Although nothing will stop determined thieves from getting what they want, most are opportunists who will take advantage of vulnerable yards. A good security system makes a property less likely to be targeted — and may enhance its future saleability.
Marking your horses and tack remains the single most effective measure to protect them because it is both a deterrent and an effective way to retrieve them if stolen. Other crime prevention features, however, are structural to a property, and are most easily installed when buying or refurbishing a yard.
“Basically, you are trying to come up with that sort of measure which, whenever a criminal comes, makes him say: ‘Damn, this is going to take me five more minutes to do’,” says PC Clive Blakemore of Staffordshire police.
Planning permission permitting, the first thing to consider is having a home on site.
“Staff living close to the yard are important and really the best security for horses and tack,” says Diana Rowell of specialist agent Churchill Country & Equestrian.
The owner’s house or a groom’s cottage should preferably stand between the yard and the road, forcing any burglar to walk by someone’s windows.
Building a dedicated, secure tackroom — or buying a house with one — is always a sound investment. It should preferably be made of brick or concrete, which are much harder to break into than wood. And it should not lean on to wooden structures. If that’s not possible, it is worth using metal mesh or a wooden panel to line the inside of the room.
Tackroom windows must be protected with metal bars and should not open to the outside, although having no windows at all is the safest bet. The door must have steel reinforcement, hidden hinges and a good quality lock. The type of roof also needs to be considered.
“With tackrooms, we get lots of burglaries where thieves come in through the roof. People often have fantastically secure doors and only a thin piece of perspex into the roof. But [getting in through] the roof is as easy as a window or a door,” warns PC Blakemore
Lighting, whether timed or triggered by movement sensors, should always be installed near a tackroom and at other critical corners across the yard.
If building a secure tackroom is not an option, the best alternative is to breeze block a portion of an open barn.
“Breeze block takes some demolishing and is ideal. It is a very economical way [to secure an open area],” says Jeremy Lawton of Shearwater Insurance.
However, he warns that the rising number of thefts and ensuing claims have led some insurance companies to insist that alarms are fitted if the tack is over a certain value.
“In some cases, insurers won’t offer a policy on tack unless proper security is in place,” he says. “And if they see people taking steps to protect themselves, they could save money on premiums.”