a cross-country course, posing a variety of difficulties that might be encountered while riding in the countryside. There will usually be a ‘natural’ jump – a log, for instance – a gate to open and close and water to negotiate. The horse’s calmness and obedience will be tested, as well as his basic flatwork.

But the big advantage of TREC is no obstacle is compulsory. It’s the broad test of skills that appealed to the British Horse Society (BHS) when the charity imported the sport from France, where it began as a way to showcase the talents of professional equestrian guides.

BHS TREC is fast gaining fans, with up to 3,000 riders competing regularly each year. In addition, another 1,000 are being tempted into the sport by the scaled-down winter version, when our unpredictable weather makes trail riding problematic. The BHS was also impressed by the accessibility and inclusiveness of TREC. You don’t need a costly competition horse or special equipment – other than some basic safety essentials – although a whole new horsey wardrobe is waiting out there for those riders bitten by the TREC bug!

Fiona Thurnell, BHS competition executive, says: “TREC is fun, very friendly and something for the everyday leisure rider. You don’t need expensive kit or special horses and if you can’t do something – jumping, for instance – it doesn’t rule you out. In fact, the sport is unique in that it’s hard to get eliminated. It fits in with the charity’s mission to improve access to riding and to the countryside – private land is sometimes made available for competitions.” But although TREC is billed as a good day out, it is not a walkover. It demands a good basic level of schooling and obedience as well as a ‘willing-togive-it-a-go’ attitude from both horse and rider.