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[RC] Chicken Chase 2008 Part 1 of 2 - April

Chicken Chase is one of my favorite rides. It holds a special place in my memory because it was the first ride I did with Tanna back in 2003. We haven't missed a year since and I love the camping, the trails and the atmosphere. Bill is such a great host, allowing us to invade his pasture and his garage. Amy is so organized and the ride runs so smoothly. The trails are wonderful and challenging, especially the first day. I really feel like I accomplish something whenever I finish a ride on these trails. 40% of Tanna's endurance miles have come from these trails, so we're quite fond of them! :)

This year we headed out on Wednesday, as we usually do. We pulled in, parked in our usual spot and set up the metal corral panels for Tanna. There were about 6 or 8 other trailers there by nightfall. I saddled up and went for a 25 minute ride in the waning light. There was a pretty bright moon. Tanna was pretty alert, but did just fine. Our first night ride in the woods, such as it was.

On Thursday, I set up my vet check stuff (both checks on Friday were out checks) and prepared as much as I could. I decided I would sleep in an extra 30 minutes, since I was so well organized. Also, with my new Specialized saddle complete with Lost Juniper Ranch booties, all I had to do to saddle up was throw the saddle on and tighten the girth.

Tanna vetted in nicely with all As and a spring in his step.

The ride meeting was rather late at 8 PM, but it didn't take too long. The horses had to pulse down to 60 bpm before their hold time of 50 minutes began. Dr Mike Habel was the head vet, with Dr. Kevin Sloan and Dr. Maureen Fehrs assisting.

For the 55 milers: Loop 1 was 23 miles or so into the away vet check. Loop 2 was 13 miles back into the away check, including the Shaw Lake loop. Loop 3 was 17 miles back to camp. Some 48 riders started the 55 and 40 finished. Largest Friday 55 field for this ride. Start time was 7 AM.

This was the first year that Chicken Chase has offered an LD on Friday. Their first loop was 12 miles from base camp out to the vet check. Second loop was the same as the last loop of the 55. 17 miles back into camp. I believe 13 started. 9 or so completed. I think the other 4 were overtime.  Start time was 8:30 AM. You should have heard the riders all happy that they could sleep in! :)

Bill Wilson, along with helpers including Dixie Brooks and Earl Baxter, spent a lot of time over the last few weeks cutting huge trees off the trail. This was very apparent along the entire trail. The trails were in great shape. I can only imagine how the ride would have gone if we'd had to detour around every one of those downed trees!!

At 5:30 on Friday morning, my multiple alarms roused me out of bed. I actually set 3, but only 2 went off. That's why I set multiples. ;) I usually get up 2 hours before the start, but decided to try something different and see if I could still get to the start on time. I gave Tanna his breakfast snack, dressed in my riding clothes and got my own breakfast. Then I took our brand new propane lantern out with me to begin working with Tanna. I can't believe we never got one of these lanterns before! It was really great to be able to see what I was doing.

While Daniel took my vet check bag to the outbound crewless truck (Daniel is the photographer, not crew), I saddled Tanna with his new Specialized saddle. We had used it for marking and unmarking trail at Trace Tribute, but this would be the maiden voyage in competition. I buckled the girth, put on crupper, breast collar and rump rug. I grabbed my sponge and found a good place to hang it. The weather was promising to be warm and I figured I would need the sponge later in the day.

Then I went to get on. Tanna hunched his back immediately and threatened to buck. He's a very good bucker and I don't ride the bucks well, so I heed his warnings. I waited a minute to see if he'd calm down, but every time I asked him to move forward he got more tense. I hopped off and lunged him around again, looking for anything out of place. He's particular about things being "in place." I saw nothing and attempted to mount again. I got the same reaction. Finally, I got off and walked him to the front, looking for Daniel who was taking pictures. I couldn't find him, so I tried getting on again. After what seemed like forever, he finally relaxed and moved forward. Later on, I figured out he must have objected to the sponge placement as I had never put the sponge on that saddle before.

"Trail's Open." I placed us about mid-pack during the controlled start down the pavement to the gravel trail. After the controlled start was over, we slowly moved forward in the pack until we were running about 15th or so. We tucked in behind friends Eva and Roger riding Trace horses and on we went. About half-way through the loop, alarm bells began ringing in my head. The pace was quite fast and I was hoping to ride again on Sunday. I began to pull back a little, but the pace was still fast.

