Thursday, July 9, 2015


I get a call that there's a herd of horses loose way on the east edge of town, dangerously close to a busy highway and at risk of causing an accident. Immediately, and in violation of our strict departmental policy on radio traffic, I start taking shit from guys who hear the call come out. One of them actually whinnies.

I get there and can't find the horses. As I recall, horses are pretty big and hard to miss, so I figure something's probably screwy. I get waved down by the guy who called. He's frantic. He points down a gravel road and tells me the horses are down there. I finally spot three tiny specks on the horizon - at least 300 yards from the highway.

The guy says he's worried they might "wander out into traffic". When I ask him how he thinks that might happen from 300 yards away, he just shrugs his shoulders. I refrain from pushing him into the drainage ditch and drive down the gravel road. The horses are just standing there, eating grass and looking around. I locate the owner, who lives right there, and she shuffles them back to the correct side of her fence.

I drive back up the road and the caller is gone, apparently satisfied to have interrupted my coffee break for nothing.


Heidi said...

I know it was annoying. And ridiculous. BUT - horses and traffic do not mix and I call this a very happy ending. Better a false alarm than an actual herd of horses loose on a busy highway. I'll take the false alarm anyday.

Wanting to push the guy in the ditch did make me laugh.

Anonymous said...

I agree it's not a life-threatening emergency. But loose horses can be a real menace if they get on a road. If something spooks them and they start running, they could cover the 300 yards in less than 30 seconds.

As a veterinarian I've had several cases where I go to treat a horse struck by a vehicle and the driver is on the way to the hospital. And it's much easer to catch the horses out in a field then to try catching them in a busy road. Been there, done that ... didn't care for it.

sp77 said...

One morning, I got a frantic, crack 'o dawn call from a neighbor, informing me that my mule and donkey had escaped and were standing in the middle of the road. Turns out my mule can open gates with her mouth (I've outfitted them with carabiners to prevent future escapes). Booked it outside, called them over, haltered them, and started leading them home. My neighbor was great- she stood with them and kept them on the shoulder until I arrived, then led my donkey while I led the mule.

Just as we hit the end of my driveway (the animals had left the barn, walked down the driveway, and up the road about 100 yds), some jerkbag drove by and THREW A FULL CAN OF PBR AT US. At 6 AM. It bounced off my mule's face. She panicked, reared up, ripped the lead out of my hand, and bolted for downtown. The donkey followed. These are well trained animals, but there's no way for a human to restrain an animal of this size when something like this spooks them. Thanks, PBR guy!

I immediately called 911. My rural road intersects with a much busier state road about 1/2 mile from my farm. There's not a ton of traffic on this road, but drivers often drive at extreme speeds, since they think they're out in the middle of nowhere. And there's no way I can run fast enough to catch up with a galloping 1500 lb animal. Fortunately, a random passerby/horse owner saw the situation and turned her car sideways in the road. This stopped oncoming traffic and kept the animals from reaching the larger road. I can only imagine how bad the situation might've been if they'd galloped out into traffic!

In the end, I felt like (and was treated like) I'd made a nuisance call- police arrived just as I was leading them up the driveway. But I'd rather be a nuisance than be responsible for a fatal accident. We get enough animal/car fatalities around here as it is- mostly from drivers hitting moose. I just knew that the situation was out of my control and didn't want anyone to get hurt.

There was another recent incident in my area where a geriatric driver hit a horse being ridden along a very rural (one lane, dirt) road. He drove home and called the non-emergency police number to report "I think I hit a horse". Police went out to take a look and found a badly injured 12 year old girl trapped under a fatally injured horse. The girl and her horse had landed in a ditch, and traffic on this road is so infrequent that she would not have been found in time to save her life if the driver hadn't called. However, I know that the responding officer (a neighbor/ acquaintance) initially thought that it was a nuisance call- senile old guy hits a deer, freaks out, drives home, and gets some expensive automotive bodywork.

So, yeah, when in doubt, call.