Unlimited access >

Searching for a lost horse - tips, tricks, where to search, etc. (SAR folks!)

UPDATE 6:30pm EDT 5-29-13 – Bella has been found - thank you for all your suggestions! Will post details below as they become available. :slight_smile:

A friend of mine is coordinating a search for a lost horse in Suffolk, VA, and is asking me for recommendations (perils of being the “horse person”).

I’ve never searched for a lost horse, so I don’t know what to tell her other than the obvious:

Check any barns/farms in the area - she might hear other horses and head toward them. Have searchers take soup cans with a handful of grain to shake & rattle; she sounds super food motivated. Check water sources - ponds, streams, rivers. Horses have a 2±mile range of smell; send searchers out with clothing from her owner to attract her to owner’s scent.

I see we have several SAR folks on COTH, and one particularly mentioned searching for a lost horse, so I thought I’d check with the pros.

Here is the FB page for the search:

Any loose horse, even one who was panicked when he got loose, will almost invariably head for the nearest place where he can find other horses. I’d pop the farm he got loose from up on Google Earth and see where the nearest surrounding farms are, call those people to be on the lookout for him, or leave leaflets in their mailboxes with his picture, and go from there.

He may also come back home of his own accord if he gets hungry.

If you believe there’s a chance he’s been stolen, call the police, then the manager of every auction yard within a 500-mile radius and provide them with the most complete description you can. Call the State Police as well.

Good Luck and keep us posted!

Use NetPosse to create a missing horse profile. If you have the information about where the horse was last seen and what it looks like, you should post here in the chance there are COTHers in the area that can help.

The other suggestion I’ve seen is to bring another horse to the area, one that is vocal if left alone. Sometimes the neighing of another horse will attract the loose one.

Wishing the best of luck to your friend.

Aside from alerting authorities (could help if they find him wandering as well, horses do pose a high risk on roads) also I suppose net posse…

But aside form that, she will also have to check ditches and ravines.

A few years back a farm nearby lost a horse, assumed it was stolen. Sadly, a short time after they found the horse. It had fallen into a hole and broken it’s neck (or there’s about. It was no longer alive and in an area not easily seen)

It was very sad.

Loose horses. We have two sets of horses near us, both have gotten out, one batch does it a LOT.

The frequent leavers generally head to other horses although they have traveled as far as two miles via the road, where they ended up at another horse place. One is an uncastrated mini jack that is now adult and he is looking for mares, his pasturemate is a pony mare, she follows him. They do show up at our place where we share a fenceline with two mares and have decent pasture, hay etc.

The other ones are a group of three, one mare has gotten out several times, she comes to our house and I’m not sure if she’s looking for the intact donkey or the pony still is producing enough testosterone to be interesting. She knocked down the solar charged tape fence not too long ago and let the rest of them out, this was while we were still in the dormant grass stage and their pasture was a little bare. They headed as a group around their pasture to the large acreage behind them. They didn’t come up the road to our house or across the neighbor’s lawn, they didn’t cross the creek to the acreage over there, they went to the pretty nice looking grass in the old cow pasture, and they took FOREVER to locate and then catch. Their owner came over to our house with his green trail horse, that had been stabled with the escapees at his other house, and got the pony to calling, but the wind was blowing the wrong way I think so we got no neighing in return. I kept an eye out for manure on or near the road, if there are no other horses around that’s a giveaway, and they were finally found about three days later once there was a large enough group to really comb that big cow pasture (it’s somewhere around 75 acres with wooded ravines and stuff). They actually spotted them by glassing, as if they were hunting deer. The horses moved away from the owner but another searcher on foot was able to entice one and the rest were taken up by other searchers who converged on the site.

I’ve gone looking for cows before and it’s amazing how fast they can vanish in the woods. Everybody needs to take their time, watch for hoofprints and piles of manure, using google earth and looking at the lay of the land if it isn’t all fenced off will give logical spots they might go. For example the horses could have followed the road to our house - but there is no grass and no reason. They could have followed the tractor trail to the neighbor’s and then to our house but it goes through the woods, the grass isn’t very tasty for a quarter of a mile. The road parallels a creek that is wooded, the road goes through the woods, but outside their pasture is a grassy sunny right of way for the road, which goes to the neighbors grassy track up to his hunting camp in a clearing, which abuts this huge cow pasture acreage that is being used now as hunting land so the fences are all pierced for deer travel, AND get this, the guy is growing corn in a feed lot for the deer. Buffet anyone?

Ours have made two short forays over the neighbor across the street. No clue why, but I think the pony does it on purpose to make us run to the barn and bring the feed buckets out.

If the friend can afford it and there is an airport nearby, get a helicopter to take them on an aerial search. Seriously. I know someone who found a loose horse that way…unfortunately, it had gone galloping out into a swamp and was already dead. :frowning: But at least they knew what became of it.

An organized search party of experienced trail riders might help too.

I might not do this for a frequent escape artist known to take the occasional walk-about, but if a horse is truly lost you should put some volunteer in charge of getting info to local media: local TV stations and daily newspapers. Call the news editors and find out where you can email or deliver description and ideally photos of the horse and what a person should do if they actually find the horse.

A friend came off her horse in a SC state forest and it was missing for three days. It was covered on the news so when the horse wandered near someone’s yard they knew right away what the story was, caught the horse and called the appropriate people. The more people you can inform, the better off you are!

Take two or three horses to the area where you think the horse is. Then take one horse away from the others. Usually one horse will start whinneying for the other horses.

Maybe the lost horse will hear them and start whinneying too!!