Horses Stampede Through Chula Vista Streets

Manes and tails flying, a herd of horses galloped along paved streets of this San Diego suburb, through a parking lot, fields and an Olympic training center for up to two hours before a mustachioed cowboy herded them back to the ranch.

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    Wild horses apparently led other horses to escape from a ranch east of town in Otay Mesa on Wednesday afternoon, Chula Vista police spokesman Bernard Gonzales said Thursday.

    "They had come down from the hills just above Chula Vista and they had intermingled with some other horses," Gonzales said. "I guess that the leader of that pack of wild horses induced the other horses to run free.

    "In their natural state, a horse will follow the dominant horse. They were all following the lead horse."

    10News learned the horses had actually been running free in the valley separating the two communities for three weeks. Rounding them up seemed impossible for Paul Rucobo, manager of the OK Corral where some of the horses call home.

    Rucobo said some wild horses came through his property about three weeks ago and some of his horses decided to follow them.

    "I don't know if they are from Mexico or, I don't know. I have no idea," he said.

    It took Rucobo those three weeks to find enough real-life cowboys to help round them all up.

    Rucobo said, "I need the people who know how to rope, how to run fast on the horses."

    U.S. Border Patrol trucks tried to herd them and Sky10 followed as the horses and a few colts galloped through the wide streets of the Eastlake area, which is the urbanized portion of the town.

    The horses ran into the U.S. Olympic Training Center near Otay Lake, where they cantered around the flag court and fields before heading through a parking lot and back onto the road. The Olympic facility includes training venues for track and field, canoe/kayak, cycling, field hockey, soccer, archery and rowing.

    Two of the horses, including a colt, stopped about a mile away. Volunteers from the San Diego Humane Society roped and calmed them. Sky10 footage showed one roped horse neighing and kicking its front legs as a volunteer struggled to hold it.

    "It was pretty stressful, they were both injured, minor injuries on their legs, and they're both very fatigued from galloping around," Human Society Capt. D.J. Grove said.

    Pursuers on horseback managed to push the rest southward onto a road and then a trail through open country and finally got the horses, winded but not seriously hurt, back to the ranch, Gonzales said.

    Abel Canales, a ranch hand at the OK Corral, said he followed the herd on horseback and was finally able to rope the lead horse and guide the herd back to the ranch. With his white cowboy hat, bushy mustache and lasso, he cut a dashing figure on the TV news.

    "I felt like a cowboy out in the Old West," he said.

    Police said it was unclear how the horses got out of their stalls.

    "Did they jump? Was there an open gate? Were the horses so domesticated that the owner thought they would never leave? I don't know," Gonzales said.

    No citations were issued because there was no real threat to motorists or other residents, Gonzales said.

    Gonzales said it was the first time he could recall horses cantering through the town, a suburb about a dozen miles from downtown San Diego where lemon groves dominated in the last century until World War II brought in factory workers and servicemen. Thousands of new homes have been built in recent decades although there still are ranches scattered among its scenic hills and canyons.

    "It's interesting to think that wild horses still roam free out in those hills," Gonzales said. "It was kind of like nature springs forth to remind us all that there are greater things out there."

    10News learned the County's Department of Animal Services has taken seven of the horses to a Bonita shelter where they will be examined.