A Pembrokeshire horsewoman will be orienteering around the Italian countryside on horseback this month as the only Welsh member of the British squad competing in the Senior European TREC championships.

Kate Gillam, who lives in Solva and has a lifelong association with horses, is passionate about TREC, a sport which challenges the fitness of both horse and rider.

TREC originated in France around 30 years ago as a means of testing and improving the skills of trail ride leaders and is an acronym of the French term ‘Technique de randonnée équestre en compétition’.

The three-phase sport tests rider navigation and the horse’s ability to tackle different terrain and natural obstacles.

Kate got involved after being introduced to the sport by the West Wales Riding Club.

“It was introduced at the club’s AGM as a new sport in the UK and described as ‘games for grown-ups’, galloping flat out beneath low branches,’’ she recalls.

Kate initially took up the sport on her horse, Wizard of Oz, but her partner now is Lily Langtree, an Irish draught sports horse which she bought as a four-year-old from Mefin Thomas, of Abernant Farm near Croesgoch, three miles or so from her home.

“My father said that I would never find another horse to match my first, making the point that your first is always your best, but this is not true,’’ says Kate, a member of the local affiliated TREC club, Red Kite TREC Group.

“Lily is also exceptional, competing in many British Riding Club events and we were in the winning team of the BRC Indoor Novice Show Jumping National Championships. She is an excellent TREC partner, forward going and turning her hoof to anything.’’

The logistics of getting the British squad to Italy are already well underway. The horses will assemble in Kent for vetting and will board a transporter for the three-day journey to the venue near Rome.

“The riders will either fly or convoy the lorry to take care of the horses in transit,’’ Kate explains.

The squad includes a junior team of four competing in the Junior World TREC Championships and a senior squad of five – four members of this squad will ride as a team and one as an individual.

“The team will be selected the day before the competition, depending on horse and rider fitness and other criteria,’’ says Kate.

The squad is being sponsored by Performance Equestrian who donated four red, white and blue bridles for the competition, and Just Chaps, who provided the riding chaps.

“We have received other sponsorship from the clubs and from a generous bequest in the will from a former TREC rider. But the main bulk of the costs are our own,’’ says Kate, who is grateful to her employer, Haven Systems, for helping to meet some of transportation costs.

She is hoping to encourage other people to take up TREC. “It would be great to see more junior riders coming through,’’ she says.