Welcome to a new blog post where bestselling author Amanda Wills talks about the research behind her new Riverdale book - including participating in a TREC competition!
Words by Amanda:
"When people ask me what I love about being an author, I usually tell them it’s the ability to go to work in my pyjamas and kill off people who annoy me.
But actually, one of the things I enjoy most is the research involved in writing about a subject I know little about.
For example, I learnt all about quadrilles when I was writing The Thirteenth Horse and its sequel Trophy Horse, and even designed my own routines for the four main characters, Kristy, Norah, Sofia and William.
For my latest novel, The Mystery of Riverdale Tor, the eighth book in the Riverdale Pony Stories, I have been getting to grips with an equestrian sport that seems to be growing in popularity all the time – TREC.
TREC originated in France and is based on the skills needed for hacking, testing a rider’s navigation skills and their horse’s ability to tackle different terrain and natural obstacles.
The competition is divided into three phases – orienteering, control of paces and an obstacle section, which recreates some of the natural hazards you might meet out hacking, such as gates, steps, a river crossing or a fallen log.
Think handy pony meets a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award expedition and you’re almost there.
TREC seemed like the perfect new discipline for my pony-mad heroine Poppy McKeever and her best friend Scarlett to try their hands at – and hopefully enjoy!
Before I started writing the book I scoured the TREC GB website and watched endless videos on YouTube to get an idea what it was all about. But I figured there’s no better way to research something new than to have a go yourself, and so I did!
Luckily one of my friends at the yard where I ride is a big fan of TREC and regularly competes.
When she set up an obstacle course in the outdoor school and invited me to have a go I jumped at the chance.
Dobbie, the dark bay 15.1hh Connemara I ride every Friday, looked slightly askance when he saw the various obstacles, which ranged from pretend rivers and roadworks to bending poles and a rope gate.
Neck reining, reining back, jumping and standing perfectly still for mounting and dismounting are all skills that need to be mastered if you are going to score highly at TREC.
But Dobbie’s an easy-going, unflappable kind of chap and he took it all in his stride.
To complete my research, I went along to watch a local TREC competition taking place and began to get to grips with the complicated scoring system.
Armed with all the information I needed, I was able to start writing my book, confident that all my research would make the TREC scenes both accurate and believable.
Along the way I discovered that TREC is a really fun discipline to enjoy with your horse or pony and can improve both your horsemanship and your horse or pony’s manners.
One of the things I love about the sport is that it doesn’t matter if you ride a glossy show pony or a hairy cob and at any TREC competition you’ll find native ponies competing side by side with re-trained racehorses or retired hunters.
This is because the emphasis is on horsemanship rather than horse power and well-trained, calm horses and ponies will always do best.
If you’re wondering how Poppy and Scarlett got on when they gave TREC a go… you’ll just have to read the book to find out!"
Thanks Amanda for a great blog post! The eighth edition of the Riverdale Series is out now - The Mystery of Riverdale Tor and I am looking forward to checking it out!
It's available in eBook or paperback on Amazon here.