While any yard is potentially at risk from thieves, premises that have been broken into before are likely to be targeted again as the thief is already familiar with the owner’s movements, the security measures in place, and the layout of the site.

It may come as a shock to find out just how much thieves know about you before they strike. The following warning, from Horsewatch UK, comes straight from the mouth of a practised horse thief:

“First, the yard and neighbours will be watched for up to a month, so that your daily routine is known. Thieves will visit the yard several times, either just walking about until they are challenged, or perhaps posing as a bogus owner looking for livery.

“Security systems will be checked and triggered, and your response timed. Escape routes are planned carefully to ensure minimum noise, and often prepared in advance, especially when horses are the intended target.

“Fences may be cut and replaced to look solid; gate hinges are loosened. Markers, such as bags tied to a hedge, are used to indicate the weak spot, or where stolen items await collection.

“Women and children test to see if horses are easy to catch — titbits may be doped. Big vans, or freezer and removal lorries are ideal vehicles for thieves. Within 24 hours, a stolen horse can be on the continent.”

Think like a thief

To minimise your chances of becoming a victim of thieves, you don’t necessarily need lots of money — just common sense.

1. Avoid routine and habit: whether it’s the time you visit the yard or the spot on which you park your vehicles, keep the thieves guessing.

2. Be suspicious: of people and vehicles, no matter how innocent they seem. People who are genuine will not mind being questioned. Note the personal characteristics of anyone you don’t recognise and jot down any registration numbers. Pass the details on to your local police crime reduction unit and alert your neighbours.

3. Think before you speak: innocent occurrences such as livery vacancies or tack for sale are also invitations to thieves who want to check out your yard. Don’t reveal too much information and ask plenty of questions yourself to assess the real reason for their interest.

4. Seek security advice: ask your local crime prevention officer or Horsewatch UK co-ordinator to visit your yard and make recommendations.

5. Safety in numbers: link up with neighbours, other owners and Horsewatch UK so you can share information about security advice or suspicious goings-on.

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This feature was first published in HORSE magazine