Arriving at the stables to find your horse is missing must be one of the most traumatic experiences a horse owner can suffer.

Anna Brown, National Horsewatch secretary knows just how this feels having lost her own pony, Ben, in 1994. “Ben is only 12hh, so when I arrived at the stables I was not initially aware he had gone. It was only when I looked over the stable door that the realisation hit me. I felt absolutely gutted. It was as if the bottom had dropped out of my world.”

Ben’s story had a happy ending when he was re-united with Anna five years later, thanks to help from Horse and Hound Online’s sister magazine, Horse.

However, often the mental anguish suffered by horse and owner doesn’t stop the minute they have been reunited.

“I have dreaded going to the stables every single morning since Ben was returned,” said Anna. “I don’t know how I would cope if I lost him again.”

According to recent statistics, horse theft was at a high during the 1990’s when around five horses were being stolen every week. Horsewatch was set up to combat the increasing number of horse thefts and has experienced considerable success in reducing the numbers of horses being stolen.

Michael Hewitt, chairman of the Essex Horsewatch, comments: “I honestly believe that Horsewatch has made a positive contribution in reducing horse theft in the Essex area. By encouraging all horse owners to freezemark their animals and clearly mark their turnout rugs, horse thieves seem to have moved out of the area.”

Anna explains: “In general, thefts tend to be affected by the economic horse sales climate when horses are selling well and prices are high more animals are stolen, as they are easier to pass on quickly. At the beginning of this year 13 horses went missing over a two-week period and a number of horses have been stolen more recently.”

One of these horses, a show jumper called “Jack” by his friends, is being featured on the BBC1 television programme Crimewatch Daily at 10am on Tuesday 28 November.

The total number of stolen horses across the UK are further affected by loan and matrimonial disputes, while other horse owners fail to report the crime to the police because they mistakenly believe they will not be interested.

“It may take some time but the Horsewatch scheme does its very best to reunite horse and owner. Horsewatch enables the details of a stolen horse to be circulated around the country within two days. Posters alerting people to the fact that the horse has been stolen are distributed around the country while regional representatives will cover horse sales in their area,” says Anna.

Recently, a number of horse owners have been parted from their animals through a deception, which has been occurring around the country.

The culprits advertise for companion horses in legitimate magazines. The horses then go missing – it is expected that they are sold on – and any attempt by the owners to make contact with the individuals or their horse comes to nothing.

The deception relies on owners not making sufficient checks on the people they are handing the horse over to, and the police suggest that similar advertisements are thoroughly researched before handing over your horse or pony.

Anyone who believes their horse has been stolen or gone missing should contact their local police station immediately and then inform their local Horsewatch co-ordinator.

To find out more about Horsewatch contact the National Horsewatch Secretary Jane Moxley (tel:01604 630003).