As the walkers made their way through the woods, twigs snapped underfoot and leaves brushed their heads. To these ramblers, it seemed like another perfectly normal hike – that is, until they saw something jostle for their attention near a tree. And that something turned out to be a local social media celebrity…
Play Doh belonged to Susan Crawford, of York, Pennsylvania, who loved spending time with her favorite ten-year-old horse. However, in May 2016 Play Doh became separated from his rider and went missing. Understandably, Crawford was devastated.
The event actually took place on May 27, 2016. Crawford, a passionate horse rider and member of the League of Maryland Horsemen equestrian club, was simply following a trail with a friend in Patapsco State Park. Play Doh, however, slipped on difficult terrain and slid down a steep bank, tossing Crawford in the fall.
“We slipped down and I slid off of him,” she said in an interview with news site WJZ. “Then he took off. He got spooked and took off.” Crawford was shook up and confused but otherwise uninjured. Play Doh, however, was nowhere to be found.
“He had his tack and saddle on with a lime-green holster and breast collar,” Crawford told The Baltimore Sun. “We were close to the tunnel on the tracks. He ran along the tracks toward a parking lot and a couple saw him head right up into the woods.”
Fortunately, a large search party was formed to look for Play Doh the very same day. Indeed, Howard County Police, Mountain bikers, hikers, Maryland State police and members of Crawford’s equestrian club scoured the woods. Despite the turn-out and Play Doh’s distinctive riding gear, though, it seemed like the horse had just vanished.
“It was hard to understand how he could have vanished or that no one had seen him or found any of his tack,” Crawford said in an interview. She also described the situation as “like being trapped in a nightmare.” But despite fearing the worst, she was determined to do everything she could for Play Doh.
“I tried to come to terms with the worst case scenarios – he was hurt, he had been taken, he had been hit by a car. Trying to face the worst helped me put those thoughts aside and focus on doing everything I could to find him,” Crawford said. However, she did have one last shot to get her horse back.
And so it was that she set up a Facebook page called “Where Is Play Doh?” and uploaded pictures and details about her missing pride and joy. Luckily, the campaign took off. “We had over 10,000 shares of Play Doh’s story,” she said. The movement even reached the local evening news.
Her equestrian group was a big help, too. “Hundreds of posters were hung and the League of Maryland Horsemen, where we were staying, turned their campground into a base camp,” she said. Moreover, it seemed like the campaign was a success when Crawford finally got a call from someone who said that they had seen Play Doh.
Unfortunately, the call was a bust. “We got there, and it wasn’t him,” she told CBS Baltimore. Now, time was getting short. After all, Play Doh’s riding gear may have gotten caught in branches and trapped the horse, or so thought League of Maryland Horsemen member Vicky Sadler.
Then, after nearly two weeks of constant searching, three hikers stumbled on a horse in the woods matching Play Doh’s description exactly. The hikers were David Sugar, Emily Perryman and Vlad Konstantinov, and they were on a nature hike through the area when they noticed one of Crawford’s posters at the beginning of their trail.
The hikers hadn’t otherwise heard the news of Play Doh and made light of the situation. “We kind of joked about [it]. How do you lose a horse?” one of the group said in an interview with CBS Baltimore. Certainly, they didn’t expect to find the local celebrity.
However, that is exactly what they did, and the equestrian group’s concern turned out to be warranted. Yes, the hikers found Play Doh’s gear tangled around his leg and restricting his movement. “The horse was there, the saddle was kind of cockeyed 90 degrees,” one of the hikers told the CBS Baltimore. Naturally, then, the group freed Play Doh and took him to a nearby inn.
In fact, Play Doh had made quite the journey. After bucking his owner near Marriottsville Road, he had traveled south in the direction of the train tracks in his panic. Sugar, Perryman and Konstantinov found the horse all tuckered out and ready for rescue close to Woodstock Road.
Crawford was overjoyed; there were definitely moments when she wondered whether she’d ever see her beloved horse again. So she and her fellow equestrian club members then went to meet Play Doh as soon as possible, and they loaded him onto a horse trailer to take him back to their campsite.
