Twigs snapped underfoot and leaves brushed their heads as the walkers made their way through the woods. To them, it seemed like another perfectly normal hike. That is, until the ramblers 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.