We experienced our first runaway team today, and things could have been so much worse! We were logging with our team of Spotted Draft mares. They are fairly new to logging, but we’ve done it a few times. We had pulled several good-sized logs up to the lumber mill, and all was going fairly well. We finally decided to pull a huge log..the biggest the girls had ever done, and we had been working up to it. It was sitting at a bad angle, but I thought the tongs could still handle it. Bad decision. We should have chained it to straighten it first. Lesson learned. The log spun just enough, causing the tongs to jump off with great force, flip over, and smack the mares right in the hind legs. They, of course, took off at a fast clip, with the tongs and doubletree jumping all over behind them, and I stood no chance of holding onto to those lines! They squeezed through a tiny, decorative gate (about 5 feet wide), took off down our driveway, and out onto the lane. Praise God, my son “happened” to be down there getting our mail, heard the noise of steel on gravel and hoofbeats, and waved his arms at the horses....just enough to cause them to veer off the road and into a dry pond area (instead of heading on out to the busy highway). The mares apparently tripped and fell at that point, which slowed them down, but they jumped up, proceeded to jump and run through a bunch of debris, eventually stopping when the yoke hit a tree the horses tried to split around. One horse collapsed, and the other just stood there winded, and still attached to the downed horse with the yoke (which I suspect actually helped protect them a bit from totally wrapping around that tree!) which is how we found them. I thought the downed horse was dead....she wasn’t moving a muscle! Hubby arrived on scene first, to discover her collar forcing her head way back, and the line wrapped tightly around her neck. He quickly got the line off, and we worked fast to get the girls separated and relieve the pressure on her neck. Thankfully, once clear, she jumped right up. Once all was said and done, and we got the girls untwisted and detached, we realized the true extent of our blessings and God’s protection! It appears the only full casualty was my butt strap, which ripped off. The horses both had superficial cuts and scrapes, but so far nothing too major apparently. My bio Harness is still in perfect shape except for a small bend in one of the trace chain links. My wooden yoke amazingly did not split, and seems fine. My gate has only a small, repairable break. And, most importantly, no people were injured.
After giving the horses a good look over, walking them out a bit, and letting them catch their breath and relax, we decided to end on a better note. Dris, who we consider a mentor, once told us to never let the horses end in failure, and if there is a mishap, always end on a good note if possible. We hitched them to my forecart, which we hooked to a stone boat (just to add some weight in the event they spooked), and hubby decided to drive our van in front...just in case. Amazing, again, the girls acted as though nothing had happened. They walked off confidently (though perhaps a bit tired and sore), followed every command, amd we went back to the barn. I doctored up their wounds (the worst of which are around the coronets from the incessant banging of the doubletree) and put them in a soft sand paddock for the next day or two for monitoring. I am a little concerned about the mare that went down, as she has some scrapes on her head, likely from hitting the tree, and she was blowing her nose more frequently than I liked, as though something was bothering her. She seemed especially sore when we finally got them turned into the Paddock. I’ve checked a few times, and she’s eating, drinking, and walking fine, so hopefully she just has a bit of a headache that goes away soon.
No matter how much you study, research, and try to use caution, it seems inevitable that you will make mistakes. I guess we are blessed that this is only our second accident in almost 4 years and 7 horses. At the end of the day, you count your blessings, try to learn and wise up, and hope for a better day and no repeats!
On a lighter note, we still needed to get the log to the mill for milling tomorrow, and we don’t have a tractor, so we backed our truck down the tight trail, hooked it to the log, and got the job done. Thankfully, the truck didn’t spook once!