Sad update: I received the following message from Kirby today.
"I wanted to let you know that both our mares remains were found on the mountain overlooking our home. How they got out of their pasture and why they ran into the forest and straight up the mountain, we will never no. we are surmising that something got them running and it was close to dark when they went in and it was easier to just keep going up. It appears Maybelline was injured in some way and Finn appears to have fallen or run off a ledge.
It is certainly one of the more bizarre and sad experiences of our lives. At least we know now where they are.
...one of the positives of this experience was learning how many people will try to help a complete stranger. The horse community has been fantastic.
This is Maybelline - named for the circular black shading around her left eye.
She is an 8yo Paint mare - 16.2 hh.
She has a brand on her right hip - VC.
This is "Finn" - a 4yo Red Dunn mare, 16.1 hh
She has three high white socks, and a large blaze, a dorsal stripe but no “tiger striping”.
She is branded AWS (American Warmblood Society) on her left hip.
The two mares had breakfast on the 17th of April, were turned out to their pasture, and owners Kirby and Clare Hill went to work. When they arrived home that evening, the gate was open, and the mares were just GONE.
One other horse person in the area had some fence cut through the day before, and their horses let loose. Clare and Kirby were thinking that was what happened, until no hoofprints could be found anywhere around the property. The way things are situated - tire tracks/trailer tracks would not be evident near the open gate.
Clare doesn't know if it was someone who let the horses out, and then someone else took a shine to them when they showed up...or if they were just taken. It could be that the first "set loose" situation was supposed to be a theft - but the horses didn't cooperate - and Kirby and Clare's mares were a second (and succesful) attempt.
Both mares are very well socialized, well mannered, and people oriented. Both mares are English trained, though the paint mare had western training as a youngster out West.
Kirby hired a plane and flew over the valley to make sure the mares were not still in the vicinity. They are not.
Update 5/9/10.... reward amount announced: $10,000 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Many thanks to those folks who have posted to the following websites: