Contributed by: Valerie Mellema
This past year there has been a rash of stolen horses, tack, trailers and even more serious offenses, such as show horses found murdered in their pastures in Florida. In the past month, seven horses in Texas have been stolen from their secure pastures and stalls in boarding barns from Dallas to Houston, Luling, Rockne and Pattison. So far one horse has been returned and found back at home tied outside the barn.
The really scary part of this is that several horses were simply led out of the barns and loaded onto a trailer. You can find more information on events as they develop on the Texas State Horse Council’s Facebook page.
Proper Documentation & Photos
Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to ensure the safety of your animals and the first step is to ensure you have the proper documentation and pictures of your horses. You should have good photos of the horse’s face, body (both sides), and any identifying marks including markings, brands, tattoos, scars, etc.
If your horse’s look changes drastically between winter and summer, pictures of both seasons are recommended as well. You can also have your horse’s microchipped. Net Posse Store sells microchip sets and registration forms for $24.95. Many vets will also microchip your animals for you.
Marking Your Tack
For tack, take pictures as well as ensure tack is marked for identification with name plates, bridle tags, etc. Name plates are more difficult to remove than tags, so plates are best. However, because both can be removed, be sure to mark your tack in an unseen area as well, such as under the flaps. Always lock your trailer tack rooms and use a trailer hitch lock.
Locking Access Gates
The next most basic step is to start at your gate. Locking it or passcode securing it while you’re gone will ensure that only people who are trusted to be on your property can access your property. Maintain one entry and one exit and preferably in front of your house or barn office so all people entering and leaving can be seen.
Next, what type of fencing do you have? Wood and pipe fencing is more difficult to break and provide great security. Adding electric fencing will also help secure your property. Install no trespassing signs as well as security/surveillance signs on the perimeter of your property and on gates as well.
Security systems have come a long way as well. You can purchase wireless security systems at affordable prices that come with multiple digital and wireless cameras. For barns, you need weather resistant for inside and outside. Low light and infrared ability is also ideal so you can see clearly what’s happening in the dark. During the day, color will help you with identifying suspects, what they were wearing, etc. if something were to happen on your property. The number of cameras that you install will depend on your set up, but you may consider cameras for every stall, entrance, tack room and pastures. Additionally, today’s security systems often allow you to access your camera feeds from anywhere you can get online including your smartphone. Cameras can also be useful for foal watch as well as checking horses that are prone to colic and other health issues, so they serve double duty as an investment to your farm.
Be a Good Neighbor
Finally, don’t make it easy for thieves. Don’t leave halters and lead ropes on gates. Don’t leave halters on horses in pastures. Keep an eye on your neighbor’s property and ask them to do the same for you. It takes a community to ensure security for all. Have a trusted friend or family member check on your property while you are on vacation or away at a show, etc.
Valerie Mellema has been published on a variety of equine websites, but has also authored several published and self-published titles. She has also been published in The Score, the National Team Roping Horse Association’s membership magazine. After college she was a graphic design intern at the American Quarter Horse Association.
Valerie has been an avid horsewoman since she was a young girl. She began riding Western at the age of 5 and later moved on to training young horses as a teenager and through college. In college, she began riding English and jumping. She has owned American Quarter Horses and American Paint Horses, but now owns Thoroughbreds, both off the track and racing.