My horses got out. Worst than that, they got out because of a stupid mistake on my part. Please don't lecture me, I feel horrible enough. But rest assured, everyone is fine and the horse are safely back in the barn.
I'm just sharing this to help everyone be aware that it can happen to the best of us. Early this morning, I promised my daughter I would take pictures of her and Harley hanging out. We've commissioned an artist to do a painting of the two of them and I wanted early morning light. I'm not a morning person, so I did my best to chug some coffee and head out. After a few pictures in the paddock, we opened the gate and headed out onto our large property. Took a few more pictures and half an hour later, made our way back to the barn, lead Harley into his stall, then out to the paddock, threw out some hay and went back to the house for breakfast. The paddock gate, which is situated at the far end of the paddock, stayed open.
A couple of hours later, my niece, who was visiting with us, came in to ask if the horses were supposed to be out of their pasture in the yard. I ran out and saw them both in our garden. I told my daughter to get carrots and I got a halter and lead rope. Harley happily took the carrot from my daughter, but when I tried to throw a rope over his neck, he bolted. Ran to the front of the house, where he seemed to realize he was free, kicked up his heels and went for a run down the road. Kodak just followed. Luckily we live on a country where there is very little traffic - and people are used to livestock or wildlife on the road. My neighbor's horses have gotten out a couple of times and I've had to stop for cows in the road more than once.
They ran past the first two houses with me jogging behind them yelling for Harley. He just thought it was a fun game. I would have thought he'd stop and run in a field to eat, but no, he stayed right on the road. The more I ran behind him, the further he went. As they got further and further away, he hesitated on the crest of a hill. He kept looking back at me, but I think it was my daughter, with the muck bucket full of hay, that got his attention most. He thankfully turned around, Kodak on his trail. Ran to us, then right by us, as a lone car, stopped by a waving neighbor, pulled to the shoulder and waited. They ran all the way back to our property and turned in.
I carefully came up besides Harley, who was grazing right outside his pasture, told my daughter to put down the hay and opened the pasture gate. He looks forward to going into the pasture every evening so I knew that would trigger something in him. There was no way I was going to get a halter on him. He hesitated, but I pushed him in, and Kodak wasn't far behind. I let out the biggest sigh of relief of my horsey life as I closed that gate.
Lesson learned: always, always, always, double check all gates.
Questioning: should I leave a halter on them? If I had, the whole running down the road would have been avoided since I could have grabbed Harley before he headed for the road. A breakaway halter maybe? The pasture is literally wide open grass with one tree that has been entirely limbed. I always felt no halter was safer, but what if a logging truck had been coming down the road?
Plan: instilling a reliable recall. I did this with my horse when I was a teenager. Three sharp whistles meant come and I will give you a treat. My voice was enough to make Harley hesitate, and eventually decide to head for home, but a good recall might have brought him back sooner.
Again, while I do appreciate suggestions, please trust that I feel horrible enough without getting negative feedback. I can't believe I made such a stupid mistake.