Orienteering

This Sunday I took Cassie to her first TREC event. It was an Orienteering route over 15 km and as it was local we didn’t have to travel far. Perfect for a first outing. Orienteering is the phase that attracted me to TREC. I can’t think of a better way to spend a day than going out with my horse for a ride through beautiful countryside. In the orienteering phase of TREC you have to copy a route onto a map and then find your own way to a set speed. Along the way there are checkpoints and speed changes. You don’t know in advance where the checkpoints are. I mark my map at 500 meter intervals, so I can calculate our speed. The aim is to achieve optimum time.

 I only ride Cassie about 3 times a week, because she is young and green and I want to take things slowly with her. I have taken her on different routes in our own area, preparing her for longer rides and giving her the confidence to deal with the unexpected en route. The country around us is hilly and Cassie lives out, so she’s quite fit. It was time to try an event.

The morning started badly with a steady downpour after a night of heavy rain. Our starting time was 1 pm and we were lucky as by then the rain had eased to drizzle and eventually it even cleared. Cassie was a bit on her toes on arrival. There was lots of activity with other horses and riders getting ready, but she settled soon after we set out. We started on a quiet country road, which led us into forestry. We met our first obstacle, when the track we were on was flooded and rivulets of water crossed our path and streamed towards us. Cassie wasn’t sure about this. We had crossed some shallow streams before, so I just let her look and waited for her to work it out for herself.

She thought about it for a while and went closer to investigate, bringing her head all the way down for a good look. Then, decision made, she crossed. There were a few more instances where Cassie didn’t like the look of things, but each time she made the decision to move on. So when eventually she stopped rather suddenly and dug her heels in, I decided she must have a good reason to do so and got off. I pulled the reins over her head so I could lead her and walked on with Cassie behind me.

I saw almost immediately why Cassie had refused to continue. We have had a lot of rain since the start of July, with some very heavy showers over the last few days. Parts of the road had subsided leaving dangerous fissures and craters in our path. When Cassie stopped, I had noticed that one side of the path was damaged, but the extend was not really visible until we got much closer. I found it very interesting and reassuring that Cassie was aware of what was ahead. It was only a short stretch, but it wasn’t easy to find a safe way through for Cassie. At the end of it we paused and I gave Cassie some time to graze.

Here is a photo of one of the fissures. The depth doesn’t show up, but is was more than a foot deep.

The rest of our ride went very well. When we got to the finish, I looked after Cassie and then went in to have a chat with some of the other riders. I was surprised to learn I was the only one who had dismounted at the road subsidence. Everybody else had just kicked their horse on. Cassie and I made terrible time, but I think we had a great ride. It’s good to know that I can trust Cassie’s judgement to keep us safe and because I gave her time when she needed it, Cassie didn’t get upset at any point during our ride. We can try for optimum time at another event.

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