As all horse owners and riders will know, tack is incredibly expensive and something that most of us only intend to buy once. Quality saddles, bridles, stirrups, girths and numnahs can cost a small fortune, especially if they are custom made. Combine the cost of tack with that of rugs and all manner of yard and stable equipment (horse boxes and trailers included) and you have a large outlay that is very appealing to prospective thieves.
Because livery yards are surrounded by fields, usually in a location that isn’t overlooked or neighboured, it is very easy for tack thieves to operate. This year has seen a dramatic increase in tack theft, with thousands of pounds worth of equipment being snatched from yards up and down the country. Horse shows are also prime locations for this type of theft as trailers loaded with tack are left unattended during the different events.
Show schedules make it easy for thieves to work out when a group or yard is going to be away from its trailer and for how long. For many criminals, this is an opportunity not to be missed. After all, who is going to notice someone carrying tack back and forth across a crowded horse show? If you are not careful, it may be more than just your tack that you return to find missing, with thieves being more than willing to steal the trailer and horses too! If you do have to leave your trailer, ensure expensive pieces of tack are hidden and secured and leave a trusted friend or family member to supervise in your absence.
There have also been a number of cases of people advertising their tack for sale, only for it to mysteriously disappear the following day. Who knew that your expensive, bespoke saddle was at the back of the tack room beneath all the rugs? If you are showing a potential buyer a piece of equipment, be aware of where it's stored and make sure they can see it is well secured. It might be worth moving the item for their viewing before returning it to its secure, out of sight location.
A collection of tack can take years to accumulate and can carry sentimental value beyond its monetory worth. Don't give tack thieves an easy ride - secure all equipment and give yourself the best chance of having your items found and returned.
Most saddles look alike which is why unique branding is important. Not only does it help police to find your stolen tack, but it acts as a deterrent to thieves who are less likely to snatch something personalised, being unable to sell it on. You can mark your tack in a number of ways i.e. with your name, the name of your livery yard, or your postcode. Displaying signs around the yard that let intruders know your tack is marked is hugely beneficial, often stopping would-be thieves in their tracks.
Horse freeze-marking has contributed significantly to lowering the number of global horse thefts, as equines can be easily identified by them and are therefore more difficult to sell on. With some expensive items of tack costing nearly as much as the horse, it is worth branding your equipment in a similar way. Micro-chipping expensive pieces of tack such as a saddle is a great back up for if the item goes missing. Police recovering a stolen item will be able to scan the saddle and identify where it's come from.
Securing your yard and tack room is half the battle in preventing theft. Investing in padlocks seems like obvious advice but there are a remarkable number of people that don't adequately secure their doors and windows and are surprised when their tack goes missing. Tack thieves are opportunists that know what they are looking for. This means they can clean out your premises in next to no time without being spotted.
To avoid this happening, secure all doors, windows and gates with a padlock and a heavy duty chain. Make sure that hinges are fitted so they cannot be lifted to allow access for trailers and getaway vehicles. While it is an expensive option, CCTV is the best way of deterring and identifying thieves that intrude on your property. Simple deception also has its perks, and signs falsely advertising that CCTV is in operation may be enough to keep thieves away.
While there are several things you can do to assist the speedy return of your stolen tack, the best method of defence is prevention - that is, keeping your equipment secure at all times and monitoring who comes and goes on your premises. Many yard owners swear by the benefits of keeping ducks and chickens that make lots of noise when they are disturbed. Their simple presence is often enough to deter thieves that want to go about their business quietly, attracting as little attention as possible.
If you have any advice on securing tack to avoid theft, please share it with our other readers. Likewise, if you have any experiences of tack theft, please comment below and let us know what happened. Feel free to email me directly with any questions or suggestions for future blog posts: [email protected]
Written by: Hannah Dyball