HORSE owners could soon be using a high-tech method of security pioneered by the motor industry to mark tack.

A system of microdots is already used by car and motorcycle manufacturers. When police recover a vehicle, they scan it with a reader that traces the item to the manufacturer’s database.

A database launched this year to mark and register expensive antiques (www.national-antiques-register.co.uk). Its founder Geoff Stapley’s daughter suggested there was a demand for a comparable service in the horse world.

Tacksafe launches in a month, but Mr Stapley has already registered 60 saddles.

He explained: “I send you 500 microdots in a test-tube. You mix the dots with a solution to make a glue-like substance, and paint it on the tack in various places. Even if a few are scrubbed off, there will always be some left.”

The microdots refer the police to a database holding the owner’s details and basic details of each item — not including its value — are entered onto a second register.

Subscribers to the National Antiques Register pay £39.95 per item and Tacksafe will charge the same, although if customers want to mark a group of items, the price per item will drop.

Mr Stapley says his local police are enthusiastic about the register. But, Helen Evans, Horsewatch liaison officer for Thames Valley Police, favours postcoding over invisible marking systems.

“I welcome anything that prevents saddles being stolen,” said Ms Evans,“but if an officer stops a van at 2am and finds a load of saddles, he may not have a scanner, and if he can’t prove they’re stolen, he may not be able to seize the tack. “

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (11 September, ’08)