An entire community turned out for the hunt around the Gloucester County Fairgrounds in Mullica Hill, New Jersey.
This story could have ended with heart-wrenching sadness, instead, for two young horse lovers it just might be the happiest day of their lives.
"I can't find him," said a tearful Scarlet Sheets. "I can't find him. He's everything to me."
That was 12-year-old Scarlet Sheets Friday morning, some 14 hours after her pony, Happy Feet, bolted away from the Gloucester County 4H Fairgrounds.
Scarlet's mom, Michelle, had been exercising Happy Feet and 14-year-old Kenna Brockway's pony, Duke, around 8:00pm Thursday night, when some boys came by and tossed a popper firecracker in the horses' direction.
"If you throw a firecracker, it's going to make a noise, and if you know horses, it's just not a smart thing to do," said Kenna Brockway.
Both of the horses ran away.
Searches throughout the night were fruitless, but word of the missing horses spread quickly, and by Friday morning, horse-lovers from throughout the area were searching fields and woods to try to find them.
"These are our family," said Michelle Sheets, clearly upset about the missing horses. "These horses are our family. We don't care about the competition; we just have to find them. I'm just afraid that they are dead somewhere."
Action News Chopper 6 even joined the search.
Around 3:00pm Friday afternoon, a call came in. Two women who'd been searching on horseback in a field between the fairgrounds and the horses' home stable spotted the ponies, corralled them and brought them home.
For the two young owners, worried tears turned to tears of joy as they were reunited with their beloved animals.
"I'm so relieved," said Kenna. "I just have to say thank you so much. Without you, he would probably still be out in the field trying a bunch of different tactics. Thank you so much."
"I bet he is like, 'Mama, I won't ever do that again to you. I'm so sorry'," said Scarlet.
The vet who examined the horses said physically they look pretty good, but they will have to keep a close eye on them the next couple of days to make sure they didn't eat anything during their big adventure that could cause stomach upset or even swelling in their feet.