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Freeland horse bolts, and vanishes without a trace

Family friend Holly Becker of Freeland stands with Rebel in a photo taken before his disappearance. - Photo courtesy of Megan Caravan
Family friend Holly Becker of Freeland stands with Rebel in a photo taken before his disappearance.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Megan Caravan

If you see a chocolate brown Rocky Mountain horse with a saddle hanging from his side and answering to the name Rebel, give Megan Caravan a call.

“We haven’t found him anywhere,” said Caravan, of Freeland. “It’s like he just vanished. We’re still looking.”

“There hasn’t been anything,” Caravan said Tuesday just before the Record went to press. “It’s very frustrating.”

Rebel bolted and ran off Friday afternoon about 3 p.m. as Caravan’s 18-year-old son, Jesse, and two friends were preparing for a horseback ride in the Kettles Park Trail System next to Fort Ebey State Park west of Coupeville.

The horse has been missing ever since.

The group was heading out from the parking area near the intersection of Highway 20 and Libby Road in the northeast corner of the trail system.

They were approaching the entrance to Ladders Trail when Rebel’s western-style saddle loosened and began to slip.

Caravan dismounted to secure the tack. The horse tossed his head, and hit a tree branch. Spooked, Rebel bolted, yanking the reins from Jesse Caravan’s hand, and thundered down the trail.

Caravan’s companions gave chase, but lost track of the fugitive at a divide in the pathway.

“They each went in one direction, but they couldn’t find him,” Megan Caravan said.

Others joined the search, which continued throughout the weekend and on into Monday and Tuesday. They traced and retraced the system’s several riding and hiking trails.

Word went out to members of the Island County Chapter of Backcountry Horsemen of Washington and to other horse enthusiasts. Several joined the search, without success.

A number of people on foot also have been taking part, Caravan said. At one point during the weekend, more than 15 riders participated, she said.

The search has extended for miles, all the way to the boundaries of the trail system.

At least a half-dozen people continued the search on Tuesday.

“We heard some noises,” Caravan said Monday. “They turned out to be different animals and deer, but no horse.”

Carol Barnes, Island County’s animal control officer, said Tuesday that no one has come forward with information about Rebel. Barnes joined the search for a couple of hours on Tuesday morning

“We’re most definitely concerned for the horse,” she said. “And he could become a public safety issue if he enters the highway.”

Barnes said searchers had posted signs about Rebel in the Kettle Trails area.

“Well be keeping our ears open and continue to patrol the area,” she said.

Rebel, an 8-year-old gelding, has white-stocking markings on three legs, a white mark on his forehead and light-colored mane and tail. He stands 14.1 hands, or 56 inches from the ground following a vertical line along his front leg.

When he disappeared, Rebel was still wearing the well-used saddle and saddle blanket, she said. He was also wearing a head stall with silver coins with holes drilled in them, and a blue halter under his bridle.

There has been no sign of any of the tack equipment. And there have been no indications of a horse smashing its way off-trail and through the forest.

“There are a lot of woods out there, but you’d think we'd see something,” Caravan said.

Rebel is owned by Megan Caravan’s father, Mike Morley, and lives on five acres along Highway 525 in Freeland. Morley has had Rebel for about six years, and also owns another horse, Caravan said.

She said her son is an accomplished rider, and that Rebel, while on the jittery side, had been professionally trained early on to carry riders, and that he had been behaving calmly as of late.

Caravan said there was speculation that perhaps someone found Rebel in the woods and took him away. The family has received a couple of tips about people leading similar horses out of the woods, but so far none of the tips has panned out, she said.

Caravan said it’s dismaying that Rebel hasn’t responded to the searchers.

“You’d think he’d make some noise when you got close,” she said. “He usually responds and comes up to you. When other horses whinny, he usually does, too.”

Caravan said the family will offer a reward for information leading to Rebel’s safe return.

“I just can’t see where he could have gone,” she said.

Caravan can be reached at 360-929-4491, or call Diane Morley at 321-4028.

Roy Jacobson can be reached at 221-5300 or rjacobson@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

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