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UPDATE | Missing Freeland horse follows jogger home
Rebel the rambling horse was back in his pasture Thursday morning after going missing in the woods for 13 days.
He popped out of the trees near Coupeville and followed a jogger home.
“I’ve been running for 25 years,” Malcom Bishop said Friday morning. “I’ve encountered a lot of things — deer, squirrels. I’ve been sprayed by skunks, but this is the first time I’ve run into a horse.”
“We found him, yes we did,” said an excited Megan Caravan, whose father Mike Morley of Freeland owns the 8-year-old chocolate brown Rocky Mountain gelding.
“He looks great,” Caravan said Thursday. “You’d never know he’d been gone for two weeks.”
Rebel had been AWOL since Friday afternoon, Aug. 28. He disappeared from a parking area at an entrance to the Kettles Park Trail System, a heavily wooded area west of Coupeville that’s laced with miles of hiking and riding pathways.
Caravan’s 18-year-old son, Jesse, had dismounted to tighten his saddle when Rebel was spooked by a tree branch and thundered off down the trail, the saddle flopping at his side.
Several days of searching the area by volunteers on horseback and on foot failed to turn up any trace of the horse or its tack.
But early Thursday morning, Rebel showed up at the Kettles Park trailhead at Cedar Hollow Lane, a gravel road about two miles southwest of where he disappeared.
He appeared, off in the distance, just as Bishop was running by.
Bishop said when he saw no sign of a rider, he tied the horse at the side of the road. But Rebel broke free and began to follow him, so he decided to take him to his nearby home on Cedar Hollow Lane.
“He followed willingly,” said Bishop, who gave him four buckets-full of water, then called 911.
Rebel still had on his halter and bridle, but his western-style saddle and saddle blanket are missing, Megan Caravan said.
“He seems to have had something to eat,” she said, “but he was very thirsty.”
Lindsey Vanwetter, 19, of Clinton, who was with her boyfriend Jesse Caravan when Rebel ran off, said she picked up the horse with a trailer around 8:30 a.m., about an hour after Bishop’s call came in.
Rebel was docile in the trailer on the way home, and was grazing in his own pasture along Highway 525 in Freeland by midmorning, she said.
Vanwetter said Rebel has a few scratches on one leg, but otherwise appears uninjured.
“He was excited to see us,” she said. “He was kind of shaky standing there, but he got right in the trailer. He was just happy to get home.”
The road on which Rebel appeared was at the top of a hill in an area thick with trees and brush.
“I don’t know how he got up where he did,” Caravan said. “It’s a mystery. He must have come through the bushes.”
She thanked the many people who helped search for the horse, including members of the Island County Chapter of Back Country Horsemen of Washington.
Caravan said the family had Rebel checked out by a veterinarian on Thursday.
“He gave him a thumbs-up on his health,” she said. “He just needs to gain a little weight back.”
She said the family plans to let Rebel relax for a few days before taking him for a ride at a nearby horse arena.
He won’t return to the woods anytime soon.
“We’ll wait a little while,” Caravan said. “We’re very happy to have him home.”
Bishop, 64, the public works director for the city of Coupeville, said his biggest reward was seeing Rebel reunited with his owners.
“I know what a horse means to some people,” he said. “I was thrilled it all turned out good in the end.”
He said he had been unaware of the massive two-week search for Rebel, even though there were signs posted in the area where he regularly runs.
“I never stop to read those,” he said. “Maybe I should. I may go running someplace I’m not supposed to.”