As I mentioned earlier, “Cash” is in our barn to test him out with our resident horses. Mikki works during the day so we decided to keep Cash in the barn until she got home so we could watch him together. I felt bad for him being cooped up in the barn all day so I put his halter on and took him for a walk this morning. As with the previous day, he was curious but well behaved. He ate some green grass while I washed him and dressed a wound with ichthymol. No problems. He was happy to go back into the barn but didn’t want anything to do with Moonshine, who was making quite a racket.
Our farrier came by to check out Cash’s feet and even though one foot has a slight clubbing, it didn’t look bad to him. He wasn’t concerned as long as the horse didn’t exhibit problems walking on it. Next I had the bright idea to put Moonshine in her stall so Cash and Valentine could socialize and establish order. This went pretty well. Valentine isn’t aggressive at all and seemed curious but not pushy. Next to our barn is what I call “the peninsula”. It’s an area that juts out towards the small road by our house where the horses like to stand and watch cars drive by and cows across the way. Cash headed to the peninsula and from the other side of the barn I saw Valentine slowly walking that way. Now the peninsula can be a trap and for this reason we should probably fence it off. There are two ways in and out – one high and one low – but it still feels like a corner. I didn’t see what happened next but I heard a loud crack and the sound of tin crinkling, followed by shod hooves cantering down the road. Cash had escaped. I knew enough to quickly grab a bucket with some feed and a halter with lead rope, as I hurried after him. A quick glance at the fence explained the noise. Cash had somehow broken the top two fence boards at the end of the peninsula, both of which were reinforced because Valentine like to eat grass over the fence in that spot. Did he run right through it? Did he try to jump the fence? Why? I have no clue. Cash ran down the road where I walked him earlier that morning, promptly turned (thankfully…the highway was less than a quarter of a mile in that direction) and headed towards me. I shook the bucket and offered it to him but he wasn’t interested. He ran right past me towards the barn. The gate was open so I hoped he would run into the barn but instead he ran up the road, past our farm. The road was fenced on both sides for quite a ways so I gently called him as I hurried in that direction. He walked past a few houses, avoiding the curious neighbors that happened to be outside. The end of this road is private and I had never been very far down it. I was about to get the whole tour. Cash made his way to the end of the road and headed for a garden. I caught up to him and ever so gently tried to send the lead rope around his neck but he knew I was chasing him and avoided me at all costs. The elderly couple who lived there came out to see what the ruckus was and I apologized for the intrusion. They didn’t seem to mind and even tried to help me wrangle him. Realizing the road was somewhat blocked, Cash headed into the woods and we both ventured further and further from home. Mikki wasn’t answering her cell phone so I called Shari for help. She sent Mikki home (they work together) but Mikki forgot her cell phone so she had trouble finding me. Heck, I didn’t even know where I was at this point! Cash navigated through a junk yard full of rusty old cars, sharp scrap metal and broken glass. I, in my shorts and boots, followed him. Shari recommended I not chase him but instead wait for Mikki to show up. Sometimes women have better luck catching horses. So I trailed him at a distance so I knew where he was while I waited for Mikki to find us.
Cash headed down a trail, even further from home. He eventually found a creek, which he crossed to try and reach the pasture on the other side. Fortunately and unfortunately there was a fence on the other side. At least he couldn’t go any further that way but the fence was barbed wire and he seemed to be trying to push through it or jump is. I saw this horse run up and down steep embankments, though thick brush and over small trees and all the while I’m thinking he’s going to get hurt. Once he got close enough to me so I was able to pet him and try to calm him down but when I tried to slowly move towards his head he bolted again.
What seemed like an hour later, Mikki finally found us. She had to ask several neighbors to use their phones and apparently the very rough geographic indicators (south of the old barn at the bottom of the hill from the junkyard), as well as some audio cues (think marco-polo) but eventually there were two of us. At this point, Cash was close to being tangle in old barbed wire. I have heard the stories and seen pictures of horses that got themselves caught in barbed wire and it isn’t pretty. That and Cash had wedged himself between the barbed wire fence and some trees at the top of a narrow and steep embankment. What the heck?! I stayed a distance away and Mikki trudged through the muddy creek to reach him. As she approached, Cash tried to jump the barbed-wire fence but couldn’t. Mikki spoke softly to him, climbed up to where he was and was able to halter him.
Here’s a short video from my cell phone so you get a feel for how he was stuck. The video is of terrible quality and you can barely see him but you’ll get the point. In the video, he’s rubbing on the barbed wire fence, trying to run through it and jump over it. Scary! You’ll hear me say “don’t do it buddy!”. I didn’t know what to say.
Once the halter was on him, he seemed perfectly normal again. It was a challenge (and probably pretty dangerous) getting him down off of the ledge, through the thick brush and trees and old barbed wire, through the junk yard again and then a two mile walk home but the entire way he behaved as though nothing happened.
Back at home after almost 4 hours in the hot sun, we were all tired, hot, thirsty, cut up and bruised. Mikki washed his old and new wounds, dressed them and put Cash into the barn. Valentine and Moonshine looked at him as if to say “what the heck happened to you?”
I put up new slats with screws and doubled up the top one, making it as high as possible. It’s a miracle he didn’t impale himself on the sharp pieces of broken wood. I’m starting to think we need to consider one of the electro-braid fencing alternatives. While it might not have stopped him, the braided rope wouldn’t impale him.
At night we put Cash into the round pen and let Valentine loose. Moonshine has been curtailed in the barn ever since. Valentine, ever the curious one, slowly and gently went to investigate the new horse in the round pen but Cash wasn’t in to socializing.
It’s been almost 24 hours since this ordeal and things have settled down quite a bit. Valentine routinely spends time near the round pen. He pretty much goes between the barn and the round pen now. Cash doesn’t appear to mind and gets quite close to him. When Valentine followed me to the barn, Cash got pretty excited, as if he wanted to go too. Otherwise he occasionally nibbles the grass or stands in the shade. Earlier this afternoon I washed his wounds, dressed them and took him for a walk around the back part of the pasture, which he hasn’t ever been through until now. I wanted him to know his options so he could “escape” back there if he felt threatened by one of our horses. I hate this part – introducing new horses to the herd. It’s so stressful for everyone.
The plan is to let the horses get acquainted through the bars of the round pen for a while. Then maybe we’ll introduce Cash to the pasture again with Valentine loose. Later we’ll let Moonshine out there while he’s in the round pen. Some internet research also revealed the suggestion that we take all the rear shoes off of the horses. They all need new shoes anyway.
A runaway horse kit?
Oh, so back to the point of this post (and I know it’s an extra-long one). As I was chasing this horse yesterday, I realized I was missing a few things that would be been handy. But I didn’t have time to round things up because I needed to make sure I knew which way the horse was headed at all times. This isn’t the first time we’ve encountered runaway horses, either. Once we accidentally left our gate open and once we tried to help Shari catch one of her loose horses. Maybe it’s a good idea to have a backpack we could quickly grab. In it could be:
1) Halter and lead rope (we should have one in each vehicle, too)
2) Map – this seems stupid but I could have used one yesterday
3) Flashlight – could be dark outside
4) Bottled water – you might be out there a while
5) Horse treats or food in a zip baggie
6) Something to display the horse treats/food/bribe in to the horse
7) Snake bite kit! Don’t think I wasn’t worried about that yesterday. Maybe even a bee sting kit.
8) Basic tools – knife and a small finger saw – the flexible kind you can cut a tree limb with, if need be. I needed this yesterday.
10) Small first aid kit/Something with which to make a tourniquet
11) Flute or piper (pied piper anyone?) – kidding 🙂
And don’t forget your cell phone!!! Though you probably wouldn’t keep it in this backpack.
Got any other ideas for an emergency runaway horse kit or advice for us?