How to prevent equine theft this autumn
Looking for ways to keep your horse safe in the autumn months? In this article, Katie Allen-Clarke from Horse & Country shares her top tips for preventing equine theft this season and beyond.
Horse theft is a tragedy for both the owner and their animal. And despite the pain it causes, the recent introduction of a law making pet theft a criminal offence does not cover equines (Horse & Hound). This makes it more difficult to get help when it comes to searching for a stolen horse. It isn’t just the animals that are at risk either, as both horse equipment and vehicles are popular targets for thieves as they’re so valuable.
Horse thieves often plan their theft ahead of time, meaning that the horse is usually targeted in advance. But how exactly can you figure out whether your horse is in danger of being stolen?
How to tell if your horse has been targeted for theft
Horses are usually stolen at night, so thieves have been known to find subtle ways to mark their chosen horse out before the theft. Some of the signs believed to have been left by thieves in the past include:
- Changes to the horse’s mane, including it being cut or plaited.
- Marks left on gateposts near the stables.
- Plastic bags tied to the paddock gate.
- New and peculiar markings on the road.
You may also be able to tell by looking out for anything unusual at the stable. As the thefts are often planned out ahead of time, the culprits are likely to have already paid a visit to the stable to get an understanding of their surroundings. Make sure to be vigilant and look out for any changes that you see around the stable, such as gates being left open, items being moved, or your horse seeming spooked.
Of course, even if you don’t see these signs, there is still a chance that your horse may be targeted, so it’s important to keep them as safe as possible at all times. While horse thefts are a problem year-round, they are often worse at this time of year, as the thieves take advantage of the long and dark nights. To keep your horse safe this autumn, make sure to give the following tips a go to prevent and deter thieves.
Secure your stables
The best way to protect your horse is to make sure its stable is as secure as possible. If it is too difficult to get to your horse, thieves aren’t likely to make the extra effort to steal them.
To keep the stables as secure as possible, make sure to install a high and sturdy fence that cannot be climbed. For extra security, add barbed wire to the top of the fence to prevent thieves from attempting to climb in. If you choose to do this, always remember to keep the barbed wire high up so that your horse can’t reach it and get injured. You should also have a sturdy lock on any gates — opt for a deadbolt lock for the most secure option.
Just in case the worst should happen and a thief is able to break in, install a reliable alarm system that both lets off a loud sound and sends an alert to your phone when anyone trespasses. In many cases, the noise from the alarm will scare the thieves away anyway. But if it doesn’t, having the alert sent to your phone will give you a head start on contacting the authorities.
Secure your vehicles and equipment
It isn’t just your horse that thieves are after: your vehicles and equipment are at risk too. Even if they’re not particularly valuable, a thief may not be able to tell this and so will steal them anyway. Plus, both your equipment and vehicles can be used to help the thief steal your horse too, so it’s vital that you secure them as well as you can.
Make sure to label your equipment with your name and address, by either engraving it or using permanent marker, and keep it locked away in a secure shed with a reliable deadbolt lock. You should store vehicles away in a locked garage too if possible. If you don’t have a garage, there are still a number of ways for you to reduce the risk of vehicles being stolen, including:
- Installing a security system in the vehicle that alerts both the police and yourself if broken into.
- Parking the car with the driver’s side right up against a wall to make it more difficult for thieves to break in.
- Adding trackers to your vehicles so if they are stolen, you can share this information with the police to help them track it down.
Use signs and CCTV to deter criminals
CCTV has been found to work well as a deterrent for crime. In fact, one study found that there was 51% less crime in car parks with CCTV in operation than in those without (Safe Site Security Solutions). This means that thieves are less likely to steal a horse if they can easily be spotted by CCTV. Make sure to install CCTV cameras where thieves can see them, and put up plenty of signs around the area to make it clear to any would-be thieves that they are being recorded.
Of course, CCTV is far more than just a deterrent. Video footage is incredibly useful for the police when it comes to tracking your stolen horse, so it’s important to keep it in good working order. Check on the CCTV regularly and clean the camera so you get as clear an image as possible. You should also install an automatic light system so that the thieves can easily be seen in the camera even in the middle of the night.
Set up a community watch group
If there are other horse owners nearby, work together by creating a community watch network to look out for each other. If there are multiple people checking in on the horses at different times, it makes it difficult for thieves to accurately predict when the stable will be empty.
Ask people in nearby stables if they’re interested in joining the horse community watch and collect their contact information. A great way to keep people informed is by creating a social media group, as this platform allows you to both share vital information and contact horse owners directly via private messages.
You may also be able to acquire more resources if you pool together with other horse owners. For example, you may be able to split the cost of CCTV with a nearby stable. Connecting with other horse enthusiasts is also a great way to make new friends, so this theft prevention tip is a win-win!
If your horse does go missing
If the worst happens and you suspect that your horse has been stolen, it’s important to be prepared as possible. Make sure to use the following tips so that you can get your horse back as soon as possible:
- Microchip your horse to make it easier to track them down. You can also put up a sign in the stable saying that they have been microchipped to deter thieves.
- Brand their hooves with a unique mark or serial number to make them stand out.
- Make sure you have a receipt of sale and a horse passport to help identify the animal.
Horse theft is more common than it should be, but you can reduce the risk of your horse being targeted if you use the tips above.
For more news and advice on all things equine, make sure to check out the other articles at Equestrian Life Magazine!