PUSLINCH TOWNSHIP — Over three days more than a hundred volunteers combed fields and forest searching for a missing horse named Noah.
But hope turned to heartbreak Tuesday afternoon when the horse’s body was spotted by a helicopter pilot in a swampy area in Puslinch. The 23-year-old dark bay thoroughbred is believed to have drowned, said his owner Linda Hale.
“I’m pretty heartbroken,” she said.
Hale, a seasoned rider who owns a teaching and boarding facility east of Guelph, had come out to Puslinch Sunday to participate in the Wellington-Waterloo Hunter Pace — a bi-annual event where participants head out on a set course and are timed.
“It was just a trail ride sort of thing,” said Hale, adding that Noah has participated in the event for six years.
But the enjoyable ride through the agricultural township took an unexpected turn at 11 a.m. Hale and Noah were travelling along a gravel path east of Puslinch Lake, near Sideroad 10 South and Concession 2, when a donkey nearby started braying.
Noah got spooked and jumped over a wire fence into a field and took off. Hale, who fell off during the leap, was left bruised but not seriously injured.
“It’s more my emotions that are wrecked than my body,” she said while the search was ongoing. “He’s not spooky and I’ve never come off him before.”
The exhaustive three-day search for the horse brought hundreds together. A Facebook group garnered more than 950 members by Tuesday as people searched by foot, on horseback, and using drones and tracking dogs.
Posters with Noah’s picture were handed out by volunteers, and a psychic, referred to as an animal communicator, was even consulted.
Two friends who have horses of their own, Ann Morgan and Teresa Finnerty from Hockley Valley, travelled to Puslinch to help out even though they didn’t know Hale.
“(I was) in my barn this morning, all I could think of was this poor woman who’s looking for her horse and what could we do,” said Morgan, early Tuesday. “The horse community, although we’re spread out, it’s a pretty small community.”
Kyle Ecclestone, who owns Ecclestone Horse Transport out of Newmarket, hired a helicopter company from Cambridge to aid in the search. It took off Tuesday around 3 p.m. but the horse was found dead shortly after.
Hale had purchased Noah ten years ago for her daughter, Tess Daunt. He had been bred to race but likely never did, Daunt said during the search.
“He competed in hunters and jumpers his whole life,” she added. He was described as a homebody who loved to be around familiar people and although he was getting older, he never looked or acted his age.
by Laura Booth
Laura Booth is a reporter at the Waterloo Region Record.