Mary and I went to Sherwood Forest to do a Level 2 trec competition.
We felt rather out of practice as it's our first once this year, but being in the school summer holidays we were prepared to travel a bit further for one.
We had heard that the group running this one have a good reputation for routes and organisation etc.
So on Friday afternoon we packed up the lorry and set off - in fact it took us about 2 and 3/4 hours to drive there which I thought wasn't bad at all.
It was a nice setting in the forest where they have a mostly grass extra parking area for trailers, lorries and corralling horses.
Not much grass though as it is obviously used a lot, but we had haylage with us.
Hubby Hugo set about cooking our BBQ dinner whilst we built the corral and found the toilets etc.
This competition had the PTV (obstacles section) out on the POR (orienteering section) which we had never done before.
We didn't know where it would be on the route, just somewhere.
This meant you couldn't walk the course in advance, but they did give us a list of what the obstacles would be.
They also said the time allowed was 26 minutes, which scared us, we are used to a PTV that takes less than 10 minutes!
Our map room start time was 11.50, so Hugo duly made us bacon and egg sarnies so we had eaten well but still had a relaxed time getting ready.
Sadly by this point they were running half an hour late :-(
We heard stories that the route was long and complicated so people were asking for extra time in the map room (which you get penalties for) so they had time to copy it.
The route was drawn as 2 sections in different colours, as some of it came back the same way as you went out, but with slight variations.
As a pair we always do map copying so one of us copies forwards and the other copies backwards.
I only just managed to copy it in the 10 mins, Mary did not and so did not have the beginning of the route which was the forest section.
The map was then sealed in an envelope whilst we collected ponies and were given our maps back at the start line.
By the time we had done tack and equipment check and got going, it was about 3/4 hour later than we had expected to leave, and we now knew it was a very long route that would take hours to ride.
With hindsight what we should have done here was stop round the corner and for Mary to copy the forest route, but we didn't of course :-(
The first section was straight forward though, and we got to the first checkpoint that was only about 3km into the route.
The next section was much trickier than it looked on the map, with the usual forest thing of lots more tracks in real life than were drawn on the map.
We took 3 goes to find the correct track, which probably wasted about 10 mins as we had to go far enough down the track before we realised it was not right.
We tried to catch up a bit of time, but then went wrong again. This time checking our compass and we were on a lovely wide track facing almost completely in the wrong direction. Boo :-(
By the time we had re-traced, found the correct route, and trotted a lot to the next checkpoint, I worked out we were probably about half an hour or more off the time, and we'd done more distance of course, so we were concerned that the ponies would tire before the end of the route.
So we made a decision not to be too competitive about the next section, and look after our ponies.
This was a long section with roads, bridleways (stony or hard) etc and we had been given a speed of 8km/h, which we thought was too fast given the conditions.
We got to the next checkpoint about 15 mins too slow, which was in fact better than we thought it was going to be :-)
This turned out to be the start of the PTV, where they were sending us out every 4 minutes. We had a 30 minute wait here, which helpfully gave me time to go for a wee behind some handy bales ;-)
I found the long wait a bit frustrating at the time, but Fudge nodded off, which turned out to be good for him.
Fudge is usually a star at PTV obstacles, but this time he was more concerned at being separated from Splash.
However we did canter under the low branches without hitting them, and he did the ditch and 2 jumps OK.
Then there was a long canter section along 2 sides of a field, this really was a spread out PTV, I had to check my map to make sure I was going the right way!
Fudge annoyed me at the gate by spinning round on the spot having heard Splash coming, but I had already had hold of the rope to open the gate, and had to drop it again, so that was more penalties. Sigh.
He lead downhill beautifully, but then could not see Splash, so he jogged up it overtaking me :-(
The mount was good, nicely on the side of the hill so you could be uphill, but I hadn't quite got on and both feet in stirrups within the time allowed, so zero for that!
Water crossing was into a river, along it about 20 feet and then out again - Fudge was perfect - hoorah! Then bending poles which again was great.
Meanwhile I took a look at my watch and realised we were nearly 20 mins in to the 26 mins allowed for PTV. Part of the problem was that the fence judges were holding us up when there was another competitor coming.
Oh well, across another field, when I overtook the couple ahead of me who seemed to be lost!
The rein-back, which Fudge trashed as he had gone back into Where's Splash mode rather than concentrating on the job!
Down a winding track, and canter across a stubble field for the last 2 obstacles, which were ridden corridor (cantered, but touched a pole) and ridden immobility (perfect).
Then the control of paces section, by which point we were really tired. Fudge did a lovely canter, which I knew would score (I got 13 for it).
His walk back again was good, Splash had appeared so he had something to aim for. We scored 8 for that, which is pretty usual for us.
Once Mary had finished her PTV and COP, we started back on the orienteering thinking we had miles yet to go, and they'd given us a fast section of 9km/h.
There was a winding track with low trees so difficult to trot, then a road section, under 2 railway bridges, and a road crossing with a pelican crossing so we had to wait for that too, so 9km/h seemed unfair.
We assumed we would catch it up on the next section which was a long bridleway, but no, having crossed a pub carpark (including the bouncy castle!) there was a checkpoint, who said he was the finish!
I was really confused, there was still another few km of route we had spent time copying at the start in the map room!
The checkpoint judge had to explain that was the route back, or there was a 1.5 km shortcut but it involved the main road.
Mary and I opted for the road as our 2 are sensible with traffic, and we'd had enough. Well I had :-)
If we'd gone the long way, it would have been more like 28 or 29km rather than the 21km we did (plus the wasted re-tracing our steps in the forest).
Back at the lorry I was much improved after 2 cups of tea and 2 pieces of yummy cake (Mary specials), but by then I was so tired I was really grateful Hugo was there to drive the lorry home.
By the time we'd packed everything up (we had to bring all the poo home with us as there were no disposal facilities!!) it was quite late, and we got back to the yard about 10.45pm in the dark.
We are still waiting for the confirmed scores and results, but have seen some provisional ones.
As it turned out, they decided not to award any time penalties for the PTV to anyone. I am very pleased about that, as I thought it was very unfair.
Our times were something like 34 and 38 minutes, and we'd cantered wherever we could!
There were 16 pairs in our class so we are expecting to be last or very close to that.
Hard to tell on the day if anyone else got lost even worse than we did ;-)