You wake up to what seems to be a beautiful day. The rays of sunshine are streaming into your room. You look outside...something is different! You run outside and your nightmare beings...your beloved horse is gone...everything is gone!
This is a scenario that many people believe cannot happen to them, but unfortunately, horse theft is common. Your best defense is to make it as difficult as possible for the intruder. While nothing is foolproof, by taking some precautions, you might thwart an otherwise successful robbery attempt.
- Identify your horse. There are several ways you can identify your horse from micro chipping, freeze branding, lip tattoo or whether it be hoof brand...just get it done.
- Put signs up on property, stall doors when boarding or at horse events letting others know that your horse has been identified.
- When at horse events - feed your horse at the back of the stall, inform barn neighbors of people who will be moving your horse, put a sign on the door that your horse and tack have identification. We all like to brag about our horses, but please do not give complete information on the breeding of the horse on the stall door, especially if it's a stallion or mare as this may attract thieves to pick your horse because of the breeding.
- Record your horse's identification information with all state and national registries.
- Photograph your horse in two seasons featuring your horse in summer and winter. In addition, feature both sides of his head and any unusual markings or scars. Keep these photographs current. Photography your horse when clean and also dirty! Photograph all specific markings and ID markings.
- Photograph your horse with at least one family member in the picture as well as this will show ownership.
- Create a file with all important horse information and keep it handy and constantly updated - registration paperwork, dated bill of sale, coggins papers, health certificates, vet records, breed transfer paperwork, and keep it current. Included in this file are all recent photographs.
- Keep padlock gates and fencing in good shape. Replace wire fencing with strong wire, metal, or wood fencing. Easy to clip wire is hardly an obstacle, and when coupled with a dark night, "it's like taking a walk in the park to a thief."
- Do not put halters and lead ropes by stall doors or paddock gates. You don't want to make it easy for others to grab your horse.
- Keep halters off pasture horses.
- Do not feed your horse at the fence line as this makes it easier for thieves to coax your horse to the fence.
- If not already done, install security lighting around the barn. Consider a barn security system as well.
- Put security signs on perimeter pasture fences.
- Keep a barking dog or other animal that makes noise, such as a peacock, donkey, or geese (I hate geese!) on your property.
- Try to change the routines of your horses often if possible. Don't put them out in the same paddock at the exact same time daily. Mix it up!
- Pay attention to service people on property.
- Keep your trailer out of view if possible, and have it locked including a hitch and wheel lock. Two forms of locking devices are always best.
- Lock up your tack at all times! If you don't have a tack cupboard, purchase a tack box and store your tack in that locked box. Make sure to secure the box so that no one can remove it.
- Don't forget to always watch your horse at public events as horses are often taken from these events.
- The same identification procedure that apply to your horse also applies to your tack. Stamp your identification information onto your tack - the best ID is your drivers license number preceded by the state code or province.
- Know your horse's habits. Is your horse suddenly hanging out in a far corner of the pasture that he never used to visit? A thief might be baiting your horse, putting out sweet feed until your horse goes to that spot at predetermined times. The thief can then conveniently meet your horse at the fence, cut an opening and take him.
- Be careful when posting your horses on online classified advertisement websites. You can inadvertently advertise to thieves where your horse is located, what he looks like, how much he is worth and so on.
- Have a plan of action and information ready in case the worst happens and don't assume that it can't happen to you.
It has been said that the best defense is a good offense. Take the necessary steps to protect your horse and equipment in advance. Note that theft is a reality - it does happen, just don't let it happen to you!