What happens at an obstacle training clinic?
This is my intro spiel, for those who haven’t been before it’s great preparation for your lesson & will help you understand what to expect.
TREC is a sport developed from the trail guides in the alps getting competitive with each other, and it has three phases:
POR – testing your navigation skills by following a set route on a map at optimum speeds.
MA – demonstrating your control with slow canter and fast walk, without breaking pace.
PTV – obstacles to test your horsemanship. 16 obstacles laid out over undulating terrain such as a cross country course, and it’ll be a mixture of natural/hacking obstacles such as walking through water, climbing hills, popping a log, opening & shutting a gate plus technical obstacles like mine to demonstrate suppleness, obedience & confidence. Some obstacles may have to be done in-hand, the competition course plan will tell you which ones.
I have 9 standard ‘try TREC’ obstacles that I carry in my van which are detailed below. The rule book contains over 40 obstacles, but my intro sessions are a good taster.
Every obstacle is worth 10 points, which is broken down into 2 parts:
– how effectively you did the obstacle – did you make any mistakes?
– either how fast you did it, or how stylish (balanced, rhythmic, subtle) you were.
My obstacles simulate narrow bridleways to go through, trees to weave round & duck under, a bridge & ditch to cross. We’ll also practice your skills for riding one handed with a map, and check your horse’s manners with a 10 second halt with no rein contact.
The golden rules for all obstacles are:
– don’t change pace or stop partway through
– try not to refuse
– try not to hit the obstacle
doing any of these things will incur an effectiveness fault (3 points off).
If you step completely outside the obstacle you’ve fallen off the imaginary cliff so you get zero!
The ones that you get more points for speed are the corridor, bending & low branches (there are some more in the rulebook which are covered at experienced clinics). Max score for walk is 5, trot is 7 & canter is 10, but if you try canter & break to trot you’ll end up with 4 so it’s about choosing the best speed for your horse, not necessarily about blasting round.
All the other obstacles have marks for style – looking at your balance, rhythm, subtlety of aids and harmony of the partnership. Some of these like s-bend and bridge *must* be walked for safety.
A good point to remember is that all the obstacles are optional, so if you don’t want to do something you can avoid it. In competition that just means you have to go up to the obstacle in the right order, stop & tell the judge then go round it.
Clinics start with corridor & bending to get the horses warmed up & listening – this allows me to check for basic levels of steering control, accuracy & straightness. You’ll start in walk & build up to canter if you want to really test your accuracy!
Next I’ll help you work on your rein back between planks – many people have never done this before so I’ll teach you how to ask quietly with your core muscles.
Now you’re warmed up, we’ll tackle the tight turns of the ‘s’ bend – this replicates hairpin bends going down a mountain. Don’t look down!
We’ll move on to crossing the ‘ditch’ (tarpaulin) and walking over the bridge.
Once you’re successfully over them it’s time to try going under the low branches. We’ll start in walk with no branches & build up to three branches as fast as you like. They adjust from 11.2hh to 17hh.
You’ll then try a bit of one-handed ‘neck reining’ doing a figure 8 shape around wings to prove you could ride accurately while holding your map.
We’ll check your horse’s parking ability – would they stand still for 10s with no contact while you read your map at a tricky junction, or would they leg it?
If there’s time, we’ll finish off by putting it all together in a mini course.
Speed is entirely optional – you can try things in walk, trot then canter or you can stick to the slower paces throughout.
Obstacle training FAQs answered:
– All clinics are suitable for newcomers to TREC unless specifically advertised otherwise.
– They can be done in hand, ridden or a mixture. You can get on/off as you wish, but if you might want to ride please start the session fully tacked up so you don’t have to miss out by going off & tacking up.
– I’m happy to accommodate young or nervous horses with shorter private sessions in hand. Just let me know their age/experience and I’ll let you know lesson length & price.
– You don’t have to go faster than walk if you don’t want to, but there’ll usually be the chance to do some things at speed if you like.
– Young riders are welcome, as are older ones & those with physical issues and/or additional needs. Just let me know the situation so that I can make reasonable adjustments.
– The session will start with simpler obstacles before increasing in technicality. I’ll explain each obstacle as we go along, putting it in the context of an adventurous hack.
Types of clinic
Arena PTV obstacles
Group lessons riding or leading around, over, through & under a range of mobile obstacles in an enclosed arena. Ideal introduction to TREC or cross training for other disciplines.
Outdoor PTV obstacles
Group lessons around a mixture of mobile obstacles to go around, through & under, plus real terrain features to jump, climb & cross – more like a real competition PTV course.
Super spooky TREC obstacles
Sessions designed to ‘lifeproof’ your horse for the extra challenges & course dressing seen at TREC competitions – roadworks, textures/colours to walk over, obstacles to push under/past, spectators, flags etc.
Day camps – all three phases
Tuition in all phases, great for newcomers to have a taster day and for experienced combinations to improve scores:
PTV obstacles – terrain and mobile obstacles.
Control of paces – practice and advice to improve your slow canter and fast walk.
POR navigation – 2 hours on foot followed by a practice ride out on an off-road route with a map.
Map skills – training on foot, usually a full day
We will work on: accuracy in map copying, keeping track of your speed, using landmarks near and far, navigating in woodland and across moorland, techniques for working out where you are, how to do grids and bearings sections.
The morning will be inside, then after lunch we will go for a walk for a couple of hours to try out your new skills.