On the weekend of 14 – 16th August, 2015, a total of 94 riders, horses, lorries, trailers, campers, tents and supporters descended on the quiet village of Temple, near Edinburgh, Scotland, for the challenge that is the British TREC Championships.
As well as those arriving from all corners of the British Isles, there were a total of 6 riders from Ireland, all of whom had qualified for Level 2 Pairs at the Irish Open Championships, to represent and hopefully do Ireland proud! They were Sheila Fuller, Catherine Bartley, Niamh O’Huid, Sheaffe Monteith, Antje Keller and Liz Keane. Also hoping to do Ireland proud in the supporters camp were a total of 9 friends and family who had also travelled over to Bonnie Scotland in their camper van, well embellished with TREC logos and Irish flags, just in case there was any uncertainty as to whom they were supporting.
First hurdle to be passed was the Friday evening vetting of horses and all was well. Then came the Rider Briefing, the main item of information being that there would be some hidden CTV cameras around the POR route on the Saturday! Much muttering was heard about the need for mascara and lipstick in that case. Riders were also warned that if they found themselves in a Scottish bog, they were definitely on the wrong route and to go back!
So Saturday dawned bright, fresh and clear and in fact the weather was perfect for the POR, with a nice breeze to keep flies and Scottish midges at bay. The 3 Irish Pairs set off at intervals from the maproom (2 maps to be copied!) during the morning for what turned out to be a full 25km route, up and down the rolling hills and dales of the Midlothian countryside. Much of it, however, was on roads and tracks with only a small amount of off-road to navigate. But the twist was in the ‘tickets’, which required extremely technical accuracy of navigation around some features on the course and which caught out many riders including our Irish trio of Pairs. However, with only a couple of slight errors of course, all the Irish came home safely and in high spirits, to be met by the cheers and waving flags of the Welcome Committee of Irish supporters at the finishing line. And who also in true TREC spirit cheered home riders of all Nationalities as they too finished their POR, which raised many a tired smile.
Sunday was again a lovely day for the Control of Paces and the PTV course. The CoP was 150m long and curved its way round the jumps in the Showjumping arena- much to the excitement and consternation of some horses and riders who either saw jumps as something to avoid or something to get over. But the Irish group did fine and then in turn they gathered at the start of the eagerly awaited PTV course – for this indeed was something special! The 16 Obstacles were placed on a 4.5 km grassy track around the field edges of a huge tillage farm and had tremendous galloping intervals between them. The time allowed was 24 minutes and to achieve that, horses and riders had to waste no time.
The Obstacles were cleverly placed, however, to ensure that the harmony and obedience and trust between horse and rider were rewarded. For example, to get to the 2nd Obstacle which was a Dip, a stream had to be forded. Then the stream had to be crossed by a Footbridge on the return. The Corridor Obstacle was place on a corner just after a 200m galloping straight stretch. The Slalom started on a steep downhill slope. The Ridden Staircase Down faced a gap in a hedge with cars whizzing by on the road. The Cloverleaf had an advertising poster on a fence right beside the 3rd barrel. Mounting was from the Off-side. All of these added to the challenge of what was a thrilling and well thought out PTV course. And for each Irish rider, the lovely Supporters managed to be at the start to cheer them on and at the finish to cheer them in.
At the end of the whole weekend, although the Irish Pairs were not in the top placings, all were awarded rosettes for a successful completion of the TREC GB Championships. They and indeed their team of supporters did Ireland proud and were specially mentioned and thanked for coming by the Organisers, by helping to make the weekend special for all.