Yep… my worst farm nightmare came true. My horses escaped their pasture and were missing.
No matter how new or nice your fences are, from electric to wood, at some point in life your horses will escape. I’ve successfully averted this for at least 10 years. Having nothing more than someone getting out an unlocked gate and standing at the fence, I feel lucky. However as it was my turn in the horse world to have a loose horse – or three. I am glad thanks to quick thinking and a very helpful non-horse husband all three were recovered.
Husband: “So Z is screaming, should I throw him some hay?”
Me: “Sure if it makes him happy, apparently 3 acres of field isn’t sufficient for him”
Husband: “So… I found out why he’s screaming. The fence is down and all the other horses are missing.”
Me: “Ok, they’re fatties, shake some grain and see who comes running, call me back.”
Husband: “So nobody’s coming…it’s been a few minutes.”
(realizing that I now have a loose stallion, a anti-social mini and a two year old colt roaming the county)
Me: “Hook up the trailer NOW!”
While Travis hooked up the trailer I called my nearest horsey neighbors to be on the lookout. I mobilized the teenage barn squad to meet at the barn (they live five minutes away) to head out with Travis.
I called Animal Control to report the loose horses and where I live. I gave specific geographic references to the next biggest intersection and landmarks so they knew an area. I briefly explained who was missing and any pertinent details for a capture. In my county most Animal Control staff are horse people who I ride with, but I got the one who isn’t that night.
I reported this: “Missing three equines, one pony, two minis. Pony is red and is a stallion, very friendly and easy to catch. Minis one is brown and a baby but extremely friendly. The other is black and white and very small, and is very shy of strangers so do not attempt to catch him until we arrive.”
Reality: Missing one 11 hand small pony stallion body clipped with star on butt, bald face, stockings very friendly and easy to catch. Two year old bay small pony (not actually a mini), adult miniature horse 32 inches pinto with blue eyes, past abuse history a few owners back so he’s hard to catch.
Giving them what they needed and what the average person would see paid off. Someone about a half mile away reported ponies in his back yard and it was a close non-horse person description. Sheriffs were on site before Animal Control could get across the county.
Animal Control called me with the report and I dispatched my husband in that direction. Sheriffs were extremely tactful to ask about lights for road blocking before blowing out the big guns so the horses would not run off.
Travis and my awesome horse neighbors were able to easily catch two of the three. The stallion was playing in the jungle gym and the two year old was headed to meet the sheriff because he’s such a people pony. After catching the two we instructed everyone to back off and we left them tied to the trailer. The mini who is hard to catch realized he was alone and ran to his herd and stood at the trailer. We then loaded them all into the trailer and returned home safely!
What sounds like an all nighter was really just about an hour thanks to watchful friends and helpful people. For those who wonder how much “trouble” you get in for loosing your horses, Animal Control and the sheriffs thought it was funny to see so many little horses and were extremely gracious about it. Accidents happen but we are happy to have everyone back home and the fence fixed after a particular fat pony of mine leaned and broke the two bottom boards allowing the shorter horses to escape.
I was stuck at work but so thankful that we were able to finally use that anxious plan to orchestrate a pony round up. While we can’t avoid these incidents we can do our best to prepare for them.
Keep an eye on your fences – after every storm, or when the green grass pops up on the other side and we stretch to break a board.”
Have good neighbors when possible – My neighbors call me all the time for “dead horses” they look as they drive by and theres a horse flat out snoozing. They may spot something.
Keep the trailer ready – know how to hook it up in the dark in a blind panic; keep spare halters/leads in it so you don’t have to run back to the barn for them.
Work with Animal Control – I called them as soon as we realized they were gone, they sent sheriffs and their staff out to help look for the horses and block the road when my horse decided to have a standoff with a car. Quick, easy and accurate descriptions help.
Consider ID – Some halter 24/7 and some don’t, that is a personal choice. I don’t because my two year old gelding has this skill of unbuckling or removing everyone’s halters so I’ve given up. My horses are all micro chipped so I can ID them if I had to. I also have a set of papers that are one side ID one side coggins that are laminated and taped inside my trailer just in case I ever needed them.