In some areas of the United States, horse thefts have become more frequent, especially in Florida. Most of those horses are never recovered. The likelihood that stolen horses are taken for unsavory purposes is possible.
Nothing can quite prepare the horse owner for finding an empty stall because the horse was stolen during the night. Needless to say, the emotional stress is devastating and the financial loss can be sizeable.
The horse owner can take some steps to mitigate theft.
When building a barn or stable, you have to consider local and state ordinances. But for this discussion about horse theft, we will only consider where to locate the structure, paddocks and pastures for primary safety of the horses. Keep the structures away from the street. Locate them beyond the residence in order to create more difficulty for thieves. Locate motion sensors and lights around the grounds and gates to give thieves pause.
Property perimeter fences should be strong and difficult to get through, cut or take apart. Installing locks on gates must be thought out since fire or other emergencies require ready access. Perhaps an alarm or audible sound will suffice.
Horses should not be stabled wearing halters. In addition, hanging halters on stall doors gives the horse thief swift access to the horse. Horses left in paddocks or pastures provide easy targets for thieves with illegal and sick intentions. Never leave halters on turned out horses for theft and safety reasons. Carry halters with you instead of hooking them near gates. Most horses that become targets of butchers and thieves are in pastures.
Another safety measure is to feed horses away from pasture gates and avoid the ease of feeding near gates. Horses congregate near gates at feeding times and make easy prey for a thief. Check your animals on a daily basis and notice new tire tracks or unusual activity around gates and fences.
It is important to keep an excellent photographic record of each animal, both saddled and unsaddled, taken in hazy and also full sunlight. In the event your horse is taken, investigators will require clear pictures that clearly depict color, size, markings. In the photos you take of each horse, get a close-up of horse heads in profile and straight front. Make note of anything unique about each horse and any brands.
Maintain your photographic record, registration papers, all proofs of ownership and health records in a safe file. You will require quick and easy access to these records if your horse is stolen.
Law enforcement agencies encourage owners to give their horses some permanent identification - such as tattoos, microchips, freezebrands – since these ID aids make horses easier to track and recover. A rule of thumb has been that thieves don’t bother with noticeable forms of identification. However, these days if a thief merely wants the horse meat, all identifications are useless.
Another thing to consider is that thieves may be opportunistic. If expensive equipment can be easily accessed, he may settle for the tack and leave the horse. By the same token, he may be inclined to take both. Therefore, lock up your equipment. Engrave a code or a driver’s license in hidden places on saddles, headstalls and expensive gear. Keep a photographic record or video of all tack.
To prohibit a thief from taking your horse trailer to steal your horse, park it out of sight, in a secure area or behind a locked gate. Trailer hitch locks are available for both bumper pull and gooseneck trailers. Take current photographs or video of the trailer, the licenses plates, the VIN and then keep these records in a safe file.
For the most part, you are powerless to prevent a determined thief, so it’s important to be proactive about protecting your horse(s).
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