Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Escape

By Laura Crum

The other morning I got a phone call just as I walked in the house after feeding my horses. It was my best friend, Sue. “My dad’s horse got out last night and they can’t find him. I’m on my way over there now. Can you help?”

Sue’s dad lives across the road from the pasture where I keep my old, retired and/or rescued horses, so she had reason to suppose I might be useful. I headed out and embarked on the effort to find Doc.

The first info I got from Sue was not encouraging. Doc had apparently pushed his way through some not very good wire fencing that was confining him in a place where he could graze.

“But your dad’s whole property is fenced,” I said. “How could he get out?”

Unfortunately, that night the front gate had been left open because they had had company. And there was no doubt that Doc had walked out the gate…and onto the very busy road outside. There was fresh horse poop on the road. But after two hours of searching, calling 911, and talking to neighbors, they had not found Doc.

Sue and her parents were beside themselves, as was inevitable. All the issues were huge in everybody’s mind. The horse, a dark sorrel, had been loose for who knows how long, perhaps most of the night, possibly on the road. He could have been hit, he could have caused a major accident. He could be causing one right now. And they couldn’t find him.

On the other hand, the fact that the cops knew of no such accident and driving the road did not reveal the horse was, in a way, a good sign. Doc hadn’t been hit on the street or we would have found him.

I searched the pasture where we keep our old horses. All of our horses were there, but Doc wasn’t. Sue and her parents took off to search some farmland nearby, in the direction in which they’d found the horse poop.

I walked in the opposite direction, around the outside of the small pasture where I keep my horse, Gunner. As I reached the far fenceline, I noticed a sorrel horse in a corral behind the next door house. There hadn’t been a horse there for awhile—the corral had been put up by a former tenant. And then the neighbor walked out of his house and said, “Are you looking for him?”

Sure enough, it was Doc. He had come walking down the man’s driveway late the night before and this good Samaritan, hearing the horse in his yard, had gotten up and put the animal in the corral and gone back to bed.

The best moment, for me, was calling Sue on her cell phone, hearing her discouraged voice, and telling her, “I found him, and he’s OK. No harm done.”

A happy ending for sure. But also a wake up call. Keep those front gates closed, folks. Its really worth it. I used to be pretty casual about keeping my front gate closed, and then, about ten years ago, my friend and boarder left a corral gate open. The front gate was also open. But in my case the horse roamed around my property all night grazing, judging by his poops, and was there by my driveway in the morning. But I became very strict about shutting the front gate after that.

The reason Doc walked out the gate and my escapee, Dunny, didn’t, is probably that I have several horses here. Dunny didn’t want to leave the herd. Doc lives alone in an area where there are many horse properties. He no doubt ambled out looking for companions.

Anyway, it’s a point worth remembering for all of us. Keep the front gate closed, and if you don’t have a two gate system, its wise to think about building one, especially if you live on a busy road.
So that was my adventure for the day. All’s well that ends well, but I sure don’t want to go through that worry again any time soon.

How about you? Any escape stories? Any tips?

Happy Easter to all! Cheers--Laura


Mrs. Mom said...

Oh. Wow. SO glad old Doc is OK Laura. I was holding my breath on that one.... struck too close to home. Slight differences in our case as some slimeball cut our fence and tried to steal Sonny, (thank Heavens Sonny is a dork and a handful sometimes!!!)

All is well now though. Sure glad Doc is OK too.

Laura Crum said...

Mrs Mom--I remember when Sonny got out--that was really scary. Somehow its even worse when its done on purpose. Fortunately Doc did not have so much as a scrape on him--unlike your poor guy. I'm glad they're both OK now.

And I hope you and yours are doing Ok, too, and can have a happy Easter together.

Linda Benson said...

Oh gosh, seems like I'm always the one catching someone else's loose horses on our busy road. Last month two mules came running through the woods next to us, and were headed for the road. I ran quick and got grain and halters, and put them in our back pasture, then found the woman that owned them, who was frantically driving up and down the road knocking on doors.

Just last week my non-horsey neighbor called me when two crazy horses almost got hit on the road, and then took off running through her ten acres and back on to the road again. When there is more than one horse loose, they start acting a little bit more crazy and wild.

My dear neighbor (in her furry houseslippers) helped me track them down, carrying grain pans and flopping hands to stop traffic in the road. Causes your heart to beat fast!

Yes, it's panic city when horses get loose, and it's a lucky day when someone helps you catch them.

I have a bright pink sign in my barn that says "Chain gates shut," just so that I always remember and it doesn't happen to me!

Laura Crum said...

Linda--Yep, I've been there. More than one loose horse is big trouble. (Thankfully, they were never mine--knocking on wood here.) That's why when I turn mine loose to graze on my property (behind the closed gate) I only turn one loose at a time--just in case. And I have both a slide bolt and a chain on every corral gate. I guess I'm a little bit paranoid.

Susan said...

We've had our share of escapes, some scary and some funny. One time we had the cops called on us because we were lurking outside a house in the dark trying to find a horse. We had located five of them, but the sixth got separated as they ran down the road. We were pretty sure he had gotten into a huge field, but couldn't see him. The cop even shined his spotlight to help us. We got busted by the ranch manager the next morning fetching our horse out of his pasture. The amazing thing is that the horse went through a four strand barb wire fence and didn't have a scratch on him. Thank goodness for an old rickety fence in this instance.

summersmom said...

So glad to hear Doc was fine! Yesterday I went out to the barn to ride my mare. She has a stall in the upper barn, so I haltered her and led her down to the lower barn where the arena is and went to crosstie her in the aisle. When I walked in I noticed the arena gate was wide open and there were 2 of the BO's horses hanging out in the arena. The gate on the opposite end where their stall is and the hay is kept was also open. I couldn't believe they were just hanging out in the arena when they could have been enjoying an entire buffet of orchard grass and alfalfa or out wandering in the road and the neighbor's field. It turned out that the BO's son had been in charge of cleaning stalls and must have left their stall doors open. They were pretty lucky the horses stayed in the arena and didn't wander out into the road. Still scary though!!

Laura Crum said...

Susan and Summersmom--It makes a good story when the horses are all fine--its just scary when you're not sure if they're going to be. One time I had taken a gelding into my vet's office for a prepurchase exam. I tied him to the horse trailer and went in the office to get the vet. When I turned away, the clip on the leadrope, which must have stuck partly open (unnoticed by me), came off the halter and the horse was loose. The automatic gate to the backlot had failed to close, and to my horror this horse trotted out onto a very busy street, with cars whizzing by in both directions. Amazingly, I caught the horse, completely undamaged, and he then failed the prepurchase exam and I returned him, without a ding on him, to his owner. Whew. I put that story in one of my books--"Hoofprints", I think. It was kind of funny once it was done, but I was always extra careful and double checked everything when I brought horses to that yard again.

Shanster said...

Oh those stories make my heart race! I've been lucky (frantically knocking wood) that mine have not escaped. The neighbor to the West of us had let their horses into an area to graze with a single electric tape to hold them in ... one of their geldings busted out with the rest following.

We saw a herd of 5 in the alfalfa field across the road which isn't fenced and does not have livestock in it ever. We ran to get halters and grain in buckets...

just about that time, another neighbor's child was riding his bike past, the horses spooked and began galloping with the child riding behind them screaming "HEEYA, HEEYA!"

He was hearding them toward a busy paved road... 'Course I don't think he realized what he was doing... we caught him and told him to knock it off.

The owner raced down the road in their SUV, blocked the horses and sent them the other way.

We caught them and all was well...

The neighbors to the East of us had horses who escaped frequently .. they got out and ran up and down our road one New Year's Eve in the dark.

I had a 2 yr old colt at the time who got so excited he tried to jump our fence... didn't make it, injured himself terribly and had to be euthed.

Loose horses are scary! Glad all these had happy endings! :)

Laura Crum said...

Shanster--that is so sad about your 2 yr old. I've known wrecks like that--freak chances really--impossible to predict. I guess that's why I'm always extra-vigilant. A lot of people would call it paranoid (!)

Shanster said...

Yes, it was pretty devestating at the time and it was a freak accident that no one could have predicted... horses. What can you do? Can't bubble wrap 'em.

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