We came into the vet check and Tanna took a few minutes to pulse down. He was hung at 64 or so. I didn't pull his saddle as he tends to cramp easily and the air was still cool. Tom Keith showed me a trick that dropped Tanna's pulse to below 60 and we went to the vet. Guts and a few other parameters were B, but he looked good. Back at our stuff, I became concerned as I noticed Tanna's back legs quivering. I made sure he was covered up. He ate and drank pretty well (for him at the first check). Near the end of our 50 minute hold, Daniel came around and I asked him to walk Tanna down to get some grass while I grabbed something to eat out of the truck camper.

Tanna was still quivering as we prepared to go back out on the next loop. I was mildly concerned, but I've seen him do this before due to adrenaline. I decided to go out on the next loop and if he still wasn't quite right when I got to the Shaw Lake loop, I'd bring him back to camp. I left the rump rug covering his hind quarters and we headed up the hill on our next loop.

A single rider was in front of us, but I held Tanna to a walk until I was sure they were a good ways ahead. I wanted Tanna to focus on me and the trail and we were going to go way slower on this loop. It is a tough loop with some good climbs, this was Tanna's first ride of the season, and we'd gone too fast on the first loop. All good reasons to take it easy. So we mosseyed on down the trail. When we got to the Shaw Lake loop turn-off, Diane Doll caught up with us. I let them go ahead again keeping Tanna to a walk until they were out of range. Tanna was doing fine at this point, so we tackled the Shaw Lake loop. We walked a lot, cantered the flats and I hopped off to walk up and down the longer stretches. Out of the Shaw Lake loop and down the trail to the next loopy loo called the Beginner Loop.

Tanna was not happy as we were only a mile from the vet check and he knew exactly where he was and how to get to the check. But I urged him across the road, took a right and headed around the loop. I was barely into the lolly pop when Angela caught up with me. She was the lone rider that had left the vet check ahead of me. She had turned the wrong direction into the Beginner Loop and had been turned back around when she met another rider. The pie plates into the loop were a little confusing. The pie plate indicating the right hand turn simply read "In." I read that as "into the lolly pop" and trucked right along. Angela had read that as "into camp" and had turned the opposite direction. Fortunately, she didn't lose too much time, but she did lose some time. We did the Beginner Loop quickly and were back headed for camp in no time.

This time at the vet check, I pulled his tack before taking him to the vet. His scores were about the same, but this time there was no problem with excess adrenaline. Tanna ate very well during the check and I was pleased. Other riders around us were packing up their gear to be sent back to base camp. At one point, Randy came with water asking if anybody needed any. I tossed my dirty water and he graciously filled my small bucket with fresh water. Which Tanna promptly drank out of.

We left out of the vet check a few minutes late, but we had a ton of time, so I wasn't concerned a bit. Just a little ways out, I picked up an easyboot and attached it to my saddle (which I discovered fell off later). Soon after, Angela caught up with me. I was surprised as I thought she'd left out before me, but apparently not. We rode the rest of the loop together. I still had a few uneasy moments when I felt we were going too fast. I did pull Tanna back a few times, but we always caught back up. I enjoyed riding with her and her mare and so did Tanna.

When we finally made the last climb up to the gravel road we'd started on, I held Tanna back to a moderate trot. He was not pleased about this and danced and snorted. I was happy he had the energy to be a pain, but kept him back. Angela crossed the finish line a couple lengths ahead of us. We finished around 4 PM for a ride time around 7 hours 15 minutes. Good for 15th place.

His gut sounds were a C at the finish. This is not a good thing. Bs are fairly normal for him, but C is not a good sign. However, his other parameters looked good. Pulse was 44 at the completion exam and he was eating everything in sight. Due to the fact that we went too fast the first loop and there wasn't much in the way of grass on trail, he did pretty well. Lessons to learn, though.

Later on that evening, I noticed that his sides were hot and sore right where the billets attach to the flap of the saddle (English rigging). My calves also had huge blisters on them. I had had trouble with pinching during the ride. Apparently, he had problems, too. I left his cooler on him to keep him warm and comfortable and walked him several times.

My completion award was a nice t-shirt with a cartoon by Angie McGhee. The shirt depicted a female rider carefully brushing her horse all over. A male rider with his back to the viewer stood by, saddled horse in hand, asking, "Are we brushing or riding?" A sign nearby identified the establishment as the Bill Wilson Hall of Fame 2007 School of Endurance Riding. The male rider looks suspiciously like Bill Wilson himself.

Sabbath was spent in restful bliss. Tanna's sides were better, so we decided to go again on Sunday. We had made some minor changes to the saddle that we hoped would help his sides. I was also planning on going a lot slower (ride my own ride) and to get off on the hills.

To be continued...
Nashville, TN