2012-08-11 / Top News

Riders Get Their Timing ‘Just Right’ in Hunter Pace

By Andrew Marlan


The pair winners for the 2012 Hunter Pace are (from left) Gretchen Colman and Trish Martin. They finished in 48 minutes, just six minutes over the actual time set for the contest. The pair winners for the 2012 Hunter Pace are (from left) Gretchen Colman and Trish Martin. They finished in 48 minutes, just six minutes over the actual time set for the contest. First place team winners for the 2012 Hunter Pace are (from left) Mary K. McIntire, Penny Barr, Stephanie Crane, and Brian Miowayski. Their pace time of 51 minutes was the closest to the 42-minute official time set by event organizers Candi, Brian, and Claire Dunnigan.

Sixteen adults and children competed in the Hunter Pace, making it one of Mackinac Island’s most popular riding events. Three teams and three pairs competed for first, second, and third place Saturday, August 4, at Great Turtle Park, hosted by the Mackinac Island Children’s Riding Academy.

“Every horse from Community Stable is here besides the one who doesn’t have shoes on,” said Community Stable barn manager Katie Novakoski as she admired the 16 horses patiently waiting on the field to begin.


The first team approaching the finish line at Great Turtle Park, led by Brian Miowayski and Stephanie Crane. The first team approaching the finish line at Great Turtle Park, led by Brian Miowayski and Stephanie Crane. Trish Martin and her horse, Island’s Grey Skye, were recognized at the opening of the pace for being the only continuous rider and horse pair.

Fox hunting inspired the Hunter Pace. Groups were separated into teams and pairs, and each was responsible for following a fox through various types of terrains and trails. Competitors had to switch between walking, trotting, and cantering depending on the ground conditions, occasionally stopping to listen and look for the fox.

“In the 1700s, you did fox hunts for fun and you’d take your kids to this,” said event organizer Candi Dunnigan. “On Mackinac, this is a great event for kids to get familiar with the trails and learn new trail names.”

The Hunter Pace on Mackinac Island does not use foxes to lead. Instead, experienced horse riders Candi, Brian, and their daughter, Claire Dunnigan, mapped out a 4.5-mile route, unknown to the competitors, and averaged their riding times to establish a secret time to complete the course that competitors should strive to duplicate. Once everyone finishes the pace, the official time is revealed and the pair and team closest to the target time are named winners.

“We’ve never repeated trails,” said Mr. Dunnigan. “We try to incorporate paved, dirt, and muddy trails every year to make it interesting.”

Mr. and Mrs. Dunnigan finished around 51 minutes, and their daughter sped through at 32 minutes, establishing an official set time at 42 minutes for this year’s pace.

“Depending on whether they blaze through the course like Claire, or walk most of the way like my husband and I, this could take the riders anywhere between half an hour and an hour and a half,” said Mrs. Dunnigan.

Each group started the pace in five-minute intervals, exiting Great Turtle Park so that they had room to look for the markers on their own without following others. Even so, a few pairs like Trish Martin passed other teams along the way.

Mr. and Mrs. Dunnigan wrapped markers around trees, fences, and various other objects throughout the route to guide each pair and team. Talking too much and going too fast would cause the teams to miss markers and miss the trail, said Mrs. Dunnigan.

The route took riders and their horses on such trails and roads as Beechwood Trail, Morning Snack Trail, Fort Holmes Road, Rifle Range Road, North Bicycle Trail, toward Rifle Range Road, and Sugar Loaf Road before returning to the park.

“Through the years we’ve discovered that teams are usually two to three minutes apart,” said Mrs. Dunnigan.

Speed is not important in a pace because the objective is to meet the target time. This year Mary K. McIntire, Penny Barr, Stephanie Crane, and Brian Miowayski finished first in the teams division, finishing at 51 minutes, the same time as Mr. and Mrs. Dunnigan, and seven minutes above the secret time. Maryannke Alexander, Kayleigh Harvey, and Kate Koroleski finished second, and Molly Tokarz, Katie Lynch, and Emily Modd placed third in the teams division.

Trish Martin and Gretchen Colman took first place for the pairs division. Ms. Martin and Ms. Colman came the closest to the actual time of 42 minutes, finishing at 48 minutes. Anna McDonald and Maura Timmons took second, and Sarah Growney and Alexandra Pokora placed third in the pairs division.

The first Junior Pace was scheduled following the Hunter Pace, but no children signed up, which was disappointing, said Mrs. Dunnigan. She hopes next year to generate more interest in the event.

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