Horses are being stolen. In Iowa, a four-year-old warmblood mare, who had never been off the property on which she was born, was snatched in the early morning from a paddock directly behind a house. In Illinois, two expensive warmblood horses were spirited away.
These horses were at separate, seemingly secure show barns, both considered safe and secure. These horses could be anywhere in the country. Don’t take your horse’s security for granted. Warn your barn manager that horse rustlers remain at work - and the numbers are growing at an alarming rate.
Microchips can help, but there are three different types, each requiring its own specific scanner. However, they’re being used successfully in finding missing dogs. Brands are another alternative, although many people balk at the idea. However, you can have a brand placed under the mane or have a lip tattoo. You do have to have a positive method of identifying your horse, if he’s stolen and recovered.
Prevention is imperative. In addition to alerting your barn managers, reassure them that you aren’t an alarmist. Some people tend to think it will never happen at their facility, but thieves are bold.
If there’s someone living on the property, make sure they’re aware of the possibility. Suggest they not to give out any information to strangers who happen to wander into the stable, and make sure they take note of the cars these people are driving, and even their license-plate numbers.
If your horses are kept outside, on your own property, take measures to secure the gates. Remember, a horse was stolen from a field next to a house as the occupants slept. If you own dogs, do you always check when they raise a ruckus' Now is the time to heed them. They may just save your horse. The key is being alert.
If you decide to put a chain around your gates, make it a thick one. Bolt cutters can slice through a small chain like a hot knife through cold butter. They can also chomp through an average padlock. If the chain or padlock is thick enough to slow them down, the rustlers may just move on to an easier spot.
You can also use alarms on your gates, just as you do your automobile or your house. If you set up the system on the outside of the fence, it won’t be tripped by the horses, though you will have to take into consideration any other critters likely to cross its path. A blaring alarm in the middle of a quiet night would certainly be a unwelcome sound to horse rustlers.
Hot wiring is also an option. The horses and animals soon learn to leave the fence well enough alone, and any potential horse thief will get a nasty shock if they attempt to open the gate or cut the fence.
Lights are a good deterrent. A well-lit area is not inviting for those who use darkness and stealth for cover. Automatic lights are also helpful, as they startle the intruders by illuminating the area unexpectedly.
One of the best security features now available and affordable is a video camera system. These cameras should be both highly visible and well hidden. If the thieves see a camera, it acts as a deterrent. If they think they’ve disengaged it, a hidden cameras will capture the entire operation on tape, including images of the trailers and vehicles used, which will aid police.
In July 2000, we discussed in detail how to help prevent your horse from being stolen and what to do if the worst happens. Prevention is our message. Stay alert, and take counter measures before tragedy strikes.
As a last note, if you’re purchasing a horse, ask the important questions, and try to find the animal’s origins. Unfortunately, most horse thieves use auctions, but you just may stumble across a ring of horse rustlers, contribute to their demise, and reunite a precious pony with its heartsick owner.