I pulled up into the drive just in time to see, not 1, not 2, but all three of my horses bolting down the driveway and on to our dirt road. They stopped at the long grasses out front and I thought, "Oh, these silly ponies!" , fully expecting to be able circle around them and push them back to their pens where their dinner waited.
I thought wrong.
Before I could even get close enough to circle around, they bolted past me and down the road.
There is a field across the road from the end of our street and I was really hoping they would stop and graze there, but they didn't. I started to run after them (no halter of course) doing my best to do my "dinner time" whistle, but they were not listening.
A guy on a paint horse was riding through that field right as they came into it, and they almost followed him but then for some reason (which I know the answer to now) they decided not too. His horse was pretty worked up over the whole ordeal so he did not offer anymore help after that.
They made a hard left and headed in the one direction I did not want them to go, right to the busy road behind our property. A million visions of them racing down the middle of the road, getting hit by a car or a truck, running into the barbed wire fence on the other side of the road, flashed through my head as they made that turn.
Just as they turned on the busy road, a guy in a pick up pulled up behind and offered help. By now I had called to Simon to get some grain and a halter and follow, but I knew he was way behind me and these ponies were moving fast. At first they were sticking to the side of the road. There is a nice wide median and they were happy there. But then as we approached them they turned and wheeled, and sure as shit ran 3 wide taking up both lanes right down the middle of the street.
I thought I was going to puke. I was running trying to keep up with them, not because I thought I could catch them anymore but just because I didn't want to lose sight of them.
Another guy pulled up and asked how he could help, but I just said, "I don't know" because I didn't. He never got out of his car.
Then it hit me. 2 days ago I read this post over at FernValley, and I realized what I had to do if we were ever going to catch them.
I had to stop freaking out, stopping thinking about where they were going and start thinking about what I needed them to do.
I took a deep breath and thought as loud as I could, "TURN RIGHT, TURN RIGHT, TURN RIGHT TURN RIGHT!"
They turned right. Now I don't know if it was me, or the oncoming traffic or both, but they turned, and dropped down to a trot. Helper Dude and I cut diagonal through a small empty lot (thank goodness the barbed wire was only one strand) and I started trying to focus on slowing them down.
Super awesome helper dude said he was going to go back to his truck and circle back around to the other end of the road so that maybe we could trap them. Then I called Simon and TC. I couldn't tell them where I was exactly, because I couldn't really think straight, and I couldn't read the signs because I did not have my glasses. Finally Simon saw me, and then he was able to tell TC where to go. While I was waiting on them I kept saying, "stop and graze, stop and graze, stop and graze, It's okay just stop and graze. " And once again they did.
I took like five hundred deep breaths and tried desperately to turn off my body. When I could tell that they were happy to stay put, I changed my thought. "Come to me Trax, Come to me, come to me Trax, come to me Trax." To my complete and total amazement he took 3 totally relaxed steps right towards me. Then he said, "Yeah, not happening." and went back to grazing.
About that time another man came up behind me. He lived right there, and he had a bucket of grain. Life saver!!!! I shook the bucket hoping they would come to me, but they didn't so we just waited till I had TC, Simon and other guy on one end and me and this new guy on my end. Then I started towards them. At first they were headed towards me, then Sassy started to spook and I thought we were going to loose them again. But then they saw the grain and did a complete u-turn. I got my belt on Sassy, dude # 2, put his arms around Trax, and then Simon brought up the halter. Then Simon got Killian with his belt and everyone was caught.
I thanked Dude #1 for all his help and he went on about his way. Then dude # 2 went and grabbed 2 more halters for us, and Simon and I walked our 3 adventurers back home.
The red shows the path that they took on a map. The road to the far right is the busy one and just past where the picture ends is where it intersects with another busy road. It doesn't seem like very far when I look at now, but it sure seemed like eternity when I was out there.
So now looking back, I know that those visions of disaster were only fueling the fire under their feet. Being chased rather than being "moved" with mind and body language, didn't help either. It is possible that if I had been able to gather my thoughts and body language from the start, maybe I would not have had to run so far to catch them. (Let me just interject that running is the one thing I have never been able to do. I flunked PE in high school because I refused to run more than 20 feet for the coach)
Of course the fact that they didn't go straight to their pens for their food was completely out of character for any of them. Trax and Killian went straight from the pasture to the road at a dead run. Those two are the ones who always go to their pens. Sassy, is the only one I worry about and she was the only one who went to her pen first and then took off with the others.
Truly if it was not for the post that I read, just a few days ago, I do not know if I would have caught them when I did. Maybe they were ready, but I don't think there is any coincidence that the minute I changed my thoughts, their attitudes changed as well.
So thank you Fern Valley, thank you super awesome helper dudes, and thank you TC and Simon for helping me catch my runaways.
Next time, those horses will have to suffer being caught in the pasture before they get to go eat.