Stampede at Watchung

MOUNTAINSIDE — Route 22 was closed for half-an-hour Sunday morning while horses were rounded up after they escaped from the Watchung Stables at about 8:15 a.m., county police said.

“The horses — all county owned — are in good condition and are all safely back at the stable,” according to a statement release by county officials.

Union County Police Chief Daniel Vaniska and parks director Alfred Faella said this was the first incident of its kind in the nearly 80-year history of the stable.


Something frightened the horses, prompting them to break through the gate on a paddock where they had been turned out for exercise and stampede out to the roadway.

No one was injured and there were no traffic accidents. The horses–all County owned—are in good condition and are all safely back at the stable.

The incident caused a half-hour shutdown before 9 a.m. of a half-mile of roadway on Route 22 in both eastbound and westbound lanes, stretching from Summit Road to Evergreen Court in Mountainside, County Police reported.

The horses turned westbound in their sprint onto Route 22 West from Summit Road and never jumped over the median to the eastbound side. In all, they were free for approximately a half hour before roundup could be fully executed.

According to County authorities, some unknown incident caused 18 of 20 horses who were turned out in the fenced paddocks area to become frightened, and burst through a locked gate around 8:15 a.m.

Stable employees called county police who helped return the frightened horses who had quickly galloped their way in a herd from the paddock onto the main road, Summit Lane in the Watchung Reservation.

The horses turned left on Summit Lane, and then made a right at Summit Road, which leads directly to Route 22 West from the Reservation. The horses galloped about 2 miles from home before round up could peacefully start around 8:45 a.m.

The horses, reportedly among the elders at the stable, were rounded up in three groups and quietly walked back home by 9 a.m. They were wrapped with fresh blankets and dried off. They have been checked by a veterinarian, and it appears they are all ok, Parks Director Alfred Faella reported.

Located in the Mountainside section of the Watchung Reservation, the Watchung Stable has been owned and operated by the County of Union since 1933.

Its goal is to provide the opportunity to learn how to ride, enhance equestrian skills or just enjoy the natural beauty of the 26 miles of bridle paths that weave through the Reservation, a 2,000-acre forest preserve.

The Watchung Stable complex consists of a main barn which houses more than 90 County and privately owned horses, four riding rings, and a show ring.

In addition, this state-of-the-art, barrier-free facility includes an isolation barn, numerous paddocks, hay and straw storage area and an equipment garage.

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