The Field EC & Holmestead Saddlery POR League, leg 1.
Coilog Equestrian Centre, Kilmeague, Co Kildare.
The first of Leinster TREC’s POR League competitions, on Sunday, 13th March, drew a total of 27 riders out of their Winter hibernation to take part in what turned out to be a thrilling start to the season.
For the first time, Levels 1, 2 and 3 were available to enter for both Individuals and Pair riders, and these were run over 3 different routes. The Organisers were kind enough this early in the year to make the routes shorter than usual to suit horses who might not be quite fit (never mind the riders!) but this was compensated by the technical elements for the higher levels.
The area around Coilog EC is within the countryside adjacent to the Grand Canal and routes included lovely stretches of grassy tracks allowing high speeds, forestry roads and paths and quiet country lanes.
Level 3 riders were first into the Maproom and were delighted to complete their copying in record time, until they were surprised by being handed their Grids sheet just before leaving, not expecting such a challenge so soon. However, all successfully marked their maps and found their way to the next checkpoint, spotting the tickets along the way. They were rewarded thereafter with a lovely scenic route, criss-crossing back and forth over the canals and ending up on a 2km stretch of fast grassy track. After that, it was a fairly leisurely pace back to base, with just the odd ticket to be found off road by the alert rider, just to check that at Level 3 their map copying skills had been up to standard!
Back to the venue finally, but not finished yet – last challenge of the day was the Ridden Bearings. Compasses in hand, riders and mounts paced their way around the grounds of Coilog equestrian centre answering questions on bearings and distances, trying to avoid picking up penalties. Again, this section was well done, and horses and riders finished appropriately enough, right by where their trailers were parked.
Meanwhile, Level 2 riders had set out on their route. No Grids and Bearings for them, but enough challenges for them to work out which bridges to cross over the canals, to get to the lovely forest area. Relieved to be on the right route, many just followed the quiet forest track to the far end Checkpoint, not having noticed in the Maproom that there were two sections off road within the woods. The tickets placed there were missed by several riders, as shown by the ‘Oh, No!’ comments heard afterwards!
After the forest section came another delight, a short bit of country road and then a 3.5 km curving stretch of unused grassy towpath, a real treat for horses and riders. The high speed given for this section encouraged all to move on and it was voted one of the highlights of the route. After the canal checkpoint, it was time to go slow and cool down. But a surprise, typical of the challenge of TREC, awaited riders who were not watching their speed – an early checkpoint within 2 km of the previous one– and caught out several riders. However, it was then finally back to the venue and once again the smiling faces of riders entering the Coilog gates showed the fun and fascination of TREC.
As the last of the Level 2 riders went out on their route, it was the turn of the Level 1 riders. For the first time, Leinster TREC had some experienced Individuals who had requested to compete at Level 1, due to either new mounts or lack of horse fitness, and it was for them a great opportunity to ease back into TREC.
Both Level 1 Individual and Pairs followed the same route, and had the same challenges of timing their speeds between unknown checkpoints. They started off down a quiet country lane, similar initially to the level 2 riders, but with a more simple canal crossing to get to the forest area. For them, no hidden tickets, just the challenge of being able to find the forest and then navigate through it to the far end by following the route from their maps.
This part successfully done, it was back out onto quiet roads once more, decisions of right vs left needing to be made a few times, heading by a shorter route back to the canal crossing. Landmarks joyfully recognised, it was finally a fairly straightforward last section back to the venue.
At the prize-giving, the buzz of anticipation and excitement reflected the challenge that is TREC. Everyone does their best to try to match the Speeds given, all different throughout the route. No one knows how far the Checkpoints are. Higher levels hope they have found any hidden tickets. With the result that anyone has a chance to win – it’s the most accurate horse and rider on the day.
And on this occasion, the happy winners came from both experienced and from new combinations, all of which makes TREC one of the fairest and most interesting sports for all.
Leinster TREC would most sincerely like to thank their Sponsors for the generous prizes, The Field Equestrian Centre, Ballyadams, Co Laois and Holmestead Saddlery, Kill, Co Kildare as well as the Byrne family of CoilOg Equestrian Centre for the use of their fine venue.