Rural crime is on the rise — with trailers the most coveted equestrian item for thieves to target, according to insurers NFU Mutual.

Theft is estimated to have cost UK agriculture £49.7million in 2010 — up from £41m in 2009.

Last year, tack was ninth on the top 10 of stolen country kit and the average haul was £30,000. Tack has now dropped to number 11 — but trailer theft has risen from seventh to fifth place.

NFU spokesman Nicki Whittaker said: “Tack and trailers are often unmarked and unregistered and easy to sell on.

“The largest claim we had for stolen tack in 2010 was for £42,000. Rural crime is no longer the work of opportunists.

“Horse theft has increased and what we are seeing is an increase in the ‘theft’ of horses on loan,” said Ms Whittaker. “We would urge people to ensure they get a proper loan agreement in place. Also, we have seen a recent spate in the theft of children’s ponies.”

More than 300 NFU Mutual offices across the UK were surveyed — Kent was found to be the worst affected area.

A spokesman for Kent Police agreed that rural crime, particularly of machinery, was up — but believed it was the same around the country.

The survey suggests thieves strike at night and raid stables, sheds and garages.

Phillip Ball, from Sussex Horsewatch, said vigilance and robust security measures are the best defence.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (25 August 2011)