My mares evidently decided this morning would be a good time to engage in a game of hide and seek...
I have not heard from the people who might be interested in fencing the 50' the broken tree limbs trashed of the fence.
The horses have found the gap, and cross it with impunity.
Shortly after dawn, all were at the freshly set hay bales.
Around 8:30, a neighbor two farms north called to ask if I had any horses missing. Counting, she decided there were 14 of them. Upon hearing that maybe someone else's band had joined up with mine, she recounted, coming up with 12 this time. (It can be deucedly hard to count a moving target in the distance.)
I told her the problem. Lock them in, without food, or allow them to eat at the hay bales and keep plenty out there to keep them from roaming... The neighbor in the middle, who built the fence for me a few years back, is working in Chicago. He'd torn out the old fence between himself and the neighbor to the north, but had not as yet gotten it replaced, so they had free access. They also have free access to the road, as he has removed his internal fences. She ended the conversation by saying she thought the ground was hard enough to drive on.
I told her I'd get them in, but I couldn't guarantee they'd stay put.
Setting out, I looked over my empty land, MS's empty 40, and the corner empty 40 from the road, then drove onto the field, carefully staying where others had driven before to avoid hidden obstacles. Surely twelve head would show! I drove into every nook and corner, crossed the line where the boundary fence between the two 40's used to be, but the land on the far side had no tracks through it, and was quite a bit rougher than what I REALLY wanted to cross in the car, which has excellent traction, but is low slung.
I spotted several "horses"out in the neighbor to the west's 200 acre, fenceless property that abuts my back 40, but as far as I know, not to my front... A quick tool through his center relatively good lane revealed CEDAR TREES. Great!. (MS might have removed fence chunks not visible from the road. The 200 acre piece lacks a road fence for nearly a half mile, so if they're out in it, they could go anywhere, as well. They usually just GO HOME, but that is not all they could possibly decide to do if the wanterlust is rampant. Not one farm I passed in four miles had the field gates shut unless they themselves had livestock in the pastures...)
The light snow on the road and in the ditches showed no hoofprints, but with the wind and rough ground, that might not be significant.
Defeated, I head home, intending to call the sheriff and report the crew missing. Suddenly, I see two spotted something or other's in the corner 40, so back into their pasture I go. But they are in a corner pasture... not the ones the horses have access to, and turn out to be two MILK COWS. Talk about visual acuity going to pot! (They were at least SPOTTED, as some of mine are...)
As I came down the hill, I spot "horses" and "MILK COWS" in my pasture on the hill, but as I get closer, they are CEDAR TREES and snowy patches. Next I see some more "horses" in the pen and behind the barn... Great! Hallucinations!
Nope. As I pass in front of the old house and turn up the driveway, one of the "cedar trees" prances into the stud pen, tail curved over her back... Crem. They're back, and shouting "All's Out In FREE"!
I call Larry. He's agreed, even though he just hauled me six bales Wednesday and has trouble crawling into the cab of his tractor, to come out and deliver six more bales to the pasture behind the barn. I can fence them into that tiny area and let them at the water there until the fence gets fixed, but I'll have to reseed if we get into a thaw big time because of the hill.
Beats having a dead horse....