Spring of 2014…I (Julianne) was pet sitting for a family that lived off Merrimon Avenue near downtown Asheville while they were traveling abroad in France. They have a beautiful quaint farm that is right outside the city limits. It is quite unique; with horses, dogs, meat rabbits, cats, honey bees, and a turtle!
The barn is set right beside the road and they have two pastures that they would rotate the horses in to save the grass. There were three horses, Yetzen , a Friesian, Sunshine, an Irish Sport Horse, and Barkley, Sunshines’ foal, then, three years old. Needless to say, these are not your average size horses, (much bigger). Standing on my tip toes I still could not touch Yetzen’s ears or see over his back, but he was a true gentle giant and still is in the top as one of my favorite horses I pet sat.
The week that I was watching this farm, it had been raining for three days straight. The horses had been up in their stalls for several days without any turnout. Farms have to do this for the horses’ protection of slipping and also to protect the pastures grasses. If you don’t know anything about horse, horse LOVE to run and be out. Their true nature is to be walking and grazing most of the day. Therefore, being stuck in a stall for several days, they had quite a bit of energy bottled up.
It was finally a sunny and dry day and perfect for the horses to go out in the field. Yetzen, Sunshine, and Barkley are very ‘herd bound’. You have to turn them out in a particular manner or else they would become very nervous and would do anything to be with the other horses. Yetzen was the bravest and he was always okay to be put out first and I could trust he would not do something silly and hurt himself if he got worried about the others. So I got Yetzen and put him in the field. He was OK to be by himself for a few minutes until I went to get the other two.
I went back to the barn to get Sunshine and Barkley. Barkley was still very young with even more energy. I put her halter on and pulled her out of the stall, she instantly wanted to run and buck, fortunately, I was able to keep her under control. Then I went to get Sunshine’s halter on (all while holding the young excited one). I have them both and we head towards the pasture. I am sure it was quite a scene with me walking these 1200 pound plus animals all excited and determined to run. Two of them wanting to buck on the lead rope and me trying to lead them to the field, anyway quite exciting. I wasn’t worried at all, I knew I could get them to the field. That is when I got to the gate and then Barkley bolted making the rope slide through my hands, burning all the way, with no way of holding on. She started running away from the gate and then Sunshine got loose and by that time Yetzen followed quickly behind them, sneaking past the gate! They went running towards the barn!!
My first thought, “Well, this is not good,” and before I could blink, all three were out and taking off down the driveway to the ROAD! So, imagine, school kids being in the classroom, testing all day, and they hear the bell ring, they all run like a stampede to the playground. This is how the horses felt and looked. HEY WE’RE FREE.
I said again, “This, is not good, Oh my gosh, I can’t believe this just happened!” I said other words, but don’t want to put in print. They first ran down the driveway, across the street to the neighbors’ perfectly manicured lawn with short grass, nice mulch, bushes and a very soft yard from all the rain. The horses, with thousand pound hooves destroying the neighborhood’s manicured lawn right before my eyes. Bucking, grass tidbits flying all around me. Running and bucking back and forth right in front of their house
How was I going to stop this insane madness? How was I going to catch them? They were wild!! After horses have been in a stall for days and then they are free! You can only imagine!
I actually did not panic until they moved away from the neighbor’s yard and back towards the road, away from the barn. This was going down towards the more traveled road, and all I could think of is if a car comes and hits one of these horses under my watch! I thought, oh my gosh, who can I call. I do not have any of the neighbors’ numbers on my phone and there was no time to go to the house to get those numbers. I called on God by now saying please God help me!
I called my boyfriend, now husband, in a panic stricken voice, he was the closest, even though he was 15 minutes away. “Get over here, I can’t talk, the horses are loose.” Panicking. Do I call Kerry (a close horse friend that lives in Candler, 30 minutes away)? Do I call the neighbor who has horses? No, I don’t have their number. Do I call the owners? I can’t call the owners, they are in France. Do I call 911? Fire department? How am I going to get help? The horses running down the road, and me sprinting after them on foot, about in tears. All in my head, all the while, I am thinking, Oh dear God, do not let someone in a car, hit these horses.
Once I got down to the road crossing, they were in the other neighbors yards, gardens, driveways, the horses are still going GALLOPING, so happy to be free! As many houses as they went through and no one was in sight. Then, miraculously, the horses come back running up the road, I think, if they go up the farms house driveway (they have two driveways) then I could catch them. Good, if they go up the driveway, but of course, they gallop right past the driveway and gallop down the two lane road. Sunshine and Barkley halters just dragging behind them and Yetzen all free.
When they passed the house, I had no choice, I had to call the owners in France. At this point, I was in shear panic, and all years of horsemanship, was down the drain, in shear panic of these horse getting hurt, “on my watch”.
William, answered the phone right away, “the horses are out, and I don’t know who to call to help me”, with tears coming through my grief stricken voice. He first asked me if I was ok. “I am fine, I am just worried about the horses” William, in a wonderfully calming voice, told me, “I am not worried about the horses, I want you to be ok…Calm down.”
I think by him asking me if I was ok, and not worried about the horse, gave me the strength to calm down and it returned my sense to handle the situation. At this point, by the time I caught up to the horses, they had found a field and were eating some grass, then trotted a bit, ate some more grass, staying in the small field next to the road. They were all sweating from their run, but not galloping anymore. Finally, they had gotten their energy OUT. William and Jessica told me that if I could catch Yetzen first, Sunshine and Berkley would follow. I was able to walk up to Yetzen. I didn’t have a halter, so I took my jacket off and standing on my tiptoes, wrapped my jacket around his neck and led him back up (3/4 mile) to their house, up their driveway, into their pasture. All the while on the phone with William, telling him I have the horses and we are okay, thank God! I had calmed down to my normal ‘horse farm pet sitting’ demeanor.
As soon as I got to the house, I walked Yetzen into the pasture, with the other two following with halters and lead ropes, caked in mud, swaying to the methodical rhythm of horses’ brisk walk.
In the end, the horses were safely back in the pasture, William and Jessica, knowing the horses were safe, said good bye to me and the moment I shut the gate, my cell phone died. That is when I said, Oh God, Thank you God, also, I am so sorry for making fun of my mother and her loose llama episode that had just happened a short while back.
Cameron drove up seconds later and helped me in a way that showed me I was top on his list!