Patti and Oliver Nansteel of Lehighton are animals lovers.

To them, their two horses Toby and James are part of the family.

Photo albums and scrapbooks, which Patti has put together over the years, are filled with photos and memories of their two boys with family members and friends over the last several years.

But earlier this week, Toby and James sent the Nansteels on an adventure of a lifetime, one that they hope never happens again.

On Tuesday, at about 12:30 p.m., Oliver came home to find both horses out of their pen, which stretches around the one side of the home, and standing in the front yard. The gate had not properly latched when it was last closed and Toby figured out a way to open it.

Patti said she had been out there numerous times that day, but hadn't thought to check the gate closest to the barn. That was the gate they used to make their great escape.

After seeing the horses as he entered the property, Oliver watched as the duo trotted off toward his sister's house. It wasn't long until they were galloping away from the Nansteels and into the open fields.

Patti said they chased the horses through the farms and over onto Troxell's Farm, where they attempted to corral the two and get them to come home.

But after a few hours with no success, Toby and James decided they didn't want to go home, and galloped into the woods and out of sight.

Patti and Oliver called their friends, including Mary "Ziggy," Carol Stefanik, Pam Hansler, Celena Steffy, Tina Sbrilli, and Ellen Wolf, as well as neighbors, to help them look for their beloved animals.

For hours they searched the woods and farms surrounding the areas, but soon night set in.

Oliver said they were in the woods with flashlights, looking for the black and white Paint horse or the Bay American Warm Blood, but their efforts turned up only tracks of where the pair had been.

Neighbors and friends made phone calls to local authorities and animal rescue groups in an effort to spread the word that the horses were missing somewhere in the Mahoning Valley.

That night, Patti stayed in the living room with the lights on, hoping that she would see her two boys trot up to their sliding glass door.

Unfortunately, Toby and James had other plans and remained on the loose.

On Wednesday, during the strong rainstorm that battered the area, Oliver and a group of friends got their rain gear on and continued the search.

Patti remained back at the house hoping someone would call to say they saw the horses. Around 2 p.m., her prayers were answered.

"One of our neighbors called to say our horses were on his property," Patti said. "He was telling me where they were heading so I called Oliver."

Oliver and the search crew drove over to the property where the horses were last seen and found Toby and James quickly.

Tina Sbrilli was able to secure James first and the family brought him home. Toby, on the other hand, wanted to continue to run free.

After a little coaxing, Celena Steffy and Ellen Wolf were able to help get Toby to come close enough and onto the trailer.

Soon the pair were home, wet and muddy, but in overall good health.

The Nansteels feel that the storm was what helped them find and bring the horses home.

Patti explained that horses do not like to get their ears wet so when it rains, they typically huddle together with their heads hung low and their hindquarters facing the storm to block the wind. In these instances, horses don't typically travel, but rather look for shelter.

"If it wasn't for that storm, who knows where they would have been," Patti said, adding that horses can travel great distances in good weather.

She also credits the efforts of friends, family, and neighbors for making a happy ending for this almost tragic event.

"My husband and I would like to thank all our friends and neighbors and everyone who helped us bring our horses safely home," Patti said. It's amazing how people come together to help when something like this happens."

Oliver added that he also is thankful for the neighbors that allowed him and his wife to go onto their properties and search for their horses.

Patti and Oliver agree that this an event they will never forget.

"After a day and a half of running free, they are home safe and sound," Patti said. "This was truly a real adventure."