A veterinarian at the camp then checked Play Doh’s condition. Fortunately, aside from a few minor lacerations, a single deep cut and a long face, the horse was in relatively good health. “He had a bunch of other little rubs from the tack, but otherwise, he doesn’t look skinny,” Crawford reported.
Yet while the vet gave Play Doh what little treatment he needed, it mostly just seemed like he missed his human. “He kind of put his head on my shoulder, and he was like, ‘Oh, thank god. Mom found me,’” Crawford told CBS Baltimore.
“He obviously was very glad to have someone come help him when he needed it,” she added. And everyone involved in the search for Play Doh was ecstatic to have found him safe and sound too. In fact, upon Play Doh’s arrival back home, he received a huge horsey welcome party.
In August 2016, three months after being found, Play Doh even got to express his gratitude personally to the people who found him. “We were very happy to visit with Play Doh, Susan and her friends,” one of the rescuers wrote on Facebook. “[It’s nice to] see that he is doing well and fully recovered from his escapade.”
In consideration of all the events that led to Play Doh’s return, Crawford is now a steadfast advocate of social media when it comes to finding lost animals. Of course, the advantage of getting more people aware of a missing animal is in hastening the likelihood of finding the missing party.
“It really is overwhelming. You just don’t know how you’re going to go about thanking everybody for what they did,” Crawford explained to The Baltimore Sun. “The people who walked, hiked or drove around to find him, who flew drones or cooked food for us and brought food over – it was just so overwhelming.”
The happy horse was expected to make a full recovery from his ordeal. Still, he did have to take things slow at first. However, Play Doh’s human expressed her joy on social media when the horse’s two doctors gave him the green light to get back to his regular way of life again.
“A big thank you to the Green Glen team of Dr. Jen Hayes and Heather for clearing Playdoh to return to light work,” Crawford wrote on Facebook, also updating the status of his medical care. “Playdoh thoroughly enjoyed his Chiropractic session. He looked so relaxed afterwards.”
And as he progressed, Play Doh got better and better. In fact, he even took part in an event arranged by the National Association of Competitive Mounted Orienteering. There, he was ridden through Spring Valley with an equestrian friend called Jasmine. They enjoyed a rewarding river bath afterward, too, as a respite from the summer weather.
Play Doh was also in action in October 2016, and his mommy couldn’t be happier. In fact, she could hardly wait to tell her social media followers how her baby had aced his scores in an endurance riding course. Her excitement at his progress was palpable.
“Playdoh is back. Rode the Mustang on Saturday. Completed his first Endurance LD (30 miles) with all A’s… which as my riding buddies [know] is pretty impressive for him,” she wrote. “After a summer of ulcers and going AWOL for 12 days I have my buddy back. He was awesome.”
But the best was yet to come. Yes, Crawford’s most recent update on Play Doh’s road to recovery and success was quite a monumental one. That’s because she took her horse around the track at Canter for the Cause at Pimlico. In the equestrian world, that’s a big deal. Indeed, many famous names in horse racing have trotted the same track in the past.
For instance, the track has hosted such famous names as Seabiscuit, Secretariat and American Pharoah. But that’s not the only honor. The event also raises money for two charities that are important to many people’s hearts.
Canter for the Cause funds the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance that retires, rehomes and retrains thoroughbred horses. It also provides support for the Susan G. Komen Maryland organization and its fight against breast cancer. So, while Play Doh might have lost his way for a while, it now seems that he truly is back on track.
Meanwhile, another touching horse tale is that of Arthur, William and Harry. They grew up together, but their owner was forced to give Arthur up. Years later, though, she repurchased the pony – and his reunion with his long-lost friends will melt your heart.
When it comes to animals, we often underestimate their memory and their ability to experience emotions. So when one horse lover repurchased a horse that she’d been forced to sell four years prior, she had no idea how her other two ponies would react. And as she nervously led the estranged equine toward the others, something extraordinary happened.
Sue Blagburn had been around horses her entire life. In fact, she had felt an affinity with equines since she was a child. And even though as an adult Blagburn ran a successful design and marketing company, her heart was always with horses.
So Blagburn began to rear horses on her land in Dorset, England. For her, the hobby provided an escape from the pressures of running a business. “I began to realize how being around horses was (and still is) helping support me and learn skills transferable to running a successful business, building relationships, and keeping me grounded, mindful and in my body,” the entrepreneur explained on her website.
Among the horses Blagburn had reared were Arthur, William and Harry. Arthur and William had been born just months apart in 2004, while Blagburn acquired Harry as a young horse just one year later. Of the three foals, Arthur and William were particularly close, having been born and brought up together.
So for a while Blagburn and her horses lived a happy life together. Indeed, the colts roamed the land on Mustons Field, while their owner lived in a house on the site. But things suddenly changed.
In 2008 Blagburn made the difficult decision to sell Arthur and most of her other horses as well. After all, the U.K. economic recession had hit, and since rearing and looking after horses can be expensive, the businesswoman decided that giving her beloved animals up was the best thing to do.
However, Blagburn’s life soon began to feel empty without her horses. She therefore made the life-changing decision to quit her marketing business and work with equines full time. In fact, her dream was to set up a social enterprise that would allow others to enjoy the same therapeutic benefits she had experienced interacting with her herd.
So, while Blagburn retrained for a new career, she sent Harry and William off to live with other horses for the time being. Eventually, though, they were brought to a field in the town of Firle in East Sussex, nearby where their owner was training. Then something amazing happened.
In December 2012 Blagburn had the opportunity to repurchase Arthur, and naturally she leapt at the chance. However, Blagburn was particularly curious about his reunion with her other horses. After all, how would Harry and William react to seeing their old playmate four years after saying goodbye?
“Would Arthur, now aged eight and a half, a thoroughbred sports horse that has spent the last four and a half years in a high-class private competition yard [British eventing], have any memory at all of the two hairy New Forest pony playmates he once shared his youth with?” she pondered in the caption of a YouTube video in 2013. “And likewise would William and Harry recognize that little thoroughbred guy who was once their best mate?”
So when Blagburn led Arthur down to the field where Harry and William had been staying, she had no idea what would happen. Naturally, she was excited to have the threesome together again. And the moment the horses saw one another was truly extraordinary.
Blagburn’s video of the reunion showed unsuspecting Harry and William chewing down on some grass as Arthur entered the field. And as Arthur slowly made his way toward his old friends, Harry lifted his head from the ground. Immediately, the pair made a beeline for each other.
Yes, as the pair galloped across the field to greet, it became clear that they had recognized each other. And when they finally got close, they nuzzled noses. Soon William also came over to join the reunion.
In the emotional scene, the beautiful horses gently touched noses and rubbed their heads together in an extraordinary display of affection. In fact, their reaction was not dissimilar to the way humans greet each other after being apart for a long while.
The three musketeers then proceeded to frolic around the field, their new home. Yes, they cantered and rolled around in glee as a delighted Blagburn watched. Describing the adorable scene, Blagburn said, “I just see horses. Horses that love each other and remember each other.”
“I knew they would recognize each other, but this is so much more deep than I thought possible,” she continued in the video. “Stomping and squealing are all forms of celebrating their reunion,” she observed. “It’s so extraordinary.”
Of course, the amazing video has been warmly received online. In fact, since Blagburn posted the footage on YouTube, it has been watched over eight million times. It has also attracted hundreds of kind comments from awestruck viewers.
“I have watched this video many times, and still it’s incredible to see the joy of this reunion,” one well wisher wrote. “Just watching them rolling, nuzzling and stomping was pure happiness. I hope their new life on Dartmoor is happy, I am sure it is. Thank you so much for sharing this Sue, a lovely lady and amazing horsewoman.”
Writing three months later, in May 2015, Blagburn said, “This magical horse reunion was the beginning of a new adventure for Arthur, William, Harry and myself. We now have a wonderful home in South Dartmoor where we run Adventures with Horses, Equine Facilitated Experiential Learning.”
So now Arthur, Harry and William share their amazing friendship with a number of people every day. And if their emotional reunion video is anything to go by, they can teach us humans a lot. After all, these beautiful animals have proved beyond doubt that they are able to feel love and emotions just like us, and there’s nothing more heartwarming than that.