By Marjorie Woodfin
Pilot staff writer
There are a number of Brookings residents concerned and mystified by the disappearance of Ace, the Egyptian Arabian gelding that disappeared from a Carpenterville ranch approximately two months ago. His latest owner, Gena Nieuwendorp, said, "It's a mystery."
Everyone who had close contact with Ace appeared to have fallen victim to his charm, including Nieuwendorp, Shirley Swenson, who sold the horse to Nieuwendorp, and Patty and Gordon Barnard who boarded him for Swenson for a year, plus other Cape Ferrelo neighbors.
Swenson, who earlier purchased the horse for her daughter Sarah, said that Ace had been trained as a racehorse, but was abandoned in his stall when his owners decided he wasn't fast enough to race. She also said that they believe that someone in the 4H program had at sometime, trained Ace, because when a friend of Sarah's, a member of 4H, rode him he responded quickly and efficiently to all 4H commands. "He was a good horse," Swenson said.
Patty Barnard said, "Gordon and I really grew to love him when he was here. He would always whinny when he heard one of us come out of the house, especially when he heard Gordon getting food for the goats. Gordon always sneaked him some extra grain and hay and I always took him some carrots and apples and bread for a snack."
Barnard said it was hard to believe that the animal would walk away and not return. She explained that he would wander from their fenced area if the gate was left open, but he always just wandered up to the area adjacent to the Swenson's property and hung around.
She said that she and her husband missed Ace, but were happy when they visited Ace in his new environment in a lovely in stall in a very nice barn, with big pastures full of grass.
Nieuwendorp explained that, at the time of his disappearance, Ace was living in a 10 acre fenced area on a 101-acre ranch with three other horses. She indicated that a gate had been left open and the horses had wandered away. However, when the other horses returned she couldn't believe that Ace would not have followed.
"Horses are herd animals," she explained. "Horses don't leave the trail. They always come back to the barn, and it snowed after that."
She said a search of the wooded area near the horse stalls uncovered no horse tracks or droppings anywhere.
Property caretaker, Ralph Hamilton, said that Ace had been kept in a little stall in a paddock until one day he found a note from Nieuwendorp tacked to the bulletin board advising him that she had let Ace out to roam with the other horses. "I never saw him again," Hamilton said.
He said that when he couldn't find Ace within the five-acre lower pasture, he called Nieuwendorp. "I never did see Ace in the lower pasture at all," Hamilton said. "I never saw him again."
Another neighbor, Sandy Welch, called Ace "an escape artist." She said the first day in her new home up Cape Ferrelo Road, she heard galloping around her house and couldn't imagine what it was. "In San Jose, you don't have horses galloping around your house," she said. After that Ace was a frequent visitor when he escaped. "He was so beautiful," she said.
When asked, Nieuwendorp admitted she had never reported Ace's disappearance to the authorities. "I thought at first he would come back," she said. In addition to Ace, Nieuwendorp had two other horses in the enclosure and two additional horses belonging to another owner also roamed the five acres.
When notified recently, Curry County Animal Control Officer Steve Nagel met Patty Barnard and Welch at the property to look for any possible clues about Ace's disappearance. Nagel walked the fence line and said there was no evidence of anyplace where Ace might have escaped. He said that if he had been notified two months ago when Ace disappeared the search for clues could have been more productive.
All of Ace's friends are wondering how an animal that large could just disappear without leaving any trace. They are hoping someone may come forward with information. They are all anxious to know that he is being cared for in a safe place
Patty Barnard pleaded, "Maybe someone will read the article and realize they have seen him somewhere or know what happened to him. We are hoping that some kind soul found him wandering the road, didn't know where he belonged and has been caring for him."
Ace is about 11 years old, a very dark brown gelding, 14 hands high, with white near his hooves and white markings on his forehead.
If anyone has any information, notify Gordon and Patty Barnard, (541) 469-6956.