Steve and I have a long-running "joke" of sorts. When we pull into the driveway, we spot our horses in the front pasture and one of us will say, a la Dr. Seuss, "One horse, two horse." It's...quaint.
Tonight, after being away from home all day, we pulled in the driveway and there was silence...we were both looking and anticipating which of us would be the first to say it. But we pulled in and drove slowly up...in silence. About halfway up the drive I said, rather panicked, "Steve...where are our horses?"
My heart started racing as I scanned the darkness trying to find the familiar shapes of my beautiful girls. My mouth went dry and I couldn't breathe.
Steve flew out of the van and into the pasture...walking the fence...looking for an opening or looking for a downed/sick horse. We've had broken fence before, but nothing that would allow a horse to get out, let alone two. And just last weekend we walked the fence and repaired what needed repaired. We'd had no indication that either of the girls wasn't feeling well...so it seemed doubtful that they could be sick unless they had tripped in the snow and broken something.
He disappeared in the darkness. I couldn't see him. I couldn't see any horses. I hollered several times, "Steve...anything? Do you see them?"
Steve came running out of the pasture darkness, gesturing toward our side pasture gate, and said, "The gate over there is open. Somebody opened it."
Frantic, I sent Steve into the house for flashlights and I dialed our trainer to see if she could offer any help. Fully prepared to go wherever I needed to go...even to climb down the ravine in the back of our property...we started tracking horseprints in the snow while I dialed the Sheriff's department.
We went separate ways and I couldn't see any tracks headed off our property. There were plenty all over the yard (they must have had a field day in my gardens...sigh). The hoof prints seemed to go in circles and I had NO idea where to look.
We live on a State Route where our girls could conceivably total a car if hit...not to mention what it would do to them. I wanted to vomit thinking about it.
Still trying to give relevant details to the Sheriff's Department on the phone (why they ask for your birthday?), I resigned myself to the idea that I would have to climb down the ravine in the dark...that was the only way I could figure they could have gone. In an effort to see ANYTHING during my descent, I turned on ALL our outdoor lights, including the old nitrogen yard lights that make a loud buzzing noise that you can hear across the yard (Sam calls them the noisy lights).
Suddenly, I hear Steve yelling, "Cathy, they're back."
I ran out of the barn, told the Sheriff they were home and hung up the phone, and ran full tilt to my big beautiful girls...prancing around in our back yard.
One horse, two horse.
Steve stood there and held onto mane hair as tight as he could while I ran up to the front pasture to get their halters and leads. They were so well-behaved, I am so proud of them.
Near as I could figure, they heard the noisy lights and thought it was feeding time. Being ruled by their stomachs, they were ready to eat. They're getting extra portions of hay tonight, I can tell you that.
After getting the girls locked in their stalls, having a breakdown in the center aisle of the barn, and returning phone calls to our trainer and the Sheriff (to call off the cavalry), I grabbed a flashlight and went out to investigate. Sure enough, the gate had been opened and the safety clip (like those mountain climbers use to fasten their gear) had been moved from the right/locked position, to the left/open position. No horse did that. Someone deliberately let them out and I'm pissed.
When the girls were delivered in March 2004, they were green and crazy. I remember bucking and kicking and rearing that frightened me. But never, in the midst of all of that, was I ever as scared as I was tonight. The thought that kept running through my mind? Haven't I lost enough this year? And now, to know that someone did this to us deliberately...
I had a Deputy come out and make a report. It won't do anything, but at least it will create a record in case we do catch the bastards.
Now...The adrenaline rush is disappearing and I'm going to take two advil and go to bed. Tomorrow I buy combination locks for my pasture gates.
One horse, two horse.