Emily Ham’s driving blog: have a go at TREC

  • Now that the spring season has begun, why not try driven TREC? It’s a fantastic way to get to see new countryside and has the advantage that you drive routes that have been safety assessed and are stewarded. Your assistant on the carriage also has a full role and there’s a real sense of achievement when you complete the event.

    TREC events take place in most regions. Here in Wales we have developed a Welsh TREC Championships which provides structure and means every area puts on a least 1 TREC, although of course they can do as many as they wish which don’t have the qualifiers for the first 3 placed entries.

    There is an agreed mark scheme for the 3 phases of TREC, with the weighting on orienteering the route and completing the drive within a time window that relates to the size of your equine, so small ponies have a more generous allowance than horses. Times are not tight and allow for periods of walk in the trot work. It is up to the driver to consider the terrain and choose when to move forward faster.

    Driving being sociable there is plenty of opportunity to chat about the beautiful scenery, even while the groom is map reading the route!

    The welfare of the horse is a prime consideration in all 3 phases. The 1st phase is to harness up and put to while being assessed for safe practice. Correctly fitting harness and carriage are essential and the cleanliness of the equine and tack is checked to ensure there won’t be rubs — and the horse has to be sound with good hoof care to take part.

    Janice Sidebottom and Paddy love TRECThe drive is monitored and horses are expected to return from it happy, with lots of energy in the tank to do some fun skills. Hi viz for all — the driver, groom, horse and carriage (Janice Sidebottom and Paddy pictured right) — is integral to the competition, with a large proportion of the 1st phase “presentation” marks.

    Taking part in a TREC event is actually a great way of checking you and your turnout are as safe as possible when driving out, especially when on the roads, because of the checks done beforehand and the emphasis on carrying really useful spares to cope with possible issues, such a stone in a hoof or broken piece of tack. It’s also expected that you carry a basic first aid kit for human and equine use as well as mobile phone for emergencies!

    The skills section is much enjoyed — and again marks are awarded, with the high marks only achievable if the tasks are completed with harmony between driver, groom and equine. If the horse shows resistance or the driver or groom impatience then the marks reflect this. But there is always the option to miss out a task completely if you don’t mind forfeiting the marks for it. This means no horse or human need to be overfaced!

    Mr J and Emily at a TREC task testing smooth driving — the groom had to avoid dropping the egg off the spoonTasks are chosen that show the driver’s skill in steering and changing pace, the horse’s obedience and trust in its driver and groom, and the good communication of all 3 together. The groom is fully involved in many of the tasks, which often involve a bit of fun and ingenuity. Mr J and I are pictured above left at a TREC task testing smooth driving — the groom had to avoid dropping the egg off the spoon.

    Sian Burrows demonstrating ford crossing in a tandem

    For example, pegging out washing on a line tests the horse is bold and unfazed by flapping objects, yet will stand still for periods of time, that the driver can steer accurately and hold the carriage still, and the groom can be methodical and efficient. All 3 need to be communicating effectively to manage the task calmly and efficiently. It’s also great fun to watch and to do!

    Skills are also assessed as part of the course, for example negotiating a gateway between fields or going through a ford (Sian Burrows, above right).

    There is also a cones course to drive and in Wales this is done without breaking pace to achieve full marks.

    TREC competitors at Langorse Lake

    As people complete the last section socialising gets underway, with horses resting with their haynets and humans sharing refreshments. Finally there is a presentation with rosettes for both driver and groom (competitors at Langorse Lake pictured above left) to commemorate a fantastic, interesting day out in the countryside!

    For those in Wales who qualify there is a TREC Championship in the autumn, which this year will be held over a weekend at the wonderful Pembrey Country Park, with extra beach driving opportunities.

    If you haven’t already tried TREC I would wholeheartedly recommend it.


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