The weather forecast of wind and rain did nothing to deter a fine entry of 31 riders from making our way to Loughway Stud on Sunday, 10th May, looking forward to our very first 3-phase Medley run by Leinster TREC. And our luck was in – no rain arrived until the end of the day, to the relief of organisers Niamh and Diana O’Huid, as well as the intrepid stewards at all the checkpoints!
So off to the map room we went, hi-viz gear on, tack check done, pens in hand, the 10 minutes to copy the map just flew past! On to the horses and off down the drive and on to the road. Right or left? OK, right it was and off we trotted, now where is that first turn off on the right hand side? Through that farm gate? Yes! Ah, a lovely grassy track, we can really move on now! Whoops, a check point round a corner! AND the first of the Obstacles, laid out on the track, a Slalom and Corridor, what to go for? – a safe trot or a risky canter? Ok, let’s try the safe trot, good, got some points there then.
On again on that lovely grassy track, round the corner, oops again, the MA corridor, oh yes I think the steward mentioned that! No choice now, canter first, then walk back, think we might have jogged a bit there, a pity. Partner did well though. OK, checkpoint again, oh no – it’s Grids now! We are given our instruction sheet, and try to identify the Grid Points, while the gale tries to blow both map and sheet away into the bog! Nice CP Steward lets me use the bonnet of her car while partner uses the table. And of course our new route looks totally different from our original drawn map! So it’s out onto the road once more. Right or left? Yes, still going right… past Wallaby Woods (saw those signs, but is it also a wood?!)… and here we are, our next turn right into an almost hidden little road, but got it! Trot on, and now we are really out in the wilds, in the Boglands of Kildare, and that wind is rapidly becoming a wild gale across the open spaces! Our horses hear things in the wind that we can’t hear and are on full alert, but keep trotting on. Right, it’s time to walk for a while, here’s a T-junction we weren’t expecting, now which way do we go here? Let’s try left… no, that doesn’t seem to follow our map route, back again, try right, great because here’s a ticket sign we have to write down. And another. Good, we got those, no penalties we hope.…. Time for a trot again. Whoops, there’s another Checkpoint, end of our Grids and more obstacles too. OK, Bank first, good horse, up and over, oh no! Went outside the chalk lines. Dismount now, Incline Up, sharp right turn, Incline Down… t-h-i-n-k we got that OK, some points there hopefully.Mount the horse again, good Treccie boy to stand so still, partner’s horse just as good and off we go, back to the road again pretty confident this time we go left towards home, so we can trot for a bit. But carefully now, there’s another loop on the route on our map, we need to find that turn off.
Past Wallaby Woods once more and then slow down, time to walk because it must be very soon and there it is! We see another couple of riders ahead turning off, that helps! We turn there too, it matches the map so that’s OK, and onto another lovely track through woodland and grassy meadows. On we go, taking it steady now – luckily because round a corner comes a pair of quad bikes! Neither of us was expecting the other but our good Treccie horses just look and then carry on. Just when we’re wondering where the next checkpoint could be, and should we trot or walk, we spot the glint of a car ahead hidden in the trees. And good! - more of the obstacles again, this time Mounted Immobility and S-bend. So Immobility first, into the circle, make sure all 4 feet are in, now drop the reins. Oh no, the boy spots grass, has to eat it of course. Did his feet stay in that circle? On to the S-bend, usually good at this, but not this time, the awful clatter is heard as he knocks it.
Partner does much better, thankfully! We get ready to set off again. Suddenly the Steward steps forward again with a wicked smile and says ‘Can I have your maps please?’ What, no maps! We are handed another sheet of paper, what is it, ah, Bearings! Compasses out and here we go … ‘Follow a track starting on a bearing of 22 degrees for 138 metres’… OMG, which of 3 possible tracks is that one? Compass sort-of points to one, let’s believe and go! Count horses’ steps, yes that’s about 138m, sort-of, and yes! There’s a little gap and path going left. Confirm next bearings with compass, that all looks a bit boggy though, but we must be right because there is another ticket to note down! We keep going, following our bearings sheet and feel very relieved when we catch sight of the Checkpoint again. And even more relieved when we get our maps back! OK, now off again and we feel this has to be nearly the last stretch… or could there be another sneaky checkpoint before home? We do a mix of walk and trot just in case, watch for another turn right, pity there’s no riders in front to spot this time! Ah, next turn was easy, a definite side road then another track to the left. Now we can really move on this lovely grassy path through woods and bogland. Checkpoint ahead? Maybe! Who cares, let’s just enjoy this! But sure enough before we get back to the venue, there it is! ‘Can I have your Rider Card please? You’re finished the POR now!’ says the smiling steward.
But it’s not quite over and we are pointed towards an amazing grassy lane between the trees, with the last set of obstacles – a Hedge, Reinback and Tree Trunk, all built using the nearby felled logs & branches! This looks like fun, but what will my horse think, he’s used to coloured poles and these are natural. Good boy though, never hesitated and flew the jumps. And now it’s over. We relax and walk slowly back the short distance home.
So now we know what a Medley is… very different and quite a challenge, mixing POR, PTV and MA. Doing obstacles and MA out in the open spaces was new to us and our horses were easily distracted. The hard-working and patient stewards were kept very busy as ourselves and other horses and riders were held at checkpoints while each did the obstacles. It was a far cry from the arena-based PTV we are more used to but probably much nearer the reality of the original TREC. We enjoyed it a lot and hope that the Medley will be repeated again in the future.