Blame wild horses for reigniting the free spirit of some ranch steeds that ran wild through parts of eastern Chula Vista Wednesday afternoon.
The mini-stampede through the suburban Eastlake neighborhood and rural areas, parts of which were broadcast live by television news helicopters, played out for about two hours before the horses were safely coaxed back into their pens.
No people, or animals, were hurt.
Abel Canales, a ranch hand at the OK Corral on Alta Road in Otay Mesa, believes the wild horses, possibly from Mexico, showed up at the ranch during the night. He suspects they coaxed about a dozen of the ranch’s horses out of their pens, and they started running free as a pack.
The group probably followed a canyon to eastern Chula Vista, mainly the Eastlake neighborhood, about three miles away, the 56-year-old ranch hand said.
“The horses somehow escaped from the pens where they were being held,” Canales said in an interview. The ranch is east of Donovan State Prison.
Chula Vista police started receiving calls about the horses about 4:30 p.m. They dispatched two officers to make sure they did not create a traffic hazard on city streets, said Lt. Scott Arsenault.
Torah Harris, a 31-year-old high jumper at the Olympic Training Center, saw the horses make their way across the training center grounds on Olympic Parkway near Wueste Road and filmed them on his camera phone.
Soon he saw Canales and his horse gallop onto the grounds trying to round up the horses.
“He was a real cowboy,” Harris said.
The U.S. Border Patrol, Chula Vista Animal Control and the San Diego Humane Society also assisted in trying to round up the pack. At one point, two of the horses stopped on their own about a mile south of the Olympic Training Center. A Humane Society worker tried calming the horses before putting a rope around each of them.
Canales was finally able to rope the lead horse and guide the pack back to the OK Corral. “I felt like a cowboy out in the Old West,” said Canales, who has worked on ranches for about 30 years. He looked the part, as onlookers described him wearing a cowboy hat, sporting a bushy mustache and toting a lasso. Because the horses didn’t create traffic hazards or damage property, police consider the matter closed, Arsenault said.