Trec China International Report 2019 by Mairead Moynihan
Our China adventure began on 3rd October when the official invitation came from the Chinese government to Trec Ireland to send their chosen riders to China International Trec Competition! This is their second year to hold this competition, last year Judi Pheysey, Niamh O’Huid and I represented Ireland and Trec Ireland! Once this year’s riders were chosen, Elaine Dolan Crowley and I, the countdown started!! Flights booked, time off work arranged, minders arranged for the horses, kids and dogs and a quick chat with a wonderful sponsors Kellihers Mills Tralee about some fancy gear to help us look the part!! And we did!!
A change in venue from Weifang beach to China horse town, near Inner Mongolia, corresponding extra flights to Beijing, followed by a mad dash for visas and we were on our way to China!! Only when we arrived in Beijing airport did the reality of an international competition kick in –met by Deborah, our Chinese tour guide, and competitors Amanti from France, Alex from Singapore and Kim from USA!!!
Off we headed for China Horse town 4 hours’ drive northwards. Stopped for some Chinese takeaway on the way! Weather was bad with heavy snowfall and freezing roads so we stayed overnight in a hotel halfway and finally met up with the rest of our fellow competitors early next morning. A quick breakfast, bag drop and off to the stables to meet our horses for the competition!
Ground still covered in snow and temperature about -4 degrees!! A draw took place to allocate horses to riders. We grabbed some tack, saddled up and off we went!! Quick photo first and then a 10km fun ride to the competition venue!! What a way to check out horses!! And competitors!! Mine was a nice handy 15hh chestnut gelding.
Dropped our horses into corrals, quick bit to eat and it was vet check time. A few minutes to teach horses to trot up, with encouraging words from fellow competitors and onlookers, some passed and others had to be substituted! Straight into a sand arena to teach them all about trec obstacles in approximately 2 hours while our PTV course was being built around us!! Just like you do at home!! It was interesting to watch riders realise that these were neck reined horses firstly and that they had never jumped before. As for low branches and S- bend, they thought we were crazy!! Reinback proved impossible for most of us, except for Amanti, who used his long legs wrapped around the horse’s chest as encouragement! And it worked!! Not one to try at home, though!!
Horses put away and a quick change for opening ceremony and food!! Amazing ceremony and main course was lamb on a spit ceremonially presented to us!!
Day 1 started with PTV, course walk already started when Elaine and I arrived, so we joined in! An amalgamation of Chinese riders and judges, French Technical delegate, Irish, Russian, Austrian, American, UK and French riders all chatting at the same time!! Saddled up and watched the Chinese national riders competing, had photos taken by amused spectators while we waited. Next it was our turn and each horse and rider was vocally encouraged around the course in several languages! That over, we dined in style, in the royal stables in the company of their royal horses. Totally surreal experience!!
A tough MA followed lunch; start line was surrounded by photographers and horses not too enthusiastic about entering corridor. We were all there encouraging each other, as true treccies, we wanted to win but on a level playing field!
Days competition over, we headed to the amphitheatre to see an amazing show with fire eaters, acrobats, trapeze artists, dancing horses and Mongolians stunt riders!! Out of this world!!
Dinner and an early night, for the next day was POR!!
First challenge was a black and white aerial photo as our master map, then photographers and drones to get by at the start of our POR!! Once we were off and travelling it was wild open plains with frozen rivers and streams, rough tracks through little villages and specular views from hilltops of skyscrapers of the city behind us and miles of countryside in front of us!! And our cute horses knew the way mostly, seems we were travelling on some of their trekking routes!! Home after a 6 hour adventure, crispy cold start but a clear sunny day!! We all headed to hotel for a quick shower and back for closing ceremony and results!!! Top table for us, no less!! Riders called out in reverse order, and next thing we knew there are 5 on the table including Elaine and I!! Two weeks later and we are still on a high!! I came third and Elaine came second!! Chinese TV interview, local paper and radio interviews, a new and exciting experience for us!!
Both of us stayed on for a tour organised for the riders which included a snow blizzard 30km ride to Inner Mongolia ,a two hour personally escorted tour of a state-of-the art expo charting the role the horse has played in the history of China. A walk on the Great Wall of China with spectacular views and VIP access!! Finally Beijing and the Forbidden City in 25 degrees heat. Flew home to a marvellous reception at Cork airport!! Doesn’t get better that this!!
Thanks to China Institute of Horse culture, Sports and Tourism, Mr Wutzala Wu Gang Fang and Justin Tseng, Deborah Wang and Bruce Leung, to Trec Ireland and all who made this possible for Elaine and I!!!