Debi Metcalfe of Shelby, N.C., awoke one morning in 1996 to discover her horse Idaho had disappeared from his pasture. Someone had literally cut the fence and driven off with the horse. It took her almost one year of searching across several states to find Idaho.
After finding Idaho, Metcalfe created Stolen Horse International (SHI). SHI is a theft awareness program that strives to prevent horse theft and return stolen and missing horses to their owners. Metcalfe shared her experience and horse theft prevention tips March 28 at Equine Affaire in Columbus, Ohio.
Stolen Horse International. Horse owners must first accept that horse theft can happen to them, Metcalfe said. She presented an estimate that 40,000 to 55,000 horses are stolen each year in the U.S.
"Think of 132 horse owners you know. One of you will be a victim this year," she said. She suggested some motives for horse theft could be money, debt collection, revenge, a prank or just a random act.
She shared the following suggestions to help owners act now to prevent horse theft.
Maintain updated records of your horse. Create folders for each horse you own. In these folders, keep:
- Updated pictures - Update the photos with age and season. Make sure the horse fills up the whole photo frame. Take a photo of what your horse looks like muddy. Also, take a photo of a family member with the horse so you have even more proof that the horse is yours if it is stolen.
- Important legal documents - Include the bill of sale, Coggins and ID registrations.
- Contact list with important phone numbers - Write down the names and phone numbers of your insurance company, veterinarian and the police in your city, county and surrounding areas. If your horse is stolen, you may become nervous and flustered and forget numbers you normally know by heart.
Consider using alarm systems. Motion-sensitive lights, fence alarms and gate padlocks can deter or slow down a thief. Noisy animals such as peacocks, geese and some dogs are also effective deterrents.
Inform your neighbors. Tell your neighbors that people are stealing horses so they know to be on the lookout. Leave your contact and horse information with all of your neighbors when you go out of town.
Mark your horse. Consider marking your horse with a freeze brand, microchip, tattoo, hoof brand or other method. This will also help you identify your horse in the event of a natural disaster. Metcalfe said that 80% of horses found after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 could not be identified.
Know your horse's patterns. Why do they keep standing by one section of the fence? Is it because someone is giving them treats? Pay attention to your horse's behavior.
Rethink your trailer location. Move your trailer away from your horses and lock the wheels. Metcalfe said she has heard of thieves driving up to a pasture, hooking their truck up to the horse's trailer and leading the horse into the trailer.
For more tips on preventing horse theft plus what to do if your horse is stolen, visit Net Posse.