Houdini Horses Bailey and Teddy

Two Dressage Today readers' stories of their equine escape artists.
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Two Dressage Today readers' stories of their equine escape artists.

Bailey Busts Out Three Times by Joelle Shultz
1. January of 2003 near Baraboo, Wis.: About 15 minutes after I'd left the barn for the day, Bailey and two of my other horses, along with six others, escaped through an open gate while the barn owner was bringing in a new round bale. They proceeded to run through the neighborhood yards, enjoying the romp immensely. The barn owner and several other boarders managed to direct seven horses back into the pasture, but Bailey and June Bug decided running around in the snow and single-digit temperatures was much more enjoyable than going home.

One of the boarders called to ask me to help. I hurried back to the barn to find my beloved horse and pony galloping full-bore down an ice-covered road. They were being cautiously pursued by several cars and trucks, driven by people who were trying to keep them close to home and away from more heavily traveled roads. They backed off as I drove up behind my horses.

Bailey |

Bailey |

I rolled down the window, stuck my head out and called out their names as though they were safely in the pasture. Their ears flicked back to me and their speed slowed to a fast canter. I kept talking to them as they ran back toward the farm. To my relief, they headed through the yard and toward an open gate and empty pasture. I followed through about two inches of snow and blocked the gate, figuring I'd deal with getting unstuck later. All that mattered was keeping them secured behind that fence.

I was able to easily catch them, but had to spend the next few hours cooling and drying out their heavy coats, which were soaked with sweat. Unfortunately, I hadn't been able to grab weather-appropriate clothing, and I was quite cold, but that's what happens when you have Houdini horses!

2. Then there was the night in March 2005 (again in Baraboo, Wis.): I got to the barn to feed and discovered Bailey, June Bug and my other Morab, 4-year-old Marcus, had smashed through a section of their paddock fence. It was snowing heavily and there were no tracks, so I assumed that they'd stayed in the paddock. That wasn't the case. The next day, the barn owner found tracks circling her house. Either some good Samaritan caught my horses and put them back in the paddock or they jumped the fence and put themselves back. No one ever stepped forward so I could thank them. That barn was only a couple of miles from an interstate and another heavily traveled highway. Dark horses in a snowstorm could have been disastrous!

June Bug |

June Bug |

3. Near Leesburg, Va.: Apparently, my normally sedate gelding had fallen in love with a cute little paint mare. On a recent Saturday morning, the owner of the barn where I board was standing in her house, enjoying her first cup of coffee, when she noticed the geldings and mares all crowded along the shared fenceline. She couldn't see clearly, but it appeared that Bailey was trying to mount DeeDee through the fence--the charged electric fence. Somebody got zapped and the fence went down. The mares ran into the geldings' pasture, taking out two fence posts and several sections of tape.

Fortunately, they were all secured behind the exterior fencing, so our barn owner opted to leave them all together until her husband returned from town. It didn't take much to sort them out and reset the fence posts.

Bailey is most definitely a gelding--I assisted with the process--although he was a stallion for six months before being gelded. I hope the fence taught him a lesson about spring fever and cute little paint mares!
Joelle Schultz
Leesburg, Va.

Teddy's Tour by Evalyn Bemis
My farrier used to come to my barn and trim or shoe both my horses without my needing to be there. One nice summer's day, I received a call at work from Duane the farrier, telling me that my horse Teddy had escaped and run away.

It transpired that Teddy had an almighty spook at Duane's "manly" sneeze and, when the horse sat back in the cross-ties, one of the panic snaps broke and flew forward, whacking Duane in the forehead so hard that he nearly blacked out. So, he was on the phone to me, holding a rag to his head to staunch the blood from the wound and apologizing that he had no idea where to look for Teddy.

Teddy |

Teddy |

I hot-footed it home and grabbed a halter and bucket of grain. I tried to make Duane sit down or go get his head stitched, but he insisted on accompanying me. We went on foot to track Teddy. Luckily Duane had finished pulling all his shoes before the bust-out, so we just had to follow the set of unshod hoofprints down the driveway, through the neighbor's property and along a section trail. Upon reaching the connection of the trail and the arroyo, he took the trail and ended up making a full circle back to the end of my driveway, where there were overlapping tracks, which confused us. I suggested Duane wait while I retraced the tracks from the starting point.

He called me on my cell a minute later to say he had heard Teddy answer my other horse's whinny from somewhere close at hand. We discovered Teddy hidden in a juniper thicket. He had jumped in over a low branch, dead-ended in the bushes and been unable to back up with the low branch then behind his hocks.

We extricated him, and he had only a few scratches from the junipers to show for his adventure. I was too relieved that he hadn't hurt himself to be mad at him and let him enjoy the contents of the bucket. I gave Duane an ice pack for his head, and we made a date for his return to finish the shoeing job.

Ever since then, I hold the horses for Duane and we have a wonderful time talking about current events, politics and gossip. Every once in a while, I notice the little scar on Duane's forehead and consider it a tribute to his kindness that he still shoes for me.
Evalyn Bemis
Santa Fe, N.M.

Read more ingenious ways readers' horses found to escape their enclosures in the September 2008 issue of Dressage Today.