Well organized searches, publicity, and a little luck brought Paso Fino gelding Play Doh back to his owner Susan Crawford after he was missing for twelve days in the Patapsco State Recreation Area in Maryland.
Crawford is from York, PA, but she frequently travels to area parkland with her horse as training for competitive trail. She was riding and camping at the Patapsco site with her 10-year-old, chestnut Paso Fino, Play Doh. Even though the pair are very experienced on trails, accidents can happen to anyone.
Crawford and Play Doh were on the trails, riding with a friend on Friday, May 27. Crawford came to a fork in the trail in the heavily wooded area, and chose a path that turned into a dead end.
As they turned around to get back to the main trail, the footing along the edge of the trail began to give way and they started to slide down and backward. Play Doh’s hind legs went out from under him, and Crawford came off.
“It definitely was a rider error. The trail got rocky, and there was an alternate trail to the left,” Crawford recalled the accident. “The sides crumbled away, we slid off the trail and he was going backward.”
Crawford was not seriously injured in the fall, but Play Doh was frightened and ran. The friend she had been riding with went off after the loose horse, but was unable to retrieve him before he was out of sight. “The woods are very dense there,” Crawford said.
They returned to the Marriotsville Parking Area, and the search began “As soon as I got back we immediately went and talked to everyone at the campgrounds,” Crawford said. She called police, and went online as well to get the word out about her missing horse. “Very quickly you had a group of people looking for him.”
A community page titled ‘Where is Play Doh’ was created on Facebook, posters were printed and put up throughout the area, and local news outlets covered the story.
Searchers included the League of Maryland Horsemen Club, the Howard County MD Police, Maryland State Police and mountain bikers and hikers who regularly use the park.
Hard to Find
Everyone was looking for Play Doh, but he was not easy to find. He was finally recovered 12 days after he disappeared, about three miles from the trail where he and Crawford had fallen.
With his neon colored tack still on, Play Doh should have been relatively easy to spot, but the heavy foliage proved to be good camouflage. He was finally spotted by hikers Emily Perryman, Vlad Konstantinov, and David Sugar about a half-mile from the Woodstock Inn with his sponge leash tangled in a branch.
The hikers had seen the posters for the lost horse, and were able to approach him because the tangled line kept him from running away.
The horse was still wearing all of his tack, with his saddle shifted to one side. The hikers cut his reins to get him loose of the branches and lead him back to the Inn.
“They only noticed him because they saw the lost horse signs. They did a really nice job,” Crawford said.
Play Doh sustained only minor injuries with a gash on his back being the worst of those. He also had a few rubs from his tack and minor scrapes. He was not thin or dehydrated thanks to the lush plant life and available water in the park.
Play Doh has been given some time off to allow the gash in his back to heal completely, but he appears to have survived the ordeal without any lasting damage.
“He’s great. He’s definitely glad to be home,” Crawford said. “He’s my good buddy.”
In case something like this should ever happen again, Crawford has gotten a GPS tracking device that can be put on the saddle or bride. “The other piece of advice, get dog tags to put on the horse. Someone who found your horse wouldn’t know what to do with it,” she said.
Crawford thanks everyone who joined her in the effort to find Play Doh. “It was all so overwhelming, the support and kindness of everyone,” she said.