Yesterday morning I looked out the window and noticed that the horses weren't yet up the hill waiting for me to come feed them. I decided I could have breakfast before going out.
Just as I was assembling my banana/raspberry/strawberry smoothie, my phone rang. My neighbor's wife said, "Kathi, your horses are loose." The horses were on their place; Karen had been out checking the cows and saw them. She convinced them to follow her on the Mule and shut the hay meadow gate behind them. At least they were confined.
They were here at 5 PM the night before when I fed. We'd had a moon that night, and they may have been wandering for quite some time - out a hole in our fence, across the big ravine (which Karen calls a "canyon", and I like her description better than mine), along a creek, maybe even out to the river. Then perhaps they decided to head home, but they were south of our place. There must also be a hole in our neighbors' fencing way out back there.
All I can say is I'm so glad she found them before I even knew they were missing. I would have been frantic. Thank goodness they were safe on our neighbors' land, and that Karen was able to confine them.
I grabbed halters, lead ropes, and a pocketful of treats. I closed the gates to our hayfield and quickly checked the fencelines in their pasture, which all looked ok. I drove down to the neighbors', and Karen led me out to where they were in their hay meadow. I was SO relieved to see all six; I was so afraid one might be missing. They were all grazing peacefully in the middle of the field.
Now, how to get them home? Karen had shut the gate to the acreage between their front pasture and our place so their cows wouldn't go in there; the horses were behind that field, and across the "canyon" from our hayfield. However, there is no gate from their hay meadow to that field. And yet, going through that acreage would be the easiest route home, and wouldn't take us out on the road, which I really wanted to avoid.
So we drove back out to the road, and then through the gate onto that acreage, which they'd bought just a couple of years ago. We followed the tire tracks to the old pump jack and past the dilapidated Indian graves, and checked out the fence dividing that field from the hay meadow. We found a spot where the wire was sort of loose and Karen used a pair of pliers to disconnect the wire from two posts, then we tied the wires down as low to the ground as we could. She marked one of the posts with an orange tape she found.
I then scrambled down the cliff to their hay meadow. I couldn't really see how I'd get a horse back up that incline dotted with huge boulders and covered with trees, saplings, brush and fallen logs, but that's what I'd have to do. I marked the spot where I came out of the woods into their hay meadow with a fallen branch so I'd know where to go back up. I walked out to the horses in the middle of the meadow, gave Ella a treat and put on her halter, and put the second one on July who is the "boss horse". I clipped a rope on Ella's halter, gave the others treats so they'd hopefully want to follow, and led Ella towards the cliff. The others followed at a far distance, but they did come.
Ella and I climbed the steep hill, going around the boulders and through trees, scrambling over rocks and slipping on the thick carpet of dead leaves. I am scratched up from the blackberries and sand plums, but we made it up to the top and followed the fenceline to the marked t-post. Ella walked right over the fence wires. The others were hot on our heels and followed us over the fence.
We were now all on the acreage right next to our horse pasture, with a barbed wire gate way up near the road. I left my truck there and walked Ella down the oil road to the front of the property. Mostly Ella and I brought up the rear; the others were eager to go down this nice "road".
When we reached the front gate we left the oil road and walked inside the fenceline to the gate that is for the utility companies' use. I opened the gate, led Ella through, led July through, and led Splash through by his forelock.
The last three were the hardest to get through the gate, but eventually they did. Karen and I wired the gate shut, and she drove me back to my pickup in the Mule, and I finally drove home via the road. After I fed them, they all laid down in the sun and took a nap. They were tired out and their stomachs were full. I am exhausted.
Dakota evidently tangled with a barbed wire fence; he has cuts on his nose and on one leg, but they are superficial. With all the wandering they did through some pretty wild country, I'm surprised and thankful that those are the only injuries. I am truly thankful that it all ended well.
They are locked out of the hayfield until I can check the fences and see where they got out.
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