|We have all heard of horse thieves. Recently, it seems, things on the criminal side of the fence are taking stranger twists.
Still, I was surprised when a long time friend told me her newest horse has a stalker. Clearly there are people out there
stealing horses for reasons other than turning a quick profit when they are sold by the pound. For security's sake, I will not
use names, but give you the story as it was told to me.
My friend purchased her new Saddlebred colt this past year and is quite happy with how he is progressing. He is boarded at a farm in a different state where he is receiving his basic training. All was going well until a former owner reappeared unexpectedly asking the stable owner if he could buy the horse back. Being told 'no' once was not enough. He kept calling, then dropping by, and the
offered price kept going up. Clearly he was not going to take no for an answer, and late one night the stable owner found him
and two others on the road by the farm with an empty horse trailer. He was chased off, but then he tried calling the police to
allege the horse was being abused or neglected and should be confiscated. Fortunately the responding police officer was also a horse owner who saw through the false complaint. The offender was warned that if he returned it was trespassing, and he would be arrested. Because the farm owner is sometimes away, other family members have been instructed not to deal with this person, and
call the police if he is seen on the farm. Hopefully this is a happy ending.
While most of us do not have people stalking our horses, there are many thieves out there ready to take our tack, farm equipment, and even our horses. Equipment can be replaced, and though insurance may be able to cover the cost of a stolen horse, losing an animal is losing a unique individual and friend who can never really be replaced.
Back in the late 1970s and early '80s when the price of horse meat suddenly soared, there were many stories of beloved family horses being stolen from their pastures only to be sold at auction for slaughter. That can still happen today, but even worse are more sophisticated criminals stealing horses for different reasons.
I hope the slaughter house was not the destination for a Selle Francaise stallion stolen from his Georgia paddock this fall. A
well-known upper level dressage horse, he is easily recognizable, and the search for him has hit the Internet full force. Hopefully
he will be recovered safe and sound.
All horse owners should know the obvious things we can do to prevent theft. Pasture gates should be located where they are easily visible. Tack rooms, equipment sheds and pasture gates need to be equipped with locks that are always used. The best lock is powerless if it is left open. Ideally, the only access to a barn should pass by a home where people will notice a stranger.
If you believe there is a real threat of theft you may want to consider an alarm system that will go off if barn doors are opened without the proper access code. Add to that a hard wired smoke detector system for security as well if it can be managed. If you have any questions about security you can ask your insurance firm for help. Most agencies will be happy to give you advice on how security can be improved, and often they will give you a better premium if you take their suggestions.
Beyond the obvious precautions, there are some other measures we can take to protect our horses. Pasture fences can be
breached in places other than gates. Wire fences are easy to cut, or rails can be slid out of posts if they are not tightly wedged
in place. A determined thief can get through any fence and any lock if he is willing to try hard enough. Recognizing that there is no perfect defense, we need to make the thief's job as difficult as we can. The longer a crime takes the more likely someone is to notice something is wrong.
If you travel to shows, it is important that there is always a responsible person left in charge at the barn who knows when and how to get help if something suspicious is going on. Just because you are on a country property does not mean you can not have a town watch. If you have had problems with crime in your area, get together with your neighbors and ask your local authorities for help in forming a town watch. They can give you advice on how to organize your efforts so that neighbors can help neighbors protect their property.