So many things ran through my mind - ran back to drop my stuff at my desk, told the girls working for me I was "taking my lunch" (two hours overdue anyway, but that's another story) because I had to go home NOW, my horses were out. (luckily, they are all farm/country girls too, so they get that). Problem is, my office is a good 20-25 minutes from the house (made the drive in 15, and it only took that long because I was stuck behind a tractor for a good bit of it) and I had no idea what was waiting for me at the other end of the drive -- where were they, exactly -- in the yard, on the road, in the hundreds of acres of woods and open fields around us, HOW did they get out (for both to be out, it had to either be a gate open or a fence down....Aero has no other way of getting out), HOW was I going to get them back where they belong (Holly is still not very catchable, she is getting better, but it takes a little time and a LOT of patience to catch her in the field, let alone acres upon acres of open space).
Got home, saw the horses at the back of the neighbor's property (thankfully away from the road) and the front gate standing WIDE OPEN. Had ropes but no halters in the truck but figured I'd just tie off quick rope halters rather than go clear out to the barn and risk them moving farther off. Decided to approach Aero in the hopes of getting a hold of her so Holly would follow us back inside the fence. Unfortunately, though, they were having none of that. The wind is up, the ANG jets are running exercises overhead (we are not far from a proving ground - go figure this is the one day in weeks they have been up there) and Aero is wound tighter than tight (neighbors have, at this point, told me she has alternated running and grazing since they noticed her out). We tried pushing them home - they zigged instead of zagged and wound up running across the front of my property, around the pond and across the road, UGH --- right into the yard/property of the proverbial crazy neighbor. They took off through the back of his place towards his huge span of woods. I was feeling pretty hopeless at that point. What happened next was my worst nightmare and luckiest thing all at the same time - the neighbor's dogs (who are mean, nasty things that I have feared getting anywhere near our place since we brought Aero home) took off after the horses. I had visions of them taking down and seriously injuring little Holly before I could ever reach them, but they ended up pushing them back across to our side of the road and back to the neighbor's where they were when I got home. At this point, Aero is DRIPPING sweaty and even more wound up. I stopped and let them settle for a few minutes and asked my two neighbors to set up so that they couldn't get between the houses or around the other end of our's if I started pushing them back the right way. Took a nice easy approach, looked for their "invitation" to approach, etc and managed to get up to Aero without her pulling away, got a rope on her and tied off a halter. We started back towards the gate, but Holly had her back to us and was grazing, little buggar wouldn't follow. Neighbor lady tried to get her just to start moving thinking she'd follow, and she did, but she shied away from the gate at the last minute and ended up on the wrong side of the fence even more panicked because she couldn't figure out how to get to Aero. We tried a couple of times to get them back together out there and let her follow in, but she was really worked up and having none of it so I put Aero up in the paddock by the barn (so I knew she couldn't get BACK out while I left the main gate open for Holly) and set to work herding Holly back the right way. All told - some 40 minutes later, BOTH horses were back where they belong.
I still have no idea how the gate came to be open....and am not 100% sure the neighbor boy wasn't involved (though it *could* have been an accident/horse).....so we are off to purchase a couple of locks, one for each gate. I do not want to have this kind of scare again.
Today has reminded me what wonderful neighbors I am blessed with. Once the horses were up, they told me about the adventure they had just trying to reach me. They tried to get the horses themselves at first, but had no luck. We have moved offices recently AND changed cell companies so they had outdated work AND cell numbers for me. First they called their daughter who works on the same campus my office used to be at hoping she would have some insight on the new info for my work number, no go. Then they called the school my son attends (should probably mention, at this point, we are in a very small town/rural area so everyone knows everyone) and explain to the secretary what is going on - she looks up the contact info for me in my son's records and gives them my work number. Even then, though, it was not easy - we have someone filling in at the switchboard and the first two times they called she had just bounced them to my desk, but I wasn't there so they got my voicemail and they wanted to be sure they got the message TO ME so they called AGAIN and this time just blurted out that "Mandi's horses are out - she needs to come home!" before she could transfer them yet again. I am SO very grateful they didn't just give up - must bake something nice for them, lol.