News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Runaway horse found safe in creek

It’s every horse owner’s worst nightmare: Your horse has broken through a gate and has taken off at a run. The air is chill; the sun is going down, and a horse accustomed to stall and paddock is long gone and in the wind.

You are facing the worst kind of trouble.

That’s what happened to Ann Brewer and her horse Mister last month, but — thanks to the equestrian community rallying to assist in a classic Western example of neighbors helping neighbors — the tale had a happy ending.

The harrowing ordeal began at about 6 p.m. on Friday, February 19, at Ann and Jon Brewer’s ranch off Wilt Road northeast of Sisters.

“I heard somebody calling for help and looked out… and saw two horses running up my driveway, a truck behind them, and a woman yelling,” Ann Brewer recalled.

Her neighbor’s horses had gotten out. The horses were recovered quickly enough — but, unbeknownst to Brewer, the flurry of activity had panicked her 14-year-old Hanoverian/Thoroughbred dressage horse, Mister. The horse had bolted from its stall and ran over a gatepost, breaking it off at the ground. The gate was down, and Mister was gone.

Brewer and her family and helpers immediately set out to find him. It was getting dark, but there was snow on the ground, which readily showed tracks.

“We were able to follow tracks to the north end of our property,” Brewer said.

But the clear tracks disappeared in a spot where the snow had melted away, and darkness was descending. Brewer made the tough call to halt the search.

“It’s one of the hardest decisions you have to make,” she said.

Brewer sent texts to all her neighbors to be on the lookout, and contacted Kate Beardsley of Mustangs to the Rescue for advice on how to conduct an effective search.

“She took 20 minutes to walk me through setting up search teams — how to organize my volunteers, basically,” Brewer said.

The next day, numerous neighbors started hunting for sign of Mister. Vernon Stubbs cut tracks in the Stevens Canyon area.

“I was off the crest off the windward slope in the woods — and I found horse tracks,” he told The Nugget.

The tracks had been dusted with a skiff of snow, so they weren’t fresh.

“When I cleared the snow on top, I saw a little bit of blood,” Stubbs said.

Stubbs made contact with the Brewers and, with his dog, set out on foot to follow the tracks, which crossed a big meadow. Ann and Jon Brewer, and their ranch helper Carrie Coe, linked up with Stubbs and they followed Mister’s trail, knowing from the snow on top of his tracks that they were miles and hours behind him.

“Every time he came to a fence, you could see where he paced the fence until he found a place to get through,” Ann Brewer said.

Mister hit dirt roads and stuck to them into the Crooked River Grasslands. The trackers didn’t find any sign that he’d paused to eat or even to poop. He was just moving.

Though they knew Mister was far ahead, the searchers did not lose heart. Jon Brewer, who has mountain biked all through the area, observed that Mister was headed directly toward the canyon where Whychus Creek flows. If Mister stopped at the creek, they had a chance to catch up to him.

When the search party hit the creek, there was a moment of joyful relief.

“Sure enough,” Ann recalled, “in the middle of river is Mister, just standing there looking at us.”

The adventure wasn’t over, yet, by any means. They still had to catch Mister and get him out of the creek, back to a road, and into a trailer.

Coe went into the swift, knee-deep water of the creek, went down, and got soaked, and then was able to approach Mister. Ann approached the horse from downstream and was able to get two halters on him — a spare in case one broke. She threw a line to Jon, who began to try to get the 1,500-pound Mister moving out of the frigid water.

The horse had a hard time moving. He was injured — to what extent wasn’t immediately apparent — and was clearly at least verging on hypothermia.

“At that point, he was shivering severely and he couldn’t move,” Brewer said.

Finally, with tugging and coaxing, Mister gave a couple of lunges and got up and out of the water.

Then, the searchers could see that “he had a very good laceration on his right front leg,” Brewer said.

Injured and cold, Mister still had a ways to go to get to safety.

“Our only option was to hike him up the canyon to Wilt Road, which was a two-mile hike,” Brewer said.

When they hit Wilt Road, Ann and Jon ran for the trailer. A Camp Sherman Hasty Team member, Laurie Adams, had shown up to help. With experience in horse rescue, Adams triaged Mister’s injuries, got the leg wrapped, and massaged him to mitigate the effects of hypothermia.

Mister trailered up and blanketed without incident, and Adams helped the Brewers get their rig turned around on the dirt road.

“I think we did a 12-point turn on Wilt,” Ann said.

The couple drove Mister to Bend Equine Medical Center, where he spent a day-and-a-half in their intensive-care unit. In addition to the laceration on his leg, he had some trauma to his hooves from his unaccustomed 15-mile wilderness jaunt, and some swelling on his chest where he apparently hit the gate post in his flight.

Mister remained on stall rest last week, and is expected to make a full recovery. He doesn’t seem to have any urge to head out for more adventures outside the fenceline.

“He’ll be hanging out by the barn for a while,” Brewer said with a chuckle.

Above and beyond the relief over the happy ending to a frightening ordeal, the Brewers are grateful for the community support they received. The couple moved to Sisters Country from Bend three years ago, seeking a deeper sense of community connection — and they found it when it really counted.

“Jon and I were blown away by all the help,” Ann said. “The selflessness and community spirit — that’s why we moved to


Author Bio

Jim Cornelius, Editor in Chief

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Jim Cornelius is editor in chief of The Nugget and author of “Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans.” A history buff, he explores frontier history across three centuries and several continents on his podcast, The Frontier Partisans. For more information visit


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