"IT'S fun and it's interesting but it is a difficult, demanding sport," says Kathryn Bean.
She is talking about Trec, the sport that has become her passion. It involves three phases – orienteering, going over a course of various obstacles and demonstrating control of the horse's paces.
Since she started doing Trec around five years ago she has progressed through the grades to the top level of four.
In September last year she was selected to ride for the British senior team at the European Trec Championships in Austria and at 24 was the youngest member of the team.
Kathryn's eyes light up when she describes the thrill of riding at such an event, particularly tackling the orienteering course. This route over 35k of tough terrain proved to be a considerable challenge and "quite scary" according to Kathryn.
Viewers of the BBC's popular Countryfile programme will soon be able to watch Kathryn showing one of the programme's presenters, Jules Hudson, how to get started in the sport.
"We did some of the filming in Escrick Park and he rode Harry, my mum's Highland pony and he loved it," said Kathryn.
She was keen on orienteering at school and later, when she bought Millie, an Irish draught thoroughbred cross, she wanted something to work towards with the then inexperienced horse. Orienteering on horseback turned out to be ideal.
"Trec takes a lot of skill and it's taught my horses a lot," says Kathryn.
She thinks some people are reluctant to try Trec because they are worried about the map reading element but Kathryn reckons that anybody can do it.
"It is very accessible because any rider can try it at their own level and with their own horse or pony," she added. "They don't need to have an expensive horse or the backing of owners, which happens in other equestrian disciplines.
What would help however would be more sponsorship, says Kathryn.
The British riders in Austria had to fund their own their own transport, stabling, vets' bills and everything else connected with the competition.
"To get as good as the French (who started the sport) you need to be going abroad every year to compete on the European circuit but this would be very expensive," said Kathryn, who hopes to compete in Portugal in May on a horse she will hire there.
This year she has been put forward for the BHS development squad which will mean travelling to training events all over the country.
"I'm working towards the 2012 World Championships. To be selected as a senior team member would be pretty impressive," says Kathryn.
She works as a community support officer for North Yorkshire Police and all her holidays and days off are taken up by travelling to Trec events. She is keen to promote the sport and is helped by her parents, Peter and Paula,who live near York.
Together they are organising an indoor Trec competition which will be held at Askham Bryan College on March 12. They are also running a Trec camp at Appleton-le-Moors in April for people who would like to try it out but this is already booked up and there is a waiting list.
For more information about Trec go to www.bhs.org
Pressures take toll as Laurens is forced to call it a day
THE para-equestrian dressage rider Simon Laurens has announced he is to retire from competing internationally and from the World Class Programme performance squad.
The financial pressures of competing at this level are among the reasons when he confirmed his decision earlier this week.
" This has been a very difficult decision and I have thought very carefully for a number of months before making this announcement," he said.
"For personal reasons competing at international level is becoming more and more difficult.
"I have also been looking very hard for a successor to my current ride, Ocean Diamond, for the last 12months and have tried some lovely horses but have not found a horse that I believe I can win a medal with at London 2012."
Laurens says he intends to remain involved in the sport and help promote para-equestrian dressage.
"I wish the squad good luck for 2012 and expect them to win a bucketful of medals."
Will Connell, the British Equestrian Federation's performance director, said: "This is a very sad day for the sport.
"Not only has Simon proven himself an outstanding athlete, winning medals for Team GBR at Paralympic Games, European and World level, he is also a fantastic team member.
"He gives freely of his time to help promote his sport and encourages others to try riding."
Multitude of top horse and rider combinations prepare for Badminton
THIS year's Badminton Horse Trials will run earlier than usual, over the Easter weekend of April 21 to 25.
This is in order to fit in with international horse trials schedules and also to ensure the best possible television coverage.
Last year's event was also held over a Bank Holiday weekend (April 30 to May 3) and proved to be very successful.
The first day, Thursday, this year will be devoted to the Mitsubishi Motors Grassroots Championships, the national final of a series for amateur riders which was held for the first time last year.
Spectators will not have to pay admission charges for this day, car parking will be the only cost. The shops will be open and visitors will also be able to walk the cross country course and watch the horse inspection in front of Badminton House in the afternoon.
The main event will begin with dressage on Good Friday followed by cross country on Easter Sunday and then the final test of the showjumping.
The event will be taking place during school holidays for the first time in 20 years, so organisers are hoping that younger enthusiasts will be out in force.
Eighty of the top horse and rider combinations from around the world will be competing with the prospect of the European Championships at Luhmulen in the autumn in view as well as the London 2012 Olympics next year.
Hugh Thomas, the event director and course designer, said: "With Easter being as late as it ever can be, it is almost certainly a one off running over the Easter weekend, which is traditionally a great one for sport, so we look forward to being part of it."
The box office opens for bookings on Monday, January 10. Go to www.badminton-horse.co.uk or call 01454 218375.