Adi the horse made it home safe and sound Sept. 7, following a 2-day stay with a veterinarian after 5 days in the wild. That was after getting spooked and lost in the Juan Tomas area.

Local residents Leigh Manning, Susan Donati and Ron Hankla spent three days searching for Adi and they ended up finding her on the third day of their search.

“[On the first day,] Ron and Susan and I were going down to Pine Flats for a ride. I saw a message saying that a horse was missing in the area and to keep an eye out for it,” Manning said. “We get to the Pine Flats trail head and I tell them, ‘We got a mission! A horse is out here lost, let’s see if we can find it.’”

He said the first and second day they rode for a few hours each day with no luck. On the third day, the three decided to take a different trail and a different approach. They took a trail toward the area where Adi was lost.

They split up, all three on horseback, and went off-trail, looking for places a weary horse might want to find refuge.

He said after about 40 minutes of searching in this way they regrouped and went together toward Adi’s last known location. Once there, Manning heard a slight whinny.

Going off trail once more, past a line of trees, he came to a clearing and found Adi.

Where she was found wasn’t visible from the trail. The likelihood of a spooked horse returning to a trail where it got scared was pretty slim, Manning said.

He said she was found about 400 or 500 yards off the trail.


Her saddle had come loose, and the belly cinch was on her back with the saddle hanging upside-down, blocking full mobility of her back legs.

The mare had to walk through the reins and ropes, meaning she probably couldn’t have gone very far or very fast. “She was a little nervous when we came up to her but I think she was just glad to see some other horses,” Manning said.

“We were all excited to get her back and when she saw my horse she seem to favor being next to my horse. It turns out I was riding a horse that looks like Ashley’s horse: a Paso Fino,” he said.

Manning said he thought it might be possible that Adi recognized his horse’s breed and maybe that was why she felt more comfortable riding next to them.

He said they petted Adi and got her calmed down. They were able to re-saddle her and tie up the stirrups to get her safely back down the trail, and home to her very worried owner.

“We were whooping it up the whole way back! We were so happy to have gotten her back,” Manning said. “We felt so good both that we found her after looking for her, but also because we wanted to see her back with Ashley.”

Adi was reunited with a relieved McDonnell, a bit dehydrated and underweight, but otherwise safe and healthy.

She lost 100 pounds during her ordeal and had to spend two days getting re-hydrated at the veterinarian’s.

In a small-town twist, it turned out that Hankla, one of the people who found her, used to own a stallion years ago named Rubio—who turned out to be Adi’s sire.

A Wild Ride

The ordeal started when McDonnell was out riding Sept. 1, leading Adi on a trail near Juan Tomas, off N.M. 337.

“I was out riding her off of Juan Tomas, when we got attacked by a pack of dogs riding with a mountain biker,” said East Mountain resident Ashley McDonnell, also Adi’s owner. “She got scared and ran off the trail.”

McDonnell was astride another horse, leading Adi, when she spooked and ran off. She put out several posts on social media in various East Mountain groups, horse groups, hiking groups and mountain biking community groups.

There was an outpouring of support from the community, which immediately sprang into action to help find the missing horse.

Adi is a 5-year old Cremello mare, a rare genetic coloration that also creates the distinct coloring of a Palomino. McDonnell recently got her and was training her when the incident occurred.


She said about 90 people from the East Mountains and Albuquerque area, including seven Albuquerque Police Department Open Space officers, came to help search for the lost horse.

McDonnell said she asked for help with drones on social media as well. In response to her plea, people showed up with mountain bikes, on horse back, and more than one person brought drones. “I couldn’t believe how many people showed up!” she said, adding, “It was amazing. This community is truly amazing.”