October 31 2011
To all who did not attend the Spook Run ride in SE Indiana this weekend, you missed a beautiful ride. Trails were in great condition and well-marked, plenty of water in the creek crossings, late fall color, and cool enough for the Morgan horses! Lois McAfee managed the 50/25 on Friday and Amy Whelan took over the controls for the 100/50/25 on Saturday. My daughter, Morgan, and I showed up Friday afternoon with our Morgan horses, Angel (aka "The Devil's Handmaiden") and Quest, to tackle the 100 mile trail on Saturday. Mary Chmielski and Helen Cantrell rode the LD on Friday and volunteered to crew for Morgan and I on Saturday. All the holds were in camp, but life is so much easier when help is available. They were awesome. We were met at the entrance to camp by a "blanket brigade" all day as Mary and Helen seemed to sense our arrival each time and were prepared with coolers for the ponies.
The weather was crisp, definitely requiring gloves and hats Friday afternoon. Friday's ride had about 20 50's and 13 or so LDs. Saturday was 13 100s (!), 23 (or so) 50's and 13 LDs. The vets were Mike Habel and Maureen Fehrs. Saturday morning was quite cold with a hard frost and a layer of ice on the water buckets. Our trailer lacks a furnace so it was very difficult to get out of our nice warm bed to tack up the horses for a 7 AM start.
It was quite dark at 7, so Lois and Connie Caudill led the 100s on a controlled start for a few miles until it was light enough to see the ribbons. The Morgans and I cruised along as the sun peeked over the yellow and orange hills of So Indiana. The first loop was 25 miles and by the time we returned to camp it was warm enough to start shedding coats and gloves but standing in camp was a bit breezy, so the horses were kept covered all day. Connie pulled after the first loop, feeling her horse was not quite right to go another 75 miles and Lois continued on alone.
The next two loops were a 19 mile trail repeated twice which also covered most of the final 10 mile loop, which meant we were able to see in daylight what we would be riding after dark. The Morgans were pulsing down nicely, though since we were afraid to throw much water on them in the cold and kept the rears well covered, it did take a few minutes each hold, as we were moving along pretty well. In the third loop we joined up with Amy Yatsko and Earl Baxter and rode with them for the next 3 loops. Angel and Morgan took a bit of a header towards the end of the 3rd loop as they jumped a little ravine and Angel lost her footing on the other side (leaves hid a lot of little roots and erosion ruts) and planted her face in the trail. Morgan "dismounted" over Angel's head - she claims she did it on purpose, somehow missing Angel's devil horns as she went over - and both popped up relatively unscathed. Angel had a bit of a bloody nose but it stopped quickly and she seemed unfazed.
The 4th loop was a 15 mile out and back which repeated a lot of the first loop, which is fortunate, because most of the 100s rode it in the dark. It was a nice ridgeline trail, so easy to make time on. We watched the sun go down on the opposite side of the mountain on the same trail we watched it come up on. Amy, Earl, Morgan and I managed to get all but the last 4 or 5 miles of this loop under our belts before darkness fell around 6:45. Coats, gloves and hats were quickly replaced as the sun went down but it was not nearly as cold as the previous night.
The last two loops were the traditional "pink loop" known to those who have done rides at Bill Wilson's farm before. We set out in the black - the tiny little crescent moon set about an hour after the sun did but it was so low to the horizon, it didn't offer any help at all - head lamps on and booked around the loop; we had already seen it twice, so the horses were comfortable on it though the second half of it seemed to go on forever, winding through the woods.
After a short 20 minute hold, Amy and Earl went ahead and the Morgans and I set our own pace in the dark. Quest was a little hesitant at first - he had some eye trouble last year and I don't think his night vision is great, plus he had spent the last loop following Amy's horse, Captain. We put Angel in front for a while, but after a few miles, Quest decided he was up for the challenge. Boy, did he move! Once he figured out where we were, and I figured out how to hold my light for him, we Zoomed! This loop seemed to fly by since we knew the finish line was so close! We finished both pink loops in 1 1/2 hrs each in the dark....
Lois and Hoosier finished first (BC and 1st FW) about 90 minutes ahead of us, her ride time must have been about 12 hr and 15 min (I am estimating) - she was finishing as we were leaving on our last loop - not feeling well, but still with a smile on her face. Earl and Champ (1st HW) and Amy on Captain (2nd FW) finished just a few minutes ahead of us (1st Jr and 1st LW) and then the next riders were more than 40 minutes behind us, so a big gap in the 100s. We finished with a ride time of 13:44 and a total time of 17:04 crossing the finish at 4 minutes after midnight. The last riders finished sometime after 3 AM. BRRR! Vets Mike and Maureen had a bonfire and Bill's heated garage to wait in, but still a long cold night.....
Our Morgans ate like pigs all day, going through a banana box of deer apples and my buffet of feed. I don't think they stopped eating at any of the holds - hay, grain, grass - it all disappeared. Quite a change for my ulcer boy, I think I finally have him under control and haven't used any Gastrogard all summer. Quest tried to cramp a little in the cold during the last hold but I gave him some extra calcium and an extra cooler and he warmed up very quickly as we loped down the lane to the last loop.
Sorry I don't know the final results for everyone - awards were handed out as riders finished - and Morgan and I went to bed. I do know that except for Connie, all 100s finished (92%)!
Thanks for having a 100 for us, Lois, Amy and all her volunteers and crew (especially the popsicles formally known as Mike and Maureen)! And thanks to Teddy Lancaster who donated all the junior awards this weekend. And finally, mucho thanks to our great crew, Mary and Helen!
Pleasant Creek, WV