The story of Team TREC-USA 2012 would not have taken place without the initiative and determination of then USNETO president and 2012 Chef d’Equipe Mary Harcourt, who took a group of interested applicants – all newcomers to the sport and riders of different skills and abilities – and organized a team. Team TREC-USA 2012 was composed of six riders with widely different backgrounds, equestrian experience, and skills in a range of riding disciplines including: showing hunters, fox hunting, eventing, competetive trail riding, endurance riding, ride & tie racing, harness racing, and of course TREC. Link to Team Profile (below)
Training began early in the year with a clinic given by French Chef d-Equip and former World Champion Thierry Maroud, followed by many training weekends where Mary shared her knowledge of TREC and experience in international competitions with the team. Training sessions included many miles of mapped rides, learning to use map and compass, read the terrain and critical landmarks, and accurately rate one’s speed. Other sessions were devoted to learning the correct way to ride TREC obstacles, and to developing the skills needed to compete at the international level. Attention was also given to connecting with a new horse by guest Parelli Instructor Wendy ___ as it was known from the beginning that the team would be riding leased horses.
In addition to training riders, Mary took 2 trips to Portugal to scout and secure horses, horse and rider accommodations, and training facilities overseas. Together the decision was made that the team strategy would be to lease horses in Portugal for 1 month – allowing for 3 1/2 weeks of training and conditioning leading up to the competition. It was decided the Mary would go for the duration, and support riders would come in small groups as they were able to help prepare the horses. Riders came at the earliest time their situations would allow to get to know their partners.
With help from her contact Nuno Jose Avelar, Mary leased horses from local horseman Tony Correia and had them delivered to The Podio del Aventura in Freiria where their TREC training began. Each day the riders and support crew would travel from their accommodations at the Ericiera Sea Sound to the stables for miles of long rides in the surrounding countryside to prepare the horses for the 45 km orienteering phase, and schooling sessions to teach them TREC obstacles – which were improvised from whatever was on hand. The conditions were hot and dry, the ground hard and rocky, and the horses generally tough and and well suited to the terrain, although some proved to be more suited to the sport of TREC than others.
The competition was held on the grounds of the Royal Palace in Mafra, which is directly connected to the Tapada – a walled nature preserve – formerly the hunting grounds of the king. The first day permitted, the horses were moved to their new accommodations on the site, riders checked in, and there was a meeting of the team Chef d’Equipes. Riders were permitted to exercise their horses on a limited section of the grounds which everyone took advantage of to help get their bearings. Meals were served cafeteria style for all participants on the grounds.
Day One: Equipment check / obstacle course walk / parade and opening ceremony which included a demonstration by the Portuguese Riding School.
Day Two: Mounted Orienteering – POR The day started early, pre-dawn fro the first 2 riders and was a long and challenging day over rough terrain that included thick forest, steep cliffs, farmed fields, archeological sites, residential areas, and contained wildlife including deer, boar, and even wolves. All team members rose to the occasion – performing to the best of their ability with the horses they were partnered with. Of the six riders who started, four moved on the compete the following day.
Day 3 started with Control of Paces / MA on a curved track in the main arena. Insert performance notes: In the afternoon the Obstacle Course – PTV was held on the cross-country course used by the military school, and which contained several very challenging permanent obstacles and course distractions including a tank. The US team showed great determination and courage in tackling this course, and all finished with huge smiles belying their sense of accomplishment (and perhaps relief).
That evening was the closing ceremony and party where team gifts were exchanged and participants traded shirts – an international TREC tradition and fun ending to a big event.
Overall, the team represented the United States at a level previously not exhibited in the TREC World Championships. Scores aside – there were several personal bright spots in the team’s performance, including the shared victory of returning their horses fit, sound, and well-maintained. All participated in the closing ceremony and were honored to represent the United States in the TREC World Championships in 2012.
Team / Rider Profiles
Team Motto: No Crying In The Woods!