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THEFTS of tack across the country soared in the last two months of 2008, leading to renewed pleas from police and Horsewatch groups for people to identity mark all their equipment.

In West Yorkshire, there were 18 incidents during November and December resulting in the theft of £72,500 of horse equipment as well as power tools and farm machinery.

Avon and Somerset police are making equine crime a policing priority for the coming weeks after an increase in thefts of tack and horses.

In South Yorkshire, 12 thefts took place between 26 November and 22 December, with as many as 20 saddles being taken at a time.

Suffolk yards also suffered a spate of break-ins, with nine incidents between 8 December and 17 December, where tackroom padlocks were bolt-cropped or doors jemmied open.

In Chard, Somerset, seven saddles and 11 bridles were stolen on 10 December.

And in Hertfordshire one owner woke on 9 January to find her horses’ rugs stolen from their backs in the stables.

Garry Porter, chairman of the UK Horsewatch Alliance, said: “The most important thing to bear in mind is if your property cannot be identified, it cannot be returned — we recommend marking all tack and equipment with your home postcode.

“Local Horsewatch groups will run tack-marking sessions and we suggest people write on everything else they own [eg rugs] with a marker pen. A thief is unlikely to steal items which are easily identifiable.”

A spokesman for West Yorkshire Police said it would be relaunching its Horsewatch scheme in the wake of the thefts: “We take equine crime very seriously,” he said.

Visit www.ukhorsewatch.org.uk