This was the first year I've made it to Spook Run. I have gone to
Chicken Chase for several years and love the trail, the camp, the
vets, and the general atmosphere, but never made it for the fall ride.
This fall I was unable to ride as many rides as I wanted, so I was
eager to get one last ride in this season. Despite the dismal forcast
(rain, chill, overcast), Daniel and I headed to Spook Run mid-day on
Wednesday, October 24, 2007.
When we pulled into camp, three other rigs were there. We parked in
our customary parking space and Daniel set up the corral panels for
Tanna. I had planned to get in a training night ride after we arrived,
but the sky looked threatening and I didn't want to get my gear all
wet. There will be plenty of opportunity after the time changes to get
some dark rides in this winter.
After visiting with Bill Wilson (who allows endurance riders to invade
his pasture 3 times a year) and Marcella, Daniel and I returned to our
camper for some hot chocolate and supper.
Thursday morning dawned grey, drizzly and chilly. I was unprepared for
such yucky weather. I should have brought more warm clothes! I slipped
on some riding tights under my jeans and layered my shirts until I was
I then took Tanna and joined Daniel for a walk down the trail to
remove a couple of trees that had fallen across the trail about a mile
from the start of the ride. Bill and another early rider were headed
the same direction on horseback to mark trail. Tanna decided he really
should be joining the other horses and began to make a pain of
himself. He's normally very good in hand. I snarled at him which
usually results in instant good behavior, but Tanna was ignoring me.
When we headed back to camp, he fell into line better.
Back at camp, I prepped my stuff for our ride and the vet check. After
I was done, I opted for laziness and crawled back into bed. I watched
some dvds I'd brought along and dozed. Finally, I decided it was time
to stop being lazy and go check in. The weather was still not very
nice, but at least it wasn't pouring.
I chatted with Sue Keith while she registered me for the Friday 50.
Then I retrieved Tanna from his pen, removed his blanket, and
presented him to Dr. Mike for his pre-ride check. Tanna bounced right
along and was declared ready to start. I stood around talking with Dr.
Mike, the vet secretary, Tom Keith and my husband until I decided
Tanna needed his blanket back.
After supper, Daniel and I joined the other riders for the pre-ride
meeting. 30 riders in the 50 mile division, 20 in the 25 mile
division. Pulse criteria at the vet checks would be 64 beats per
minute. Holds would be 50 minutes after meeting pulse criteria. The 50
milers had 3 loops. Yellow - 20 miles; Orange - 20 miles; and Pink (my
favorite loop!) - 10 miles. The 50 milers would start at 8 AM Eastern
time. LD riders would go an hour later at 9 AM.
Back at our camper, I slipped on my riding tights to sleep in. I
normally don't do this, but I was cold, needed something to wear at
night anyway and figured why be cold while trying to get dressed in
Friday morning dawned overcast and drizzly, but not quite as cold as
it had been. I went about my pre-ride routine and was mounted at 7:45.
I went up and gave my number to the timer and returned to my truck to
replace the battery in Tanna's heart rate monitor. Daniel showed up
and helped me with the battery and remounting. Tanna was behaving
Back at the starting line with 2 minutes to wait, I parked Tanna at a
water trough in case he wanted a last minute drink. He stood
unconcerned with a low heart rate. Even after the ride was started and
all the horses followed Bill Wilson for the controlled start down the
pavement, Tanna was fine and not being stupid. I headed him after the
horses near the back of the pack. He walked calmly down the pavement.
We picked up a trot when we reached the gravel and he began to turn on
the turbo. I let him trot as long as he was being safe. We passed
several riders during the 2 mile stretch to the next pavement. When we
reached the pavement, we went around another small group and Tanna
power trotted down the pavement. He is quite sure-footed and works
well on pavement, so I let him do his thing as long as he was safe. We
got into a small pocket. No riders in sight in front or behind. Tanna
was happy, energetic and controllable. I was pleased.
All too soon we caught up with several riders and I tucked in behind
them. I was startled to find myself in the company of Amy Whelan, Bill
Wilson, Connie Caudill, Paul Sidio, Ron Chapman and Kyla McAfee.
Clearly, I was in the wrong place. Also known as the front of the
pack. Amy glanced over her shoulder and gave me the weirdest look. I
said, "I KNOW; don't look at me like that!" We were in good footing,
Tanna's heart rate was low and controlled the 130s and I knew there
were hills coming up in the ride that would slow our overall average
down. So for the time being, I hung with the crowd. Tanna and I were
thoroughly enjoying ourselves.
As a group, we walked down the first good hill. Climbing back out the
other side, though, resulted in Tanna reaching over 160 for his HR. I
had a goal to keep his HR under 155, so began to think about backing
off. The other riders began walking, though, and Tanna's HR dropped,
so I stayed with everybody for a few minutes longer.
Finally, though, I paused at a creek and let the others go on. Tanna
pitched a fit and a half, but I was firm. He is not a mountain horse
and I didn't want him blowing himself out in the first loop. We walked
out of the valley back onto the ridge, trotting the more level places,
with me keeping a sharp eye on the heart rate monitor. When we reached
the ridge-top, I allowed some controlled cantering, pulling him back
to a power trot when he started to get out of control. As I came up to
a gate where we were to turn right and descend down into another
valley, we came on the other riders paused at a truck that was
offering water to the horses. I brought Tanna to a walk and watched
until the other riders disappeared. At that point, Patricia and Dixie
caught up with me. I let them go on as well as Tanna pitched yet
Half-way down the hill, I paused and electrolyted Tanna from the
saddle, allowing Dixie and Patricia to get further on down the trail
before we got going again. Tanna was not impressed that I asked him to
let the other horses go and was hard to control. When we came out on
gravel, I allowed some cantering, but again, pulled him back to a trot
when he got too forward.
When we came to a very low, very large tree smack across the trail, I
pulled him up and looked for a way around. I saw no good way around.
The best way was to go under. I eyed the clearance and promptly
dismounted. I led Tanna under and was glad I'd dismounted. My saddle
cleared the tree, but not by much and I would not have liked being in
the saddle. He spun around me a couple times and I remounted on the
I tried to convince him to eat some bites of grass, but he was being
really irritating and wanted to continue on and catch the other
horses. I saw another horse coming up to the downed tree and decided
to just move on down the trail. I paused again a little while further
in a futile attempt to get Tanna to settle and eat. The rider caught
up with me and I let them go on. Tanna pitched another temper tantrum,
but I was still being firm.
Finally, I was tired of being on a powder keg. I said fine, run for a
bit. He took off running so fast. I could not get him to come back. I
yelled at him, pulling back, and trying to get him back to a
reasonable speed. I knew pavement was coming up in a little bit and I
did not want him running full out when he hit the pavement. I did not
want to turn him. At that speed, we'd both end up in a heap. So I kept
pulling back and hollering at him. Finally, something penetrated and
he slowed just a hair. Soon I had him stopped just shy of the
pavement. We were both shaking. I slid off.
I figured he'd do better if I jogged beside him down the pavement.
He's usually very good in hand. We started down the road and Tanna
promptly ran over me. I snarled at him and he did it again. I elbowed
him in the chest to make him back off and he ran past me. I spun him
back around, told him to behave and started again. Again he ran over
me, past me, ignoring me. I was very unhappy with him. Several riders
passed me and I asked if anybody carried a gun so I could just walk
back to camp. Nobody had one. I was asked how much for the horse.
I paused by a guard rail where there was some good grass and asked him
to lower his head. Don't know why I thought he'd grab a bite. I've
taught him to grab bites along the trail, but I'd also taught him to
not run over me or run off with me, and that wasn't going so well
either. We stood there in a battle of wills. He would run over me, I'd
spin him back into position and we'd do it all over. I was very
frustrated with him. Finally, I kept going down the road and after a
few hundred feet decided to remount. Walking wasn't helping, we'd
might as well make some time. I moved him to the side of the road
where I could get on an incline to remount. I had to reposition him. I
held the reins quite tightly in my left hand and swung into the
saddle. He immediately tried to take off. On pavement. I growled at
him and he stood for a split second. Long enough for me to get my
right foot into my stirrup. Then we trotted off.
We got onto the gravel and I told Tanna he could trot, not canter. So
much for that. He did trot most of the time, but about 1/2 mile from
camp, he took off running again. This time I was able to get him back
much sooner. I dismounted at the pavement and walked him into the
timer. Still frustrated with my horse, I waited a couple minutes for
his HR to drop to 64 and went to the pulse takers and directly to the
We spent our hold time back at the trailer. Tanna ate some grain and
picked at his hay. About normal for him after the first loop. With 7
minutes till time for me to get back on trail, I tightened up the
girth, replaced the crupper and breast collar and headed back to the
timer. I made it with 20 seconds to spare.
Off we went trotting down the trail for the second 20 mile loop. Tanna
was still energetic, but much more controllable. I was still riding to
his heart rate. Not letting his heart rate get above 155 for very long
at a single time. We hit the first switchback and I hopped off and
walked down. Tanna followed right behind me. At the bottom, I
remounted and we trotted the short stretch to the next switchback,
this time up. Done with the switchbacks, we cantered and trotted where
appropriate, dropping to a walk for some of the hills. We caught up
with and passed several riders on this loop. The same riders that had
passed us while I was attempting to gain control of my horse on the
The second loop was an out and back loop. Just before the turn-around,
Guy Worthington caught up with us and we rode together for awhile. I
decided Tanna needed to pee, so turned off the trail and attempted to
get him to relax. No go, but that was enough time for Guy to get quite
ahead of me and for a group of 3 riders to pass me.
Back at camp, Tanna pulsed down right away. This time, instead of
going directly to the vets, I went back to the trailer and let Tanna
eat a little while I took his saddle off and replaced it with a
cooler. Back up to the vets where Dr. Kevin checked Tanna out. He
asked me to trot Tanna out a second time. He thought he saw something,
but it was likely just Tanna not picking his feet up and stumbling a
little over the rough ground. He did mention the left hind hamstring
was a bit tight. Everything else was a-ok.
Back to the trailer for the rest of our hold. Tanna ate and drank and
seemed generally normal. Ten minutes before we were to leave, I
saddled Tanna back up and checked him all over. His hamstring was no
longer tight, but I found a swollen lump in his left front armpit in
front of the girth. I put some green salve on the spot and headed out.
I was 4 minutes late going out on our last 10 mile loop. We took off
at a controlled canter.
We were descending the first short hill and I was in my own little
world when David Monroe caught up with us and I let him go on. We
played leap frog until the gravel. Tanna decided it was time to take
off and trotted and cantered to the road crossing, leaving David and
his horse. We crossed the road and headed down the trail for the last
mile and a half. About 1/2 mile from the finish line, we caught up
with and passed Dixie and her horse. Tanna never looked back and
cantered energetically across the finish line just shy of 4 PM for a
ride time of 6 hours 18 minutes.
After stopping at the timer for the last time, I took Tanna back to
the trailer for some food and to clean him up before presenting him to
the vet. He came through with great grades. He was still fairly
energetic and was ready to go again. Which is the goal, after all.
With the exception of the behavior issues during the first loop, I was
quite pleased with my horse and his performance.
Thanks to Lois and Bob McAfee for putting on this ride. I really enjoy
the trails. Bill is a very accommodating host. Drs. Mike Habel and
Kevin Sloan were wonderful. Thanks to all the other volunteers. I had
a great time. A very good end to our season.