It has been a tough few months for Priscilla Remillard and boyfriend Joe Brouillette since their horse Ollie disappeared on May 23. Ollie was finally found last week after being seen in places as far as Lake Matthew in Elsinore. Thanks to friends and those she connected with through Facebook, she was able to find her horse again. Horse people not only kept an eye out for Ollie but printed and put up posters that were seen as far as Arizona and Texas. The tracking of the movements of the horse was so good that the thieves had to give up and release Ollie.
May 23 was Ollie’s fifth birthday and Remillard was riding her horse Finn while Brouillette was riding Ollie in the Tijuana River Valley.
It was Ollie’s first ride off the ranch since the couple brought him to San Diego from Minnesota when he was two years old. The couple had gone on a ride to the beach and on the way back, Remillard estimated they were 1/4 mile away from Jackson Ranch where the two horses are stabled, when Ollie’s saddle broke, he got scared and ran off.
“I tried to stop him but my rein broke,” recalled Remillard of that day. At that point the couple was on what she called a rabbit trail full of pokey things. She jumped off her horse Finn and he took off after Ollie. “Horses don’t separate. Finn and Ollie are a pair and the only way they get separated is if they got separated [by other forces],” explained Remillard. Finn was found back at the ranch but there was no sign of Ollie.
Remillard believes someone trailered Ollie to a ranch in Bonita because he was seen there. The next morning she and Brouillette and some other friends went to the ranch. “There were six or seven guys and they would not allow us in. The next day we were granted permission but by then Ollie was gone,” she recalled.
Remillard then found out Ollie was seen in Jamul. Remillard got in touch with Tara York, a woman who helps owners find lost and stolen animals. York connected with a friend who is a Border Patrol Officer in Tecate in case the thieves would try to bring Ollie over the border into Mexico. Remillard and Brouillette spent six weeks running out and looking at horses and their hopes were dashed time and again. Remillard went as far as hiring an animal psychic. “I was doing everything I could do to find him,” she said.
“Facebook, Facebook, Facebook, friends messaging ideas, thoughts, texting pictures, [everyone] kept looking,” said Remillard who firmly believes she would not have been able to find Ollie without the help of others on Facebook. Remillard said it was because of so many people looking for the horse that the thieves were boxed in and eventually released Ollie because they realized they could do nothing else.
Ollie is a half Fresian and half National show horse. He is also a spirit horse, because his coloring shows the outline of another horse.
“The white markings on his right side behind his head are that of another white horse. They are very clear,” said Remillard. “When we found him his mane was knotted and placed on the side covering the spirit horse. They were watching on Facebook too,” she said of the thieves.
Last Wednesday she got a call that Olie had been found. A Border Patrol agent was tracking a group of illegal border crossers when he saw a horse tangled in the brush. He took a picture and made some calls. The husband of Ollie’s trainer called Remillard and told her an agent thought he found Ollie.
In the meantime the agent called a K-9 team and horse patrol to help. Together they freed Ollie and made a path. “By the time they walked him out of the brush I was there,” said Remillard.
Ollie was put in the trailer and brought back to Jackson Ranch. “When we got to the ranch he screamed, and every horse at that ranch screamed back. All five of us had tears in our eyes,” she recalled.
During this ordeal Ollie lost between 100 and 150 pounds. “He looks like an anorexic model,” joked Remillard. But in all seriousness, she explained that she has to be careful how Ollie eats now, and protein has to increased daily - because if he’s fed too much he may not make it. “He’s fine. He got a scrape on his hip, a rope burn on the back ankle probably from when the lead rope broke,” she said.
Ollie won’t be ridden until he’s back in good health and his full weight is back on.
A few days before the phone call, she and Brouillette were giving up hope of ever finding Ollie and talked about looking at buying another horse.
“I want to give a shout out to all my horse people…Tara sent it viral, even Ollie’s breeder in Minnesota knew about it ..the horse community rallied around me. I’m so happy he’s home. I’m so grateful for the wonderful horse community,” said Remillard.
Remillard is still amazed at how people went out of their way to help her find Ollie. “I printed 50 color posters and cost me $100. Random people printed posters and paid for them out of their own pocket to help me find Ollie,” she said.
After the pandemic is over, Remillard plans on having a barbecue fundraiser to help people who have lost their horses and thank everyone. In the meantime she and Brouillette will rest easy now that Ollie is back.