Be tacked up ready in good time for your tack check. Present your horse to the official, have everything that needs to be checked easily visible or within reach and remember to keep breathing! When you are called for the map room, you will need to have a helper to hold your horse. If you don’t have a helper please ask the stewards where you should tie your horse.
The map room
Before you go in, ensure you have your pens handy so that you don’t waste time looking for them while you’re in there. You can also check which way is North, to make orientating your map easier when you set off.
Your record card will usually be given out when you’re in the map room. Guard it with your life – loss of this means elimination. Either have it in your map case, or somewhere secure in your saddlebags – you don’t want the card to fly away when you get something else out of the pocket.
In here, you will find a table and chairs, a map with a route marked on it sellotaped to the desk, and an unmarked map. Sit down, turn the unmarked map to the same way round as the master map, find the start point which will be marked with a triangle, then quickly, but most of all CAREFULLY, copy down the route in one colour onto your unmarked map.
Watch out for direction arrows, carefully mark which side of field boundaries you’re to ride on, which side of buildings to go around, and where to turn off paths. These are usually the sites of ticket points and checkpoints, so accuracy is essential!
IF you have time after marking the route, use a different colour of pen to roughly mark each km on the course (one side of a blue-line square is a kilometre), and then use small but bright circles or triangles to draw your eye to any anomalies like field crossings (so you don’t miss them), and landmarks to watch out for. Be careful not to obscure your route with the notes & symbols.
Make a note of the first set speed which will be displayed in the map room too.
When your ten minutes are up, gather up your pens, map and record card. Put them away safely, collect your horse and mount up. Your time starts as soon as you’ve left the map room, so don’t hang around!
POR – Orienteering
This is the ‘orienteering on horseback’ phase. It might sound scary, but at levels 1 and 2 the navigation is very basic and most people are pleasantly surprised. The route will be between 10 and 15km long at level one, or 15 to 25km at level two, designed to be completed mostly in walk and trot with some canter. You can often find yourself amidst some glorious scenery.
Don’t worry at all about the speeds on your first POR. Do a ‘best guess’ instead. Generally 6kph = walk, 7kph = fast walk with a bit of trot, 9kph = mostly trot, some walk, 12kph trot with canter. This obviously depends on your horse’s height and length of stride, but it’s a good starting point. The most important thing is to concentrate on finding and taking the correct route – as Rob Jones says, “it’s no use going at the right speed in the wrong direction!”
After you have completed a couple of TREC competitions, and you are more confident, you will probably want to start making speed calculations. You may find it useful to print out this table, and use it to work out how much time you should take between your marked kilometres on the map while you’re on the move. You can then see whether you should be speeding up or slowing down in order to keep up your speed, and hopefully reduce your time penalties at each checkpoint.
Checkpoints aren’t marked on your map, they are designed to make sure you’re doing the correct route at the right speed, and give the horses and riders a short break on the way round.
They generally comprise of white (left) and red (right) flags on the ground, with an official, a chair, and a ‘holding area’. When you see the flags or official, keep going and don’t dawdle, because if the judge thinks you have tried to alter your speed by hiding round the corner you will get 30 penalties. If you are in a pair, it’s the second horse crossing the flags that counts for time. Remember safety – come back to walk in good time so that you don’t mow down the judges or upset any other horses in the checkpoint.
Once you’ve stopped, give your record card to the checkpoint official, who will mark it up with your time and tell you how long you’re holding for – at least 5 minutes. Move into the holding area out of the path of others behind you and wait until your time to go.
Use this time wisely. Let your horse graze, have a drink and/or a quick bite to eat, and identify exactly where you are on your map. Look at the route ahead and identify any turns off your current path, roads or landmarks, so that you’re not having to study the map in great detail while you’re on the go. Make a note of the set speed for the next part of the route, which will be clearly displayed.
If you are confident enough to try to monitor your speed (rather than guess) and have marked each km on your route, then work out roughly how far it is to the next km mark from your current position (and how long it should take at the next section’s speed)
When your number is called again, thank the official, make sure that you’ve got your record card and then away you go!
Other devices to check that you’re on the right track are ticket points. These can be put wherever there are choices to be made on your route about which side of a hedge to be on or which track to take. Double check the correct route with your map, stamp your record card if you need to then go on your way again. Don’t assume that because there’s a gap with ticket point, you’ve to cross through it – there are both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ ticket points with penalties for missing good ones or getting bad ones.
Tickets can be manned by a steward who will ask your number and note down the route they saw you take, or unmanned where you will have to mark your own record card. There will have been an example of an ‘unmanned’ ticket in the map room – sometimes they are a brightly coloured poster with a letter/number/symbol to write down on your record card, other times they are a specially designed punch that punches holes in the card.
If you would like to learn more about the skills needed for POR just come along to one of our training days, or you can book Evie or Kathryn for your own training. See the events diary for more details.
This guide was written by Evie O’Keeffe and may be linked to, but not reproduced elsewhere, without prior permission.