The ingredients for a good TREC championship are simple enough. You must have a good venue, excellent routes, horse friendly land lords, good organisation and loads of competitors. All of these came together at the Horse First TREC Ireland Open Championships at Creevagh Stables on May 23rd and 24th. A little good weather was added to the mix to make it a week-end to remember. Creevagh Stables proprietor, Tommy Considine and organiser, Cassie O’Connell started to welcome competitors that came from as far as Scotland on Thursday night and by Friday evening the place was teeming with competitors. The air of excitement was palatable at the rider’s briefing on Friday night as top Technical Delegate; Adrian Flynn laid down the ground rules for the next day’s competition. Many riders were eager to qualify for the first ever TREC GB championships in Edinburgh in Sept 2015 and there were valuable European Cup points up for grabs for the level 4 competitors.
Saturday morning dawned and Elaine Waters of Kerry TREC was the first competitor to embark on a route that took her through the medieval surroundings of Quin village. In an area that was once the home of Brian Buru, the orienteering phase took the riders past ancient ruins, mass rocks, fairy forts, historical ring forts and restored castles. With help from the local farmers, the route weaved along the edges of Cullain Lake, through the bogs of Kilkishen and by the banks of the river Rine. The final checkpoint judge, Martin Lynch welcome home the tired but delighted competitors, the Level 4 were especially happy to see the end of their 40 kilometre odyssey. By the time the scores were out, the tables had been set up in the indoor arena and the freshly made lasagne was quickly devoured as riders discussed and teased each other over the wrong turns and missed tickets of the day. An early leader after the first stage of the competition of the European Cup event was GB’s Hilary Barnard, who successfully navigated the phase with the most tickets and fewest time penalties. Level 2 pairs was hotly contested with only one point separating the top two teams, Leinster TREC’s Diana O’Huid / Lorna O’Neill and Niamh O’Huid /SheaffeMontieth . Jane Capener had the early lead over the rest of the field in the Level 2 individuals. Margaret Lynch and junior rider Kayleigh McCormack rode with great accuracy to only drop 5 penalties and lead the Level 1 pairs. None of these leads however were substantial and as riders took advantage of the course walk with Adrian Flynn; their minds were on how to best approach the obstacles to gain maximum points close the gap.
As Sunday dawned and final touches were put on the obstacles, judges from across the country converged at Ballymaclune, where Brian Clune had generously allowed Turas TREC to build a 2 kilometre PTV course that was both inviting and challenging. The ground conditions varied throughout the course and competitors had to carefully plan how they were going to tackle the obstacles. The ditch obstacle was decorated with a headstone, making it look like an open grave jumped well and caused few problems. The boogie obstacles of the day turned out to be the innocent looking mounting and the purpose built gate which saw many riders coming away with few points. The last obstacle in the higher levels was a natural hedge and as riders came charging to the finish line they were cheered over the fence.
As the final scores were tallied, it became clear that there were major changes in some of the placings. In Level 1, Leinster TREC’s Margaret Lynch and Kayleigh McCormack narrowly held off a strongly finishing Turas TREC’s Anne Marie and Ciaran Cronin. The competition at the Level 2 pairs was the fiercest with Celia Taylor storming home with the top PTV score and her partner Caroline Aragane clocking an impressive COP score to win. Only 60 points separated the top 6 pairs at this level and four teams qualified through for the TREC GB championships. Newcomer Liobhan O’Callaghan of Kerry Trec demonstrated the advantages of a good control of paces score to jump ahead of West Cork TREC’s Jane Capener to pull off the win at the Level 2 individual.
The former winner of the European Cup and British Championship, Hilary Bernard used her cool head and wealth of experience to pull off the win on the handsome grey horse, Marty Zee. Kerry TREC’s Elaine Waters looked to be closing the gap after the control of paces but in the obstacle phase, Barnard pulled out all the stops and finished strong to take the Level 4 Open crown.
The prize giving was well attended as scores were quickly tallied and organiser Erin Begley announced the winners. The Horse First bags filled to the brim with supplements and goodies were gratefully received and riders left with Horse First electrolytes tubes for future competitions. Diana O’Huid and her famous Coolroe Gold won the veteran horse class while Liobhan O’Callaghan came away with the top Young Rider score. Leinster TREC’s Spice Girls (Celia Taylor, Caroline Aragane, Margaret Lynch and Kayleigh MacCormack) won the team event.
TREC Ireland would like to thank the organisers of the event Erin Begley, Cassie O’Connell and Dede Clune for the smooth running of the weekend. Traceur Bambi Carroll, who with Brian Clune walked many miles and knocked on many doors to create great routes,. Technical Delegate, Adrian Flynn for his quiet confidence at the face of every potential catastrophe and all the national and regional judges who gave up their week-end to help run the successful event. We are also hugely grateful to Horse First for their generous sponsorship and Creevagh stables who warmly welcomed all the competitors and judges and the local landowners without whom there would be no event.
The results of the Horse First TREC Ireland Open Championships are now available in the downloads section, under the 'Results' tab.