An Asfordby man has talked about the moment 21 horses galloped through the village late at night after being released from the Defence Animal Centre (DAC) in Melton.
Phil Lee was in bed at his home in Main Street when he heard the commotion on Friday evening at the start of an incident which saw the animals on the loose for more than three hours.
Some of the horses were involved in collisions with vehicles and one was reported to have been put down because of its injuries.
One of the horses roamed more than six miles away from the army camp on to the A46 and others were recovered in Wymeswold as officers launched an operation to round them all up.
Mr Lee said: “My window was open and I heard this noise which sounded like a steamroller.
“I couldn’t see the horses because it was dark but I could hear their hooves on the road.
“It sounded like thunder - it was so loud.
“There were also three people on motorcycles behind the horses, revving their engines and beeping their horns.”
After hearing that the horses were from the DAC, Mr Lee phoned the guard room to warn them and then took part in a major operation to recover the animals, involving service personnel from the camp, police officers and local residents.
Mr Lee drove down the A6006 and came across two vehicles near the Old Dalby turning and then another two on the Shoby bends which had all been damaged due to collisions with the horses.
He helped other rescuers put one of the animals in a horsebox near the Shoby crossroads close to the A46.
Mr Lee was told that a vet had had to put down one of the horses after it sustained a broken back following a collision with a vehicle.
Others, he heard, had serious injuries and it was feared two would not survive.
Twelve of the horses were apparently cornered by the rescue team near a barn at Old Dalby.
Mr Lee, who used to work in IT at the DAC, said: “The people who let these horses out had no idea how dangerous it was.
“People could have been killed and more of the horses could have been killed.”
Officers told Mr Lee that the bolts on the gates had been cut through with bolt-cutters to release the horses.
Lorraine Howitt was travelling with her mum in her car wheh they got caught up in the incident - the vehicle is thought to be a write-off after being in collision with some of the horses.
She posted on the Melton Police Facebook page: “Very lucky to be here to tell the tale as I honestly thought me and my mum would be killed after avoiding a head-on with another vehicle to emergency stopping on the verge to then have 21 horses charging at you smashing the car as it passed with glass landing all over me whilst screaming at my mum to stay down trying to cover her.
“Such a horrific incident. I hope when the mindless people are caught they get the book thrown at them as this could of resulted in numerous fatalities.
“Luckily for us we’re just shook up and aching from the collision although I have to add this has really upset my mum who is a very strong woman.”
A spokesperson for Leicestershire Police said: “Twenty-one horses were released from a field on Welby Lane at 11.15pm.
“All the horses were located and returned to stables by 2.30am.
“The horses are currently being assessed to establish if any have sustained injuries, but at this stage none are believed to be seriously injured.
“Some of the horses were involved in minor collisions but no-one from the vehicles have reported being injured.
“We understand the shock and anger the incident may have caused but we ask that people don’t speculate on social media and if they have any information about the incident they are asked to contact the police on 101, quoting incident number 846 of 4 August.
“We’d also like to thank everyone who assisted officers in locating and securing the horses.”
Did you see the horses roaming free or did you help with the recovery operation? If so, please email email@example.com or call 01664 412